Want to be rid of your debts? These people can show you how.
It’s not the end of the world when you get mail from a debt collection company like EOS. It might actually be a good thing: Their call centre agents regularly help people who feel overwhelmed by their debts – and they have plenty of stories to prove it.
The relief in the woman’s voice was obvious, even before she started thanking him; recalls Robert Weinhold, a Debt-Collection Specialist in one of four EOS call centres in Germany. The caller was a young woman and it was clear she wouldn’t be able to pay off all the debts she had racked up from online shopping and credit cards. ‘Taking her to court would have made no-one happy, so we worked out a customised payment plan that she could actually handle.’
Debt recovery at EOS Group is a far cry from popular prejudices about the industry – it’s about solution-oriented people like Mr. Weinhold and his colleague, Thomas Markert, who deal with debtors by phone. Their aim is to get creditors what they’re owed – in a way that debtors can shoulder. ‘It’s about dealing with debt in a constructive way,’ says Mr. Markert. ‘It’s all about showing the customer that there is hope, that there is a goal they can reach.’
Dealing with debt means dealing with emotions.
And there are plenty of stories that suggest that debtors recognise this. One colleague’s experience is a common one, Messrs. Markert and Weinhold say. He took a call from a man who wanted to know how much of his debt he still owed. ‘Our colleague said the debt was paid off in full, and pointed out that the caller had called twice that day already,’ Mr. Markert recalls. ‘The caller then said, ‘I know, I just had to hear the good news again.’’
‘Being in debt is an extremely emotional issue’, says Mr. Weinhold. Feelings of helplessness or shame can easily deter clients from dealing with the problem. ‘But my advice to anyone who gets a letter from a debt collection service is simple – pick up the phone and call us. Your problem is only going to get more expensive if you ignore it,’ he says. ‘We’re here to help – and if someone thanks me for helping them, well, then they’re thanking me for doing my job.’
It’s not about disputing claims – it’s about working out realistic solutions.
Debt-collection businesses are not debtors’ advisory agencies. They serve the companies that have mandated them to collect money these companies are owed as quickly as possible. But EOS’s specialists know that they can only do this if debtors can shoulder repayment – which regularly requires their flexibility in designing repayments schedules, and freezing interest rate payments. Mr. Weinhold remembers a man in his thirties, who had spent years ignoring considerable debts he had amassed by overspending years before. ‘He suddenly found himself with a family, with a child, and felt the responsibility to get rid of his debts for his family’s sake,’ says Mr. Weinhold. ‘We worked out a generous repayment schedule that allowed him to pay off the amounts he owed over a considerable stretch.’
When his debts were paid off, Mr. Weinhold recalls, the man thanked him profusely. ‘He was really appreciative of the fact that we were patient, that we let him pay off his debts one by one,’ he says, remembering how EOS Serviceline supported an adult grappling with newly discovered responsibilities. ‘Once we’d agreed a schedule, we didn’t put any pressure on him – he really appreciated that.’
Start with the smallest overdue bill – and move on from there.
One thing Mr. Markert says he likes to do with first-time callers is to sit them down with a pen and paper. ‘I help them get an overview of their financial problem,’ he says, describing how he then hones in on the smallest outstanding bill and suggests the caller start by paying that off – in one go, or in instalments. ‘It’s about inspiring confidence in callers and motivating them to more forward, showing them that there’s light at the end of the tunnel,’ he says.
‘I often feel people smiling on the other end of the phone line,’ Mr. Markert continues. He says it happens time and time again that a frustrated first-time caller with, say, twenty outstanding bills finishes a call with confidence and thanks. ‘By walking them through their problems, I show them that debt is like a board game – you can play without a strategy, but you can only win if you have one.’
The motivational power of payment goals.
He recalls one woman who became almost fanatical about paying off what she owed. ‘She asked to increase her payments as she was planning to get a third job to finally get out of debt.’ Mr Markert recalls. That spring she successfully put everything into paying off one debt by June and the next one by August. ‘She saw that she was close to reaching her goal – and she was very grateful for that.’
Messrs. Markert and Weinhold reckon about 80 percent of the people they deal with thank them for their help. Getting debtors to pay off what they owe in full is the main aim
Even if bills, loans and mortgages pile up – a collection expert can find a solution.
Mr Weinhold remembers a call from a woman who had inherited debts her recently deceased husband had secretly accrued. She overwhelmed by the revelation – and she was also in no position to pay off the sums involved. By working out a plan that took her situation into account, he helped the woman to deal with her husband’s legacy. ‘Just remember there is no such thing as an impossible situation,’ says Mr. Weinhold. ‘And remember – I get thanked quite a lot.’