Positivity Matters; What’s Your Ratio?

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September 4, 2014 by Rick B

I don’t think I’m going to surprise anyone by saying the debt collection industry is not well loved. If you are using a collection agency or contemplating using one you already know how beneficial we are to businesses and municipalities, and how much money we put back into the economy. But because of the unscrupulous actions of the few–the ones who get all the media attention–an entire industry gets a bad rap. 

What does this mean?  It means that when a collector makes a call—especially when calling someone for the first time—they are often met with a person who has a negative preconceived idea of how the call is going to go, a person whose defenses are on high-alert. The collector needs to breakdown those defenses and change those preconceived ideas. How do they do that—with positive interactions. 

“You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar” is a well-known adage, but there is actual science behind it.

Building trust and good relationships usually occurs over time, growing out of the exchanges we share.  Relationship guru, John Gottman, sees our daily interactions as attempts for connections.  We can either lean into or away from these attempts, but each of these interactions sets the foundation that sometimes determines whether a relationship will succeed or fail.

Connecting with consumers–getting them to lean in–during calls is an important step in gaining their trust. Treating them with respect and kindness calms the “fight-or-flight response” many consumers have when dealing with debt and those who want to collect it.

Once the consumer—person—understands we really want to help them with their financial issues they lean in a little further, connections are formed, and money exchanges hands.

It’s really not rocket science. Think about it, most people who are sent to collections don’t have enough money to pay all of their debts.  Who do you think they would rather pay, the collector who is bullying them or the one who is treating them respectfully, helping them solve their financial problems?

Gottman studied the positive-to-negative ratio and proclaimed “the magic ratio” for a happy marriage was 5:1, five positive interactions for every 1 negative interactions.  Research in the workplace revealed that team members with a positive-to-negative ratio greater than 3:1 are happier and have increased performance and productivity.

In the collection industry getting the 3:1 ratio can be challenging—especially for the collectors who are working hard to improve society’s perception of our industry. It’s important for us all to try and be positive when interacting with each other and be cognizant of how words and actions can affect others. Sometimes an off-the-cuff statement can have an unintended negative effect.

If you want to make changes within an industry—or change the perception of an industry—you start with the people within your organization. And the best way to do that is to lead by example. Focusing on individuals and providing them with positive feedback and positive consequences for their actions are good ways to start.

Founded in 1950, United Credit Service, Inc. is a full service, licensed revenue cycle management and debt collection agency in Wisconsin providing highly effective, customized one on one management and recovery solutions for our business partners. We offer pre-service collection solutions as well as traditional back-end collections. Visit our website at http://www.unitedcreditservice.com or call 877-723-2902.

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