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Apr 14

How to Conduct an Effective Collection Call

Preparing Your Practice for Collection Calls

So you have some patients who haven’t responded to bills and you feel the need to call them and resolve their balances.  How do you prepare for the calls and what should you say?  Here are excerpts from the training that is provided to our professional collectors.

First, prepare yourself mentally to expect a successful outcome from your calls.  If you start with the attitude that you just need to get through these calls to check it off your “to do” list, you won’t have as successful an outcome as if you went in with the attitude that you were going to have productive conversations with patients and get most of them resolved.  Your attitude definitely controls what comes out of your mouth, so an expectation of success will come across in your speech and will therefore yield a greater amount of success.

Having the money conversation is a 3 step process after your opening request to be paid.  “Mrs. Smith, I’m calling about your outstanding balance owed to our practice of $300.  I can take a credit card over the phone today to clear it up for you.”

The patient then responds with… {insert your favorite excuse here} and you start the 3 step process:

Empathize – Acknowledge what you just heard “I know how you feel, that happens sometimes”.  Acknowledging what they just said will make you more human and compassionate to them, helping you to build rapport.

Remind of the Obligation – “We provided services for you on ___ date and we’ve sent you ___ bills.”  This is designed to make them feel guilty that sufficient time has elapsed and that you are correct in asking to be paid.

Ask for the money again – “It’s my policy that balances are paid within 30 days of the first bill.  What type of credit card will you be using to take care of your balance?”

Now, if the patient says they can’t pay off the full amount today, respond with “How much are you short?” rather than “How much can you pay?”  While the difference is subtle, psychologically, the first phrase conveys an expectation that they can afford to pay most of the balance due while the second phrase conveys an expectation that you’re willing to accept a token, like $5 or $10.  Avoid questions that indicate that you’ll take whatever they offer.

Once they’ve agreed to pay a portion of the balance, don’t stop there.  Maintain control of the conversation and get a commitment for payment of the remainder or you’ll likely never see it.  “Can you pay off the remainder in 14 days?” Or, “Let’s set up a 2 month payment plan” or “how much time do you think you’ll need?”

If the conversation isn’t resulting in payment and the patient wants to discuss their personal problems further, you want to use a technique called Bridging.  Bridging is a technique that professional collectors use to help retain control of a call, acknowledging the human need, and moving the patient back to the business need.  Verbal bridges allow the collector to steer a debtor back to relevant topics if he or she loses focus or seems off on an unimportant tangent

Here are some examples:

  • “What’s most important is that we get you into a payment plan that keeps you out of collections without jeopardizing the needs of your family.”
  • “The real issue here is money; not so much an insurance issue, correct?”
  • “Let me answer you by saying that it is frustrating to get calls from a collection company. Now I’m willing to work with you on a payment plan that will work for both you and our office.”
  • “Another thing to remember is that we’re willing to work with you during this difficult time.”

If a patient is completely uncooperative in establishing a payment plan, then simply tell them, “I’m sorry I am unable to help you,” and realize that it’s time to use a third party because you’ve done all you can.  Sending more bills, warning letters etc. will just cost you more money and since patient A/R over 90 days old depreciates in recoverability at a rate of 15% per month*, holding onto it longer is very costly.

*Source: US Dept of Commerce Study

Karen Cooper, MBA
District Sales Manager
732-704-7626 x101

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