In any practice, Accounts Receivable exist. Whoever collects money in your organization needs to know that this particular job has a two-fold purpose:
- To bring the patient/client’s account current
- To maintain sufficient goodwill with the patient/client to ensure his continued patronage and support.
The statistics that can be used to measure how effectively the job is being done are:
- Money collected (Amount)
- Number of accounts brought current
TELEPHONIC COLLECTIONS PROCEDURES
Your telephonic communication skills are very important. Following are some guidelines and proven techniques that will assist you in being most effective in collecting outstanding payments from your patients/clients over the telephone.
PRIOR TO THE CALL
- Study the patient/client’s account record, and all related documentation to ensure you have ALL the information necessary to make an effective and accurate collection call. Spotting a past due amount on your aging report and then picking up the phone to call the patient/client, without pre-planning, is not a very good idea, as there may be vital information of which you’re not aware. Placing the call without doing your “homework” could result not only in NOT getting paid, but in creating an upset with the client/patient or poor PR for the practice. So, study the file prior to making the call.
- Know the correct name of the person with whom you are planning to talk. Make sure that you have his/her complete name, spelled correctly. It is vital to speak with the person responsible for the account, so ensure that you have that data.
- Be in the right frame of mind when you place the call. Think positively. Believe that you are going to resolve the account. Do not call in anger, frustration or anxiety. You will get nowhere with your patient/client if you do so. Be both cheerful and professional.
MAKING THE CALL
- Introduce yourself and state the purpose of your call.
Example: “Hello, Mr. Smith? This is Mary Jones from Dr. Nelson’s office. How are you this evening? I’m calling you about your account. Do you have a few minutes to talk with me about this?”
- Be very deliberate in your statement about the account. Do not rush through this or be difficult to understand:“Our records indicate that you have an outstanding balance of $350, and I am inquiring as to when we might expect that payment.”Now give him an opportunity to respond.
- Do not make him feel embarrassed or as though he has done something wrong. Do not verbally attack him. Notice that in the above example it states, “Our records indicate…” Avoid statements such as: “I’m calling about the $350 that you haven’t paid us for four months!” This would definitely get you off on the wrong foot with him, and it would be quite difficult to resolve the ensuing conflict.
- The tone of your voice is very important. Do not be hostile or angry. Do not think of the client/patient as a “deadbeat” or a big problem. Think of yourself as a problem solver and come across that way. He will see that you are trying to help and will be more willing to help in return.
- After you have identified yourself and stated the purpose of your call, STOP!! Don’t say anything more at that point. It may seem like forever, but if you wait for the person to say something, it will go much more smoothly, as he is now having to originate a response to you regarding your inquiry.
- Listen to what he has to say. Don’t just hear it, but really listen and understand. It could be that he has already mailed the check, or maybe he was planning to mail it that day. If you come on with a harsh demand for payment, you could stop an already intended payment. So, give him a chance to talk.
- If he resists, registers an objection or is just generally uncooperative, let him say everything he has to say. Let him know that you understand, and then handle the objection, confusion or whatever it is by giving him an honest and realistic answer. If you do that, you will get a full picture of what his objections are, and you will have left him with little or no argument to fall back on once you have handled the objections he put forth.
- Don’t be brash or punitive. Understand that this is a tough position for him to be in. Don’t harass or attack him. Don’t make a threat (such as a lawsuit), except as a last resort and ONLY if you fully intend to carry it out.
- Go over with him the fact that it is to his advantage and benefit to make payment. Let him know that the advantages include: not getting turned over to a collection agency, feeling better because an agreement has been worked out, no harm being done to his credit rating, etc.
- Bear in mind that everything he has to say might sound very reasonable. But also remember that those “reasonable” explanations are the very “reasons” why he’s in a bind in the first place. The explanations won’t handle anything.
- Ask leading questions that will bring resolution. Many reasons for nonpayment are due to either real or merely perceived lack of funds. You have to determine what the actual case is, and you need information from him in order to show him how he could actually pay his bill after all.
- Understanding of the situation and how it can be resolved will only occur if you are in good communication with him, and you are truly trying to help. Make your communication really penetrate with the thought in mind that it won’t be necessary for you to ever have to call him a second time regarding this matter.
- Bear in mind all the time you are talking with the patient/client, that he really does have the ability to pay. It is most likely just “inconvenient” for him to pay you in full today. So be persistent. Be realistic. Keep going until you have obtained the outcome you intended to get.
- Normally, you would not want to suggest partial or monthly payments. Only do that if you have determined that it is the only way the client/patient will be able to make payment. If he is already on a monthly payment plan, but is behind, the full amount to collect at that time would be the amount it would take to bring the account current.
- At the end of the call, in a deliberate and clear manner, again confirm with him what he has agreed to do. Ensure that both the exact amount and the due date are very clear.
AFTER THE CALL
- Follow up the phone call with a letter confirming the arrangement and thanking him for taking the time and effort to handle his account.
- Keep a very accurate and thorough record of the phone call in his file. It should include the exact agreement that had been reached during the phone call. In some states, it is legal to record the conversation. If that is the case in your state, it is advisable to do so.
- Set up a tickler-file system with a calendar or logbook so you know exactly when to expect the payment and exactly when any follow-up call should be made.
- If you have done everything per the above guidelines, and you get nothing in return, then place the account with a professional collection agency or write it off.
- Notify the patient/client as to what you have done.
The above points should be reviewed and practiced so that the accounts manager feels confident and comfortable with handling collection calls.
- Be well-prepared.
- Be professional and treat the patient/client with dignity.
- Be helpful, yet persistent.
- Make sure the patient/client understands that you expect payment.
- Help him feel as though he is paying because he wants to keep his agreement.
- Listen, gather data, and fit your responses to what you hear. Handle each objection appropriately.
- Discuss holding up service, using a collection agency and/or affecting credit rating as last resorts.
If you feel you would benefit from a one on one consultation on any practice management questions or concerns, please fill out the form on this page and we would be more than willing to assist you.