The Importance of Native Speakers in International Debt Collection

Debt Collection is not a subject you can take in school – we have to rely on the experience of generations of debt collectors to guide us through the challenges of Debt Collection and teach us all there is to know. Among all of the challenges that are faced in this discipline, one of the most difficult ones is probably the communication towards the debtor. This communication needs to be as fluid, clear and effective as possible. In an increasingly globalized economy, the communication challenge becomes even more difficult: how to bridge cultural and language differences in Debt Collection? In this blog, we will discuss the importance of having native speakers that can communicate with the debtor in their native language.

Avoiding misunderstandings in language

The Debt Collection process is notorious for several misunderstandings that might occur. In fact, a misunderstanding causes a Debt Collection process to be necessary in the first place: the misconception of believing you can receive a product or service without paying for it. Of course, more technical misunderstandings also occur during a Debt Collection process, such as misinterpretations of a contract agreement or an invoice.

If we add language barriers to this already complex formula of communication, you can imagine that the collection of a debt will not be effective nor efficient. A study carried out in the United States by Gluszek & Dovidio (2010) shows that communication problems occurred significantly more with non-native accents than with regional accents. This means that, for example, a non-native English speaker will be harder to understand than a native speaker with an Australian accent. This is why Debt Collection should be carried out by native collectors that can contact the debtor in their native language. This will avoid unnecessary complications and keep the conversation as clear as possible.

Using cultural knowledge to ensure effective collection

There are multiple ways of approaching a debtor. Some debtors are ashamed, angry or are simply too busy to talk on the phone, while others are more sociable and willing to collaborate. In every situation, the approach to the debtor and the introduction of the debt will depend on the specific debtor: their personality, attitude and cultural background. Especially the latter can make a great difference in how your approach as a debt collector is received. For example, it is a fact that some cultures are way more direct than others in their communication style. This can cause some serious issues: if the debt collector is not from the same culture as the debtor, the gap in communication style can cause incomprehension and annoyance.

Because of these cultural differences, it is essential that a debt collector knows and understands the cultural background of the debtor. Their approach should always be tailored – and how better to achieve this than by having a native speaker contacting the debtor? This way, you ensure that the debt collector knows how to communicate in the best way possible with the debtor, because they know and share the same cultural background.

"I lived in France for 14 years and in the UK for 17 years. This experience gives me an important advantage when deciding on the communication strategy for collecting unpaid debts in both countries."
Mahdi Mohammed
International Debt Collector at CMC Worldwide

Native speakers at CMC Worldwide

We have the advantage of being located in a country as multicultural as the Netherlands. This enables us to recruit a lot of native speakers of different languages who live in the Netherlands. Because our corporate language is English, there is no need for international colleagues to speak Dutch before starting to work at CMC – which lowers the threshold and increases our ability to hire good people. When a new colleague starts working with us, we have face-to-face and online intensive training to ensure a smooth onboarding and teach them the ins and outs of Debt Collection and Credit Control. This way, we ensure that all our colleagues have the same knowledge base and work method while adapting their style to the specific country and language they work with. That is why we can always guarantee our clients the same high standard of work, while also being specialized in different countries and cultures. We are very proud of the fact that we have colleagues from all over the world: Chile, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, Spain, Italy, Brazil, Djibouti, Poland, England and more.

We understand that it is not always possible to hire people for every language and culture you are dealing with as a debt collector or credit controller. In that case, there are several things you can do to face this challenge. You could read more about the different cultures of debtors, you could learn the most typical phrases in a specific language and you could learn more about different communication styles for all parts of the world.

We sincerely hope that this blog has been insightful and inspirational for your own international Debt Collection process. If you are facing international challenges in collecting your invoices, please do not hesitate to contact us. We are sure that with our wide range of services and knowledge (Debt Collection, Credit Control, Training, Consultancy and Secondment) we can help you in finding the most optimal solution. We are here to get your invoices paid.

Reference

Gluszek, A., & Dovidio, J. F. (2010). Speaking with a nonnative accent: Perceptions of bias, communication difficulties, and belonging in the United States. Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 29(2), 224-234.