10 Tips to Become an Awesome Debt Collection Agent

Hi, my name is Adam Stewart, Debt Collection Expert and owner of Debt Recoveries Australia and ADC Legal Litigation Lawyers.

I started in debt collection in the insurance business. I hated it; I did not want to do it and would have given anything I have someone else do it. I do not like confrontation and am not, by nature, an outgoing person.

So how was I ever going to do the debt collection side of my job?

Once I started, I realised, you do not need to be outgoing, or even confronting. Debt collection is all about listening and empathising. It is about negotiation and working together with the debtor. This was a revelation for me and I found I was good at it.

Since then, I have set up and run my own debt collection agency and I have trained many people over the years in the fine art of debt collection. I have had the pleasure of working with people who started out with no experience, but learned on the job and also people with many years of skills.

Here are the top 10 tips I have learnt over the years to become an awesome debt collection agent:

1. Listen.

You guessed it; No. 1 on the list is listen. That’s it. You may be the world’s best investigator, skip-tracer and location agent, able to find that missing person that owes money, but what do you do when you finally get them on the phone? You shut up and listen. They always have a story to tell and they need to tell it, so listen to them.

2. Be Sensitive.

Confidence is great, but a big ego will get you nowhere. The debtor is already embarrassed enough about the situation so try to be a little sensitive to their feelings. Do not yell at them, talk over them or belittle them. Show some compassion and empathy; it goes a long way.

3. Keep Your Cool.

No matter what, no call and no person is worth ruining your day and your mental well-being. If a debtor starts yelling at you, frustrating you with broken promises, or with bounced payments, take a deep breath and relax. This is just one case out of a hundred that you will work today. Do not sweat the small stuff. Let them have their rant; they will run out of steam eventually.

4. Take Your Time.

Collectors make this mistake all the time, especially those who have been doing the job for a long time. Slow down. Speak in a calm, even, well-paced voice. You will carry more of a sense of gravitas and authority, your phone messages will be clear and well understood, and you will perform more effectively.

5. Be Clear and Concise.

Speak with feeling and confidence. Yes, this is the fiftieth call you have made today, but, again, show some compassion and sensitivity. Be transparent. Once you have identified you have the correct person, advise them your name, the name of your company and why you are calling. Do not try to deceive them, as they will smell something is not quite right. Be up front and honest.

6. Understand Your Job.

The role of a collection agent is working file after file, but understand the big picture. What are the bankruptcy procedures? How will this affect the debtor’s credit rating? What are the legal procedures, if this were the case? If you are not one of the best collectors in the office, watch and listen to what they do. Often key phrases that motivate debtors, a specific tone or approach may be necessary to succeed. Also, understand what your client wants. Do they want payment in full or would they be happy with reduced lump sums? Do they want to accept instalments? Make sure you know what the client wants out of this deal.

7. Help Your Co-Workers.

If you can, offer advice and experience to other less-skilled agents in your office. Your agency will only succeed through teamwork, and it is not “every man for himself”.

8. Be Compliant.

Make sure you stay within the bounds of collection laws, make sure you do not act outside of your agency’s rules, or the guidelines set down by the client. Do not make inaccurate or false notes on a debtor file, do not try to cherry pick the best cases or ditch cases without an honest attempt to collect them. Integrity goes a long way and your reputation is on the line, so behave accordingly. Do not kid yourself – you will be caught, and cost yourself and your agency in the end. Be honest.

9. Do Not Waste Your Time.

If you have spent 30 minutes on the phone with a debtor over a $100 payment, you may be wasting your day. The best use of your time is arranging payments. Again, take a deep breath and decide – is this debtor going to pay? Make a dispassionate decision, end the call with consequences if you can, and process the file.

10. Have Fun.

This is obviously a tough time for the debtors or can be embarrassing for the person you are dealing with on the other end of the phone, so try to have a laugh at it all. No harm in having a bit of fun while you do your work. This will put the debtor at ease and your day will go quicker if you are having fun and enjoying yourself. Debt collection can be a fun job – like any other. It all depends on your attitude. So try and keep positive and show your funny side with the debtors.

The best collectors have a range of skills that make them successful – intelligence, intuition, the ability to be objective, quick thinking to adapt to new situations, good diction and communication skills, the ability to problem-solve, and some charisma. However, collectors with these skills will not succeed unless they simply listen and learn. Anyone can be an excellent collector, as long as they have the ability to listen, learn and take direction. Have fun out there!

62 Comments on “10 Tips to Become an Awesome Debt Collection Agent

  1. I just got a new job with an online debt collection company and I want to be good at my job. I’ve been looking up ways I can become successful with this new line of work. I really like the idea of being sensitive. I know if I was on the other line of the phone call I would want the debt collector to be sensitive with me. I think it’ll help them feel more comfortable and feel understood. And like you said, some compassion and empathy can go a long way. Thanks for your helpful tips on becoming a good debt collector.

    • Congrats on your new job Logan. Well done and good luck. I am glad my tips are helping.

  2. i have trouble keeping them on the phone while i go through all the legal stuff i have to say. and then getting them to pay once given the balance.

    • ok, maybe they are not interested in all the legal stuff? I like to concentrate on what they are saying, talk about stuff that interests them. Find a solution, instead of focusing on the negative stuff.

    • i understand some people do hve a problem keepin the dtr or customer online however u got to try new way makin chnge in ur tone or the way u open the call try to be confident thats all it takes in collections

  3. I am a Skippers collectors in one reputable company in Kuwait, that i can find anymore the debtor, i used all social media to find.

    so i tried to find way how i will do my job, if the debtor is no longer contactable.

    • Google is our best skip tracing too. Try typing in the debtor’s name, in inverted commas, into Google. Also try typing in their address. See what comes up on their address. Good luck!

  4. I am currently in collections & having issues convincing my clients into autopay which takes the min due or they can pay extra. While my other colleges are getting 6 a day I may have 2. I need advice on this badly!

    • Hi Ash. It’s a tough game. I like to use a gentle approach. Firstly, I like to gently remind the debtor of the consequences of non-payment or default of instalments, which may be legal action and/or a loss of credit rating, then I like to point out the benefits of an instalment program- interest free, flexible, weekly or fortnightly payments, ability to budget for expenses etc. Hopefullly, then they see the solution, rather than simply ignoring the debt. Hope this helps!

    • Maybe you could suggest courtesy calls for them to remind them and make sure its OK to still take the payment.

      • Sure, courtesy call would be ideal if you have the man power. We have thousands of instalment agreements so we need to automate these. We send an email and sms when they default. After that, if they default, we look at issuing proceedings for the full amount of the debt. If they do not honour the instalment agreement, the full amount becomes due. We do give them a couple of chances before that happens.

  5. Hi I just started my collection job. I have no experience so this is new to me. If I can just stay focus , but it’s hard when we have a goal to make and almost everyone reach goal but you. I have to just try to get the best negotiation skills to do the job well. Also, I wanted to know how to get them to stay on the phone pass the legal stuff.

    • Hi Linda. Thank you for your inquiry. We appreciate you thinking of us. In Debt Collection before you go to negotiation you’ll have to build relationship with the debtors first. Get to know each other and to know when to go to the next level of conversation. Many debtors tend to think debt collections calls as phishing or scam especially on the first or second calls. So you have to explain carefully who are you and where are you calling from. Make them feel that calling them is not a waste of their time and what you are doing is within their best interest. Most of the times its very hard to get a hold of the debtors over the phone , Once you have them on the line make the most out of it.
      There are 7 things to remember in debt collection how you will get them stay on the phone :
      1. Be Spontaneous
      2. Build Rapport
      3. Be Sensitive
      4. Patience
      5. Listen Actively
      6. Confidence
      7. Understanding the negotiation process of the company you stands for.

      Getting a positive outcome may take months, sometimes even years, to reach a mutually agreeable settlement. So be patient and do not lose hope.

      For more information and guidance about debt collection you may check our articles below:
      https://debtrecoveries.com.au/5-sales-skills-for-better-debt-collection/
      https://debtrecoveries.com.au/debt-collection-is-like-dating/
      https://debtrecoveries.com.au/top-5-tips-on-how-to-collect-debts-by-phone/

      Hope for your success in debt collection.
      Cheers 🙂

  6. hi my name is Irvnig i have been collecting for 2 months now., and i’m having fun. What are some
    recommendable books to become successful .

    • Hi Irving. There are so many, but one of my favourites is the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. On debt collection, there is a good book written by Roger Mendelson called The 10 Mistakes Businesses Make. It’s about his story about how he got started in debt collection. Thanks for reading my blog! Adam

    • Hi Arty. Listen to the debtor. Work with them for a win win scenario. Ask them what a solid arrangement would look like, then start from there. Hope that helps!

  7. adam in what part of a talk and very good situation and I m excepted your writing feeling …….. why should know your language and thoughts ………
    thank you so much……………………………

  8. hi i just started ajob in collections two months ago and feel i should be doing a better job i still stuff up talking to our customers i dont have any confidence at all and have had alot of training in it but just cant get it will i become more confident i feel stupid and think everyone is listening and criticising me when they arent help

    • Hi Julie. Yes, I felt exactly the same when I started out in collections. It can be intimidating, making those first few calls and not quite knowing how that person is going to react. Also working around other more senior people with experience. It’s very intimidating. I guess all I can say is, relax, be yourself. One thing I have learnt is that everyone has their own style when it comes to collections. Have trust in your own style and let your own personality come through. Follow the script if you have one, but don’t feel nervous about adding your own personality to the conversation. Once you get a few runs on the board, your confidence will build immediately. Good luck and happy collecting!

  9. Hello,

    I am having an issue with well, being too nice I guess? I am a very touchy feeling person however, being in a customer service world as long as I have, I do know that every Sally sob story isn’t always the truth. I work with defaulted student loans and our goal isnt to get the money essentially but to offer them a shovel to help dig themselves out of the debt. We seem to be an overal flexible company. However I seem to find myself walking out of the office most days without getting a single account while most of the others chit chat about the 4-5 that they got that day. I am great at being compassionate and caring and the legallity. Due to my customer service experience I know how to talk my way around subjects that may seem blunt or brutal and shedding new light on it. It just seems that I am never able to close the case. I am at a loss here.

    • Hi Chelsea. I feel for you. I am guessing you are on an incentive scheme? If the objective is to help the students, then perhaps just concentrate on that. Listen to them, find out what their pain points are, then find a solution for them. It’s not about giving them sympathy or a shoulder to cry on, it’s about providing them with a “way out”. Hope this help!

    • I have a long history as an outside/inside sales rep and i struggle with that exact issue. Its ingrained in me to make the customer happy, this still applies to debt, but you have to use it differently. A happy debtor is more likely to pay than an angry one. However, Instead of making the customer believe they got a great deal, i try to make the debtor believe THIS arrangement is only offered cause i “like” them. Exclusivity and scarcity really..

  10. Pingback: Characteristics of A Great Debt Collector - Debt Recoveries Australia

  11. hi,

    I liked your article.
    Apart from visiting them, how do you deal with clients who have made promises on the phone to pay but don’t end up honoring their promise?
    Includes clients who are constantly lying, whats the best way to deal with them?

    • Hi Daniel. Yes, it’s tough when they do not stick to their promise to pay, but you can take legal action against them? This is usually the next step.
      Hope this helps.

  12. I just started a job in a debt recovery agency today and the only experience I have ever had is working in a radio station. Everything seems strange here, but my superiors have been trying to put me through. I was present for a meeting with one of the debtors today and i was told to take notes, it comes easily for them and i guess that’s because they have been in the system for a while.I’m nervous, I don’t know what my first call will be like. I’ve been trying to read and i have to use the dictionary most of the time cos of some terminologies. I decided to browse and found you, some weight lifted off my shoulders afterwards, it doesn’t seem so tough anymore.I know it’s easier said than done though!I’ll keep you posted on how things go. Many thanks for this platform!

    • Hi Billy. Thanks for reading. I am glad you are not so nervous anymore. Everyone has their own way of collecting and I am sure you will find yours and be very successful. Good luck Billy.

  13. hi
    I like your articles. I just started this dept recovery job in just 2 weeks. Sometime I’m feeling stressful when people didn’t even pickup their phone. Even when someone pickup they instantly hung up when they hear I’m from dept collector agency’s. What are the best intro for the customer to make them interested to hear from me?

    • Hi Kim. Thanks for reading. Yes, this is a problem, to get their attention as soon as they pick up the phone. I feel for you and it’s not easy. So I guess I like to quickly let them know what’s in it for them. If you can very quickly let them know that you are on their side, trying to work with them to avoid further repercussions. Try and very quickly establish that you are ringing to help them. You are helping by assisting them avoid legal action or further interest and charges, so that’s a start. If you offer an instalment program, you are actually offering an interest free loan- so these are the benefits that you can point out to them before they hang up. Good luck!

  14. hi adam however i a trying my best to be a good collector and also achieving targets,but the problem is inside politics and attitude of team leader form other nationaity ,she hates me she hates every thing ,she is trying every time problems for me,guide me how to handle this kind of tam work

    • Hi Nasir. I feel for you. For sure. It’s not pleasant having a tough-minded team leader. My suggestion would be to try and provem her wrong. Collect the most out of anyone else in your team. Then she will have nothing to complain about. Try and set an example for her to follow. Try and remain calm, open-minded and friendly. She will hopefully follow your example. I wish you well and keep your head up and keep smiling!

  15. Hello Adam, at my work place we do in store collections for a rent to own company as well as on the road collections and try to speak with the customer face to face. The problem i am faced with is that they just don’t want to answer the door when they see my truck pull up. I think its because they are skeptical that i am just going to repo the products but i cant even get an answer at the door to tell them or explain to them whats going on and what i can do. I have tried going in personal vehicles and in none company uniform to disguise myself a bit but my collections are still low, do you have any suggestions as to how i can better my work.

    • Hi Alex. Prevention is the best way to avoid these face to face collections, but if it’s gone that far that you have to collect the items, I would attempt a solution by email and phone first, to then make a time for them to drop the goods back to you, or for you to pick them up. Dropping by un-announced is confrontational and does not show a great deal of respect for your customer. Try negotiations by email and phone first. Hope this helps.

  16. hi Adam thax for ur tips. I have been called for an interview in a bank as a debt collector and recovery officer what questions should I expect and how best should I prepare for that interview and what should I do to be considered for the job

    • No worries. My tips would be to 1. Be yourself- let your true spirit shine, since your true passion is what they are looking for. 2. Learn all you can about the bank- find out who will be interviewing you and link with them on Linkedin ( make sure you update your own Linkedin profile). 3. Give them a list of 5 ways you can add value to their company. i.e. make it about the bank and what you can do ti improve collections at the bank, don’t make it about you.
      Good luck!

  17. Hello Adam, good day!

    I’d like to thank you for this advice, it helped my team a lot in terms of collection and effort. Thank you so much!

  18. I’ve been a collections for 4 months now, I’ve been trying to get use to the industry but it getting difficult everyday. I’ve never reached my target but my colleagues reach it and at times go beyond twice the target. I get so much support and training from co-workers and supervisors but still i find myself going back when i began.

    • Hi Sphe. I feel for you. After 4 months, if you haven’t got the hang of it, maybe it’s not for you.

  19. Starting a debt collection agency and need training for my new employees.. Any help??

  20. Hi I am debt collection agency in name of nayal solutions and services pvt.ltd
    In india
    Need your help to improve my collection from debtor

  21. Wow, right information is never outdated, its two years down now and I just found these tips, as a novice in the field I won’t hesitate playing around them.

  22. Ive been in collections for almost 6 months now. Ive slowly worked my way to almost the top ranks but im usually 3 or 4… never 1. Our top agent is in another state so i have no way of listening to their calls. Im hoping these extra tips will help me build better rapport and finally make it to the top. Thanks for the advice!

    • Congrats Chynna. Well done. I hope they help you. Not much info on the web for debt collectors so glad I can be of some help.

  23. why do you think there is such a high turnover in the industry? I see so many job advertisements for debt collectors

    • Hi Kate. We do not have a high turnover at Debt Recoveries Australia. I guess some companies may do, or maybe there are just a lot of debt collection jobs around at the moment? Not sure.

  24. Hi Adam,
    thank u so much for your tips, you can’t imagine how much your words encouraged me and relieved my nerves. I just had a debt collector job offer and I didn’t know anything about this job before, however, my major is English Language and I am afraid that the job needs another major or my major will stand in my way and I will face difficulties. I also don’t have that much of information about the bank felids, the employer said to me at the interview that it doesn’t make a problem, and all that I have to do is to read about it. I need your opinion, do u think that will make a big problem for me if I had the job?
    thank you (:

    • No worries Modhawi. Good luck with the new job. I reckon go for it. You can learn everything you need to know on the job. How hard can it be? What is the worst that can happen? Ask your employer to provide you with the training. Good luck and let me know how you go.

  25. Good day!

    Hi Mr. Adam Stewart! I’m Maricar from Philippines. Thank you for this awesome tips you’ve shared. It was great, well detailed and very helpful for me since I am currently working as a Credit and Collection Staff of our company. Hopefully I can apply all your tips to become a good and someday a professional debt collection agent.

    Have a nice day ahead and Godbless!

  26. Amazing thoughts! I learned a lot from this article. I hope many people would be inspired and motivated in involving bank debt and what it is all about. Thanks for sharing this wonderful thought.

  27. Really nice article. Are you aware of any collections jobs that can be done remotely?

    • Hi Chris. I would suggest approaching companies who want help with internal accounts receivables? Then offering to work remotely.

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