COLLECTIONS & COMMUNICATION | 5 MIN READ

How to Write Effective and Compliant Collection Letters: A Checklist

Written by Scott Murray

In today’s debt collection space, many organizations are focused on new and improved ways of connecting with consumers.  While this is a necessity in today’s consumer-driven world, the collection letter still has an important role to play.

However, today’s experts have a specific set of guidelines for achieving success in the collection letter process.  Here is a checklist that includes some of the best practices used by collection industry professionals today.

The quotes below were taken from Mike Gibb’s excellent webinar series available here.

1. Keep the envelope simple and discreet

Thinking about a splashy envelope design that will draw attention? Don’t! Keep it simple.

According to seasoned collection professionals, paying extra for a colored envelope won’t improve your collection rates.  Adding words like “urgent” or “confidential” is also counter-productive.  When it comes to a return address simple, remember that it’s not necessary to identify your business on the outside envelope. In fact, you’ll protect the privacy of its recipient by leaving it off.

It’s also very important to make sure that nothing is visible from the outside of the envelope or through the window.

 

“Make sure that they can’t lift it up to the light and read it, or see what it says from the outside. We’ve had so many lawsuits in our industry for stupid things like what you put on the outside of your envelope.” 
Irene Hoheusle
American Collectors Association

2. Utilize Proven Design Optimization Strategies

If you are struggling to get responses, it might be time to audit your layout. According to the pros, you should:
  • Highlight your rules, regulations and disclosures
  • Intentional design layouts that draws attention to important areas
  • Use icons to reduce the amount of text in a letter
“So use a telephone because the consumer recognizes that quickly. Oh, here I can just call, here’s my website, there’s a little computer right here. And do that targeted intentional design that provides the consumer with a multiple-channel response, because that is what they want.”
Courtney Reynaud
Creditors Bureau USA/California Association of Collectors

3. Stay Compliance Safe With An “All Business First” Letter

Don’t get cute or try to communicate too much in your first letter. Successful collections experts suggest your avoid providing any settlement offers in the first letter.

 

“I’m just trying to make sure I’m reporting you owe this debt, give us a call, or the mini Miranda while  meeting the requirements on the FTCPA. And I want to keep myself out of a class action lawsuits by adding too much to that first letter that might overshadow something or accidentally or seem like it, especially when there’s no language in the FTCPA for anything but the requirements.”
Irene Hoheusle
American Collectors Association

4. Highlight Your Self Service Options First

Tell consumers all the ways they can pay or communicate without having to speak to a live person. Or, highlight that you offer ways to pay your bill after normal business hours. If your website includes a way for consumers to view account information and make payments, then point that out in your letter. Irene suggested not only to highlight it, but also explain the benefits. Do this by making the website a integral part of the content and not just a throw-in at the end. She saw an instant change in results when the website went from the bottom of the page to the body of the letter.

 

“We kept saying, “Y’all can’t believe people just aren’t going on that portal!” There’s a virtual collector there. Once we updated the language in the letter to actually include that information, payments skyrocketed!”
Irene Hoheusle
American Creditors Association

5. Make Sure You’re Thinking Like A Consumer

If you can’t tap into the mind of the consumer, you’re not going effectively generate responses. This is especially important to consider when you need to message options to generations (like millennials) who don’t like to talk to people. Irene highly recommends you think like the consumer in everything you do. Ask yourself – What’s in it for them?

 

“If you want voluntary payments, they have to believe it’s in their best interest to make a voluntary payment. Whether it’s calling you back, reading your letter, taking the time to discuss things with you, even give you a dispute. They have to know what’s in their best interest to do that. And we all have to have the mentality – ‘What’s in it for me,’ from the consumer’s point of view.”
Irene Hoheusle
American Creditors Association

6. Let The Right Attorneys Check Your Letters

Both Irene and Courtney suggest having an attorney look at your letter templates, especially the offer and counter-offer letters. Sometimes information can get misconstrued or misinterpreted, and that leads to a potential lawsuit.  It’s also important to keep up with judge rulings because attorneys can find clever ways to pursue litigation. Courtney takes the law review a step further, noting that not only are ACA attorneys a resource, but also the lawyers who know state law.

 

“If you’re strictly here in California, then maybe getting somebody from Florida that’s gonna review your notices and, you know, depending on where you’re at geographically and where you do most of your collections, you’re going to, if you meet with an a notice review attorney that’s in that state or specializes in that state, that might add a little bit more value to you…to protect you from lawsuits. And if it’s been awhile since you’ve had them reviewed, have them reviewed again.”
Courtney Reynaud
Creditors Bureau USA/California Association of Collectors

7. Be Prepared To Answer Common Objections From Your Collection Letter

There Are Proper Ways to Handle Objections
Collection letter campaigns are going to have their share of objections. However, there are some very common objections that your agents can be trained and prepared.

“I never received the collection letter.”

The first step when an agent calls a debtor and they claim to have never received the collection letter is to verify their mailing address. However, you’ll want to be sure to verify that you’re speaking with the right party.

 

“If they refuse to give us their address, we actually don’t continue the conversation with because we feel that we need two pieces of data to verify it’s them. If they don’t want to do address, they can do the last four of their social or another means.
Courtney Reynaud
Creditors Bureau USA/California Association of Collectors

Are you looking to streamline your collection process?

Whether you’re looking for a statement and mail vendor who specializes in the debt collection industry, or want to know how our PCI-compliant payment solutions can increase your collection percentage, we can help!

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