Three tactics to improve government receivables
Professional communication – especially about sensitive financial matters – requires more than just a quick letter or phone call. The way agents approach constituents requires careful planning, positioning and analysis. High performing agents build understand how both they and the person with whom they’re speaking process information – that’s why credibility, honesty, and empathy all matter. When one tries to compel another into action, setting expectations and customizing the approach according to the audience can raise chances of success significantly.
That’s why government revenue departments, their outsourcers and their supporters must create an environment where it clear to the debtor that they are expected to pay. Establishing that position efficiently, but compassionately is an essential factor when it comes to zeroing out balances, and providing support to important programs like victim restitution.
What should you do to establish a clear expectation of payment?
Post signage throughout your court, lobby or agency office
This signage should be posted where debtors are likely it and indicate payment in full is expected, visibly establishing the government’s policy in relation to debts owed. This constant reminder of the expectation to pay establishes a culture of accountability: You should expect payment, and you should let the debtor know you expect payment.
Establish expectation to pay
Establishing an expectation to pay can also be accomplished with well-scripted letters that help ensure the debtor understands:
- What the payment request is regarding
- The amount of debt owed
- When the payment is due
- Options and instructions for remitting payment
- Consequences of not paying the debt
- Contact information in case the debtor has questions
Finally, as time goes by without a payment or without payment in full, the tone of your correspondence should change. Initial requests can have the tone of a reminder but when weeks and months go by without settlement, the message to the debtor should change from one of reminder to one of demand, clearly communicating the consequences of not paying. If other communication methods are employed, these messages should be consistent with the signage and written correspondence so the expectation to pay is the same across all communications.
Remember: Experience in private collections has shown the importance of tried-and-true communication tactics that build relationships with debtors. And only when the best in-house efforts have been exhausted does it then become cost-effective to pursue outsourcing. To get the most out of your recovery efforts, it’s important to establish good relationships with your debtors in the same way you’ve established a good relationship with your community – One where they are expected to satisfy their obligations to keep essential and important services and programs running smoothly.
Steve Ard is the senior director of government services for Ontario Systems, a provider of accounts receivable and revenue cycle management solutions.