Working with tenants to collect payments also proves successful. For example, you can say, “I didn't want you to be charged a late fee. That’s why I've been trying to reach you.” Another effective strategy is to say, “If your credit card is almost full, do you have another credit card you can use to split the payment, so you can be current on this month’s rent?”
Step 6: Blame It on the System
This step ties in with situations where one team member has been bending the rules—waiving fees and taking partial payments—while others work to stay true to the facility's policies. In such cases, customers will expect to make late or partial payments without consequences. If you find it difficult to enforce the policy or deny a customer request, consider blaming the collections call on someone or something outside of your control, such as a new software system or your superiors.
For example, “We have a new software system in place that doesn’t allow for late or partial payments. In fact, the system will continue to add late payments until you’re current with your account.” Another example is, “We have a new district manager, and she’s removed all our credentials for removing late payments.”
Step 7: Be Organized
Once you’ve completed the first round of collections calls, do you immediately schedule your next round? What’s your system to follow up with a customer who said he’ll not be able to pay until the following week? How will you remember to follow up with him on that date to ensure he pays?
One way to do this is to set up reminders in your management software or online calendar. Be organized and input reminders for yourself for each delinquent account so you can track them before it’s too late.
Step 8: Know the Psychological Factors
Your state of mind, the tone of your voice and your attitude will all impact the success of your collections call. Here are a few areas to prepare:
- Positive thinking and greeting. A monotone voice will not get you far in collections, so smile when you’re on the phone. Since you can’t make eye contact, remain focused on the call and not anything else. Sit up straight and picture the customer sitting across from you. Notice how your body language and communication change.
- Be ready for emotional reactions. Past-due customers may be embarrassed, angry or sad. They may yell or cry. Always remember the purpose of your call: to get the bill paid. You can listen, relate and let them know you understand. Making the customer feel right will help you tremendously in your collections.
- Be prepared. Every time you hear a different excuse, jot it down. Prepare answers for your extensive list of excuses so you’re ready to handle a variety of scenarios in a prompt and easy manner.
- Tenant history. Most of our storage managers are great at knowing their tenants by name and unit number. They also know whether a customer pays on time, is always late or in between. Knowing each customer will help you modify your style for each customer.
Step 9: Finalize a Solution
Were you able to get a commitment for payment from your tenant? If you can’t get a full payment, what are your options? Some facilities are in low-income areas and a partial payment may be better than none. In other cases, more drastic measures may necessary. In either case, always work toward a viable solution to benefit your facility’s overall profit.
Whether you’re working with an individual tenant or focusing to reduce high accounts-receivable, thinking ahead and making strategic decisions during move-in and working diligently to avoid and lower delinquencies is crucial to reducing collections calls. During a call, always keep your focus on remaining in control of the conversation and work to achieve your goal of receiving a payment in a timely manner.
Aycha Williams is a marketing and training strategist for AC Commercial Property Management, which currently manages more than 1.2 million square feet of self-storage and other commercial holdings in Florida and Texas. She has more than 15 years of commercial real estate, high-tech and consumer-products marketing experience. For more information, call 407.647.9800; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; visit www.accommercial.net .