You have been calling your customer about a past due invoice for the last month. After a couple excuses and a couple broken promises, now no one answers the phone or returns messages when you call repeatedly. What does this mean? Have they closed? Has office staff been reduced to the point there is no one to answer calls, including from potential customers?
Or, are they just ignoring you because they know you are calling for money?
In our experience, it is not uncommon for us to learn that they are simply not answering calls from people who might be trying to collect money. So, any ID blocked calls, and calls from known creditors are always ignored, sent to voicemail, and never returned. This is especially true when calling the person’s cell phone. We know this because we frequently get through to these people by using a phone number that the debtor will not recognize and they answer.
When implementing this strategy, we usually first call with our regular unblocked phone number and get the typical ignoring treatment. Then 10 minutes later we call with an unblocked but unidentified number. That way we know that the only reason they answered is they didn’t know it was not us who was calling.
As a collection agency, if someone answers an alternative phone, we know that this may be the last time we get to talk to the person. We very quickly deliver a firm message that we have now proven they have been ignoring us, and that if they do that anymore, we have no choice but to send their file to the attorney. For an in house debt collector, the message should be that their file will be sent to a collection agency and reported to credit bureaus and groups if that has not yet happened.
We find that people are more likely to answer if the unidentified phone has an area code from the same region as the debtor. But, we find even cross country area codes can work, now that people keep cell phone numbers as they move about the country.
There are many ways to get low cost access to an unidentified phone number. For under RM20 initial cost, and as little as RM10 a month, you can have a prepaid cell phone with any area code in the country. That’s a small investment to be able to get through to one or more customers who owe you money and are ignoring all your calls.
Once you get through, if you don’t get cooperation, you know you will never get paid unless you take other action. Just having that knowledge earlier is well worth the minor cost of getting an alternative number. We all know that the chances of collecting decline dramatically the longer an invoice is not paid. The chart below shows the likelihood of collecting a commercial debt based on age of the receivable.
So, the sooner you know they are ignoring you, and the sooner you take more aggressive action, the more likely you can still get a recovery.