Collecting money… no one wants to be the one to do it, but everyone wants it done. It is often coupled with the implication that an unpleasant conversation is to be had. This fear can be relevant as the individual on the other side of the phone may not typically be too thrilled receiving the call. Understandably, they may already be upset before you even begin a conversation. Maybe they did not know they received an invoice, they are disputing a charge that they believed their insurance company should have covered, or they are simply frustrated by the long hold times and automated telephones that lead you down a rabbit hole of ‘press 2 if you’re calling for…’
Needless to say, these conversations are not what many look forward to in a workday. However, they do not need to be as complicated as assumed. Just as many factors may amplify the stress, there are many that may neutralize it as well. Perspective is key; we have all been the patient before and, for many, the medical billing process can be complicated and daunting as it is. Even for those who are familiar with the system, let alone a newcomer.
There are steps that can make collecting accounts receivable easier for both parties involved. When we put the patient first and put into practice a few techniques, it is simple to transform these otherwise negative conversations into positive experiences; all while setting your brand apart in the process.
Have you ever received an unexpected invoice? We all have experience as patients, so put yourself in their shoes. What would you like to hear from someone collecting a debt from you?
While it is more difficult to demonstrate empathy while limited by the means of a telephone, you can harness dialogue that goes beyond just ‘feeling sorry’ for a patient's situation. Humans are very good at reading through a façade of compassion. You cannot fake empathy, but you shouldn’t have to either. Relate to them, let them know that they are talking to another ‘real-life’ person on the other end of the line.
People have a difficult time being frustrated at individuals when they can identify relatable human qualities. The phone already strips you of many variables that relay the humanity of the individual, so it is more important than ever to use language effectively. You want them to feel known and for them to know you.
Show that you care. Here are a few phrases you can use to demonstrate empathy:
“I understand where you are coming from.”
“That can be frustrating. Let's work on this together.”
“That is not the experience we want you to have.”
Without building a rapport with your patients, it is difficult for them to trust you. The conversation does not have to be strictly business. You are not wasting time by introducing yourself and asking them about their day during the call, you are building trust that leads to healthy conversations and effective results. Explain that you are there to help them and this will increase the positive outcomes for everyone involved. By taking the time to build rapport, you can strengthen the relationship with your patients for future business or interactions as well.
Active listening helps keep the conversation brief and helps you enhance the patient's experience so that they don't have to repeat themselves. Hearing is passive however listening is proactive. In this, you listen to what the patient is requesting, instead of thinking of your response in advance. Maybe even reciting aspects, or the last part, of what they said so that they receive audible feedback that they are being listened to.
Most importantly, listen to their side of the story if they share. Even if you already know it, by hearing them out again they will at the very least feel like they have been listened to, like every stone has been turned over before proceeding with the solutions. When people feel heard, they are then far more receptive to hearing others.
Consider why they are calling in the first place and listen for clues that may diagnose what may have gone wrong in the process. By demonstrating active listening skills, you can save time for you and the patient.
Use the Right Tone
How you say something is just as, if not more, important than what you say. People do not just hear words, they feel them, and then interpret how they are received based on the implied tone. The way you deliver a message can improve the experience and ease any misunderstood tension. This is why it is important to deliver news in the right tone of voice. When you have to collect a payment, avoid using a condescending tone of voice. Instead, you can be kind while being assertive. While this may not be your first call of the day to a debtor, it is probably their only call with a company collecting money.
Use Positive Language
One of the best ways to prevent an uncomfortable situation is by using positive language from the start. For example, instead of saying "I can't help you", try using "Let me see what I can do for you." Humans are retaliatory beings by nature. When confronted with a wall, they will naturally want to break it down. When presented with a road, they will be inclined to follow it. By removing the adverse language out of the conversation, you can guide a patient’s response into one that is more receptive than confrontational. Their language choices will generally follow suit with the type of language you choose; positive for positive and negative for negative. This also helps enhance the patient's experience while you try to resolve the issue at hand.
Admit When You're Wrong
Patients want transparency, but when a health organization representative cannot admit that a mistake has been made, the conversation can get much worse. Mistakes happen and people are generally very forgiving of this, given that they are corrected and dealt with properly. If you want to build a bond with your patients, it's important to admit when mistakes happen and to take the initiative to fix them. This lets your patients know that you are honest and sincere about fixing their individual issues, which people value in a company. If there has been a mistake then the patient is already upset; from here, if the issue is dealt with properly then people are far more inclined to be grateful than they are to become even more upset. Just follow up by clearly explaining how you will correct the issue.
Collecting payments over the phone from patients can be challenging, and it requires training your team to know what to say and when to say it. But you don't have to handle it all on your own. That’s why it’s crucial to outsource your receivables management with a trusted brand you can partner with to take care of your patients, such as Tavelli Co., Inc. By putting your receivables management in the hands of professionals with the expertise in customer service and receivables management, you can save time and enhance the patient experience while resolving their issues and collecting payments.
Tavelli Co., Inc. has over 37 years of unparalleled experience in the debt collection and receivables management industry. Our mission is to achieve the right balance between getting clients paid and being empathetic to debtor circumstances, through implementing innovative practices, hiring experienced people, and improving business decisions through analytics. We provide peace of mind to all involved by collecting money with no complaints. Tavelli Co., Inc. takes the time to carefully listen to your customers and share their feedback with you through meaningful data and transparent communication, so you have access to the information you need to make quality decisions and improve your processes in the future. Contact us today and let the debt collection experts at Tavelli Co., Inc. help you set your business up for success.
IMPORTANT: Information provided by Tavelli Co., Inc., any employees of Tavelli Co., Inc., or its subsidiaries is not intended as legal advice and may not be used as legal advice. It is not intended to be a full and exhaustive explanation of the law in any area, nor should it be used to replace the advice of your own legal counsel.