Tuesday, December 01, 2015

A Brief Tutorial on Phone Etiquette for Collection Agencies, Part 2

Wow ... it's been more than a decade since I wrote Part 1. To this very day, that post brings in a little search engine traffic on a regular basis, so I thought I'd follow up with another tutorial.

In Part 1, I went through what happens when you call my phone number and think it's my job to help you track down someone who doesn't live at that address / have that phone number any more. But over the years, I've also experienced something that goes like this:

Ring. Ring.

Me: Hello?

Caller: Hello, is this Thomas Knapp at [address]?

Me: Who wants to know?

Caller: Well, this is Bob at [meaningless but official-sounding name]. I've been trying to reach your neighbor, Betty, and haven't been able to get in touch. You live just a couple of doors down from her, and I was hoping you could help me get a message to her.

Me: What's the message?

Caller: Could you ask her to call me at 1-800-XXX-XXXX in reference to File Number BR-549?

Me: That's not a very detailed message. What's this about?

Caller: It's a personal business matter.

Me: In other words, you're a collection agency and even though I don't work for you, you expect me to go knocking on my neighbor's door as your proxy to harangue her about a bill you claim she owes.

Caller: Well, we just really need to get in touch with her ...

Me: Calm down. I'm willing to do this for you, I just think we need to talk about our relationship first. My consulting rate is $25 an hour and I bill for a minimum of four hours at a time. If you want me to walk around my neighborhood pissing off people whom I may live within small arms range of, I suggest we assume 30 minutes per visit -- it may take a little less time than that, but remember I'm also burning shoe leather or gas, not just sitting here consulting with you. So what I need you to do is get a contract to me in the mail agreeing to my rates, with a four-hour advance check enclosed, and start aggregating the names and addresses of the people you want me to visit for you. At 30 minutes per visit, that works out to eight names per list, and I'll be glad to complete one list per week for you to start, provided the payment arrives in a timely manner. Do those terms sound acceptable?

Caller: Hey, look, we were just hoping you could do your neighbor a favor ...

Me: No, you were hoping you could get me to do your dirty work for you at no charge. No dice, freeloader.


Feel free to adapt and use this technique in your own similar interactions.

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