Collection Calls, Work Smart Not Hard – Michael Dennis, CBF

Work Smarter

On my first day following training as a collector, I was assigned a relatively small group of accounts by my manager.   After about two hours, my manager called me into his office.  He asked if I remembered calling a customer about a $57 past due invoice that was less than a week past due.  I said yes.  He asked why.  I said I called because the invoice was past due.  After he finished laughing, he explained the idea of prioritizing collection calls this way:

Rather than simply working your way through the accounts assigned to you, start by calling customers with past due balances of let’s say $57,000 or more.  After that, focus on accounts with $5,700 or more past due… and after that you call customers with $57 past due.

In hindsight, this meeting provided me with valuable lessons that I have used ever since.  The most important involved the need to prioritize every collection call every day.  This implies and necessitates getting and staying organized; keeping good notes about each call you make; finding a way to follow up systematically to ensure payment commitments are kept.

I cannot tell you how many times I have told this story, or how many times this basic idea about how to collect more efficiently is overlooked.  My bet is this:  If your department has three or more collectors, at least one of them does not systematically prioritize their outbound collection calls.

Michael Dennis, MBA, CBF, LCM

I would be very interested to hear whether I am right or wrong.

Michael Dennis’ Covering Credit Commentary. Michael’s website is

The opinions presented are those of the author.  The opinions and recommendations do not necessarily reflect the views of CMA, or their Officers and Directors.  Readers are encouraged to evaluate any suggestions or recommendations made, and accept and adopt only those concepts that make sense to them.

8 Replies to “Collection Calls, Work Smart Not Hard – Michael Dennis, CBF”

  1. I have found that having a collection log on each customer and noting payment promises on your email calendar are in invaluable tools in collecting. I agree with calling the big ticket items first , but small items are important too- those are the ones that will nickel and dime you to death. Especially unearned discounts and short payments. I address those the day I get the check from a customer. My personal motto is to remember that there is a PERSON behind those numbers on the aging not just a debtor with a past due balance. So treat your customers like you would like to be treated if the shoe were on the other foot. Catch more flies with sugar than vinegar!

  2. You are completely correct without prioritizing you have no way of making your goals!

    We download our aging weekly by invoices which are due. We sort by descending dollars by collector and each person contacts everyone of those accounts before the next down load. This way we meet our monthly credit collection goal and contact all accounts.

    We also address short pays immediately, cash app issues a short pay notice upon receipt on the day we post our checks and a file is kept until they are resolved.

    We also use you get more with Sugar than Salt in our department:)
    Thank you I love this page!

  3. Dennis,

    I apologize if my reply is deemed too serious but …. as the ultimate organizational tool, I have found post-it notes to be a 21st Century essential. They are convenient, small and portable, inexpensive, environmentally friendly, come in various sizes and they are disposable. Because they are multi-colored, you can prioritize your calls by importance via assigned shades. You can place the notes wherever they will be more likely to be seen and as a standard prompt, can be re-used.

    As a bookmark or tab, they are unbeatable. The physical act of crumpling one and tossing it into the wastebasket creates a great deal of satisfaction because you have discarded one more problem and see the line of notes getting smaller. The height of a pad is adjustable and so one can be inserted under a wobbly desk to stabilize it and equally important, they remove lint from clothing.

  4. Guy that was one of the funniest things I have read in a long while. Never mind how true it is. My love for post-it notes runs deep, and I agree there is great satisfaction in crumpling one up and tossing it in the trash can.

  5. How much do you take into consideration when prioritizing the collectibility of the account? When I was more heavily involved with collection, the most important tool I used to organize my collection calls was my experienced opinion on the collectibility of the account. That, weighed with the dollar amount, determined the priority placed on each past due account.

  6. I prioritize by amount and number of days past due. The tool I find useful is downloading the aging to Excel and creating a pivot table that I can sort by Customer and dollar amount. This also allows me to add my notes from my collection calls. Since the file is stored on the network, it also makes the information available to the others just in case I’m out of the office.

  7. I utilized ACT a contact management software some years ago and I am very pleased with the functionality of it as it was easy to adapt to collections. We must keep track off collection attempts, results, and follow ups, and nothing could be easier or more efficient. I can link directly to my Excel aging from any contact, log every call / response, and write custom, predefined, emails and faxes and automatically record the event in the contact file. Calendaring is excellent with both passive and alarm events. Way too much functionality to cite here, but an excellent tool to keep notes and track collections. Relatively cheap and can work right out of the box after a little review and practice. Remember, collections are essentially “contacts”. Those using paper or aging reports to keep notes and follow ups might want to consider trying a contact manager instead, my bet is you will never look back.

  8. We also prioritize our work flow. Each week we pull an aging for invoices that are a few days past due. We sort if first by dollars and then we filters by time zone.. Since we are in CA we start calling our eastern time zone clients first, followed by central , mountain etc. All calls and communication is documented. And follow up calls are made regulary if there is no response. We have found that this system works best for us.

    Love your blog Michael!

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