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Michelle Dunn is a 24 year debt collection industry veteran, entrepreneur, award winning author, self-syndicated columnist, one of the Top 5 Women in Collections and one of the Top 50 most influential collection professionals in her industry.
Michelle has written and published 10 books in her Collecting Money Series as well as having 15 books available on Kindle. She has also written the Ultimate Credit & Collections Handbook, the check IS in the mail and The Guide to getting Paid, weed out bad paying customers, collect from past due customers and avoid bad debt.
Learn more at http://www.credit-and-collections.com/
MO: How did you initially get into the debt collection industry?
Michelle: I had gone to school for business and when I moved to NH, the first job I was able to get was as an Accounts Receivable clerk, I then moved up the ladder to become the credit manager and did such a good job that I worked myself right out of a job. I went on to be a Credit Manager at an oil company and another retail company before leaving to start my own collection agency in 1998.
MO: You’re received a great deal of recognition in the debt collection industry. Why have your efforts stood out? What are you doing differently to other debt collecting professionals?
Michelle: My efforts have stood out because I have always tried to help others. I have always tried to stress the importance of following the law, and not falling into the trap of being an abusive or aggressive debt collector that breaks laws in order to try and collect. My agency was so successful because I was a good collector, I was nice to debtors and tried to help them and that results in making more money. Contrary to what some think – that if they harass or abuse a debtor they are going to pay – I am not sure where that backward thinking comes in – but it quite obviously does not work!
MO: What are some tips for dealing with aggressive debt collectors?
Michelle: Don’t take it, stand up for yourself. If a collector calls you and is acting aggressively and won’t listen to you or talk to you in a calm and professional manner, tell them that because of their behavior you are not going to discuss the matter with them and hang up. If you have a letter from them, send that in writing. I advise every debtor who is having a problem with any collector to put it in writing – don’t just tell them over the phone. Remember if someone is treating you poorly or even breaking the law when they talk to you, don’t expect them to tell the truth later, protect yourself by having a paper trail. Another option is to ask for a manager or supervisor – though I have not had good luck with that, I have had aggressive debt collectors call me and when I asked for a manager they laughed and would not put them on the phone, if that happens to you, just hang up.
MO: What are some guidelines when choosing a collection agency? What should our readers be looking for and paying attention to?
Michelle: Don’t just choose a collection agency based on what they charge. Cheaper fees are not always better – you get what you pay for. Do your research, as your peers who they use for an agency, look up agencies online, see if they are members of any associations, a chamber, networking groups, the BBB- and then call those groups and ask for a reference, ask how long they have been members. Ask if they are members in good standing and if they have had any complaints against them. If they have, ask when, what and how it was resolved. Ask an agency for the names and numbers of existing customers and call them for a reference. Ask how long they have been using that agency, how often they get paid, how often they get status reports, if there is anything they don’t like about the agency. Never use an agency that won’t sign a contract with you.
MO: Were you always interested in becoming an author? Or did you just have so much insight and experience that you felt it was necessary to share it?
Michelle: I have always wanted to be an author. I was reading books by Stephen King when I was in grade school, my mother had to come with me to the library to check them out because the library wouldn’t let someone so young check out adult books – I started writing so much fiction when I was young and wanted to be just like Stephen King. As I got older and had more responsibilities I wrote business books because of the demand from people asking me how I did things and that is where my business writing career came in.
MO: What are some mistakes businesses make when trying to get paid by customers?
Michelle: The biggest mistake business make when trying to get paid from past due customers is not doing anything. They don’t like to make collection calls and don’t want to send a letter to the customer because they are afraid of making them mad – big mistake. You are in business to make money – not friends – when someone buys from you on credit, you are the bank until they pay, if they don’t pay you start losing money and certainly don’t make a profit. Business need to stay on top of their accounts and follow up early, and follow up consistently.
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