“Hi, you owe us money.”

No one likes making membership renewal calls, in fact many people dread it, but here are a few simple tips that will make your membership renewal calls simple and stress free.

Telephone Manner

When you pick up the phone to make a membership renewal call, how are you feeling? Are you dreading picking up the phone? Nervous about what you are going to say? Don’t be, just smile.

Professor Albert Mehrabian of UCLA put forward the theory that 38% of communication is tone of voice, while what you’re saying is important, how you say it is almost as important.

Smiling will completely change your tone of voice, meaning that members will be much more responsive to your calls and you may find you have a higher rate of success.

What to Say

As well as having a list of names and amounts outstanding, I recommend writing a short script for both voicemail messages and for when you talk to a person.

It may seem strange to have a script in front of you for a telephone call, but if you ever get tongue tied or forget your contact information, you have all of the relevant information directly in front of you. Also, the simple act of writing out your words will force you to think through and practice what you are going to say thereby reducing the chance that you will get flustered during the conversation.

The important information to include in your script is:

  • Who you are calling/leaving the message for (especially if leaving a message in a general mailbox)
  • Why you are calling – You may want to consider using the language of a “presumptive close” method where your question is not “are you going to pay?” but “how would you prefer to pay this year’s fees of $XXX?”
  • Who you are and how they can contact you

Having the script can also help make your calls and voicemails go much faster as you don’t have to search for information and won’t leave messages filled with pauses, “ers” and “ums”.

Some people work best with fully written scripts, others with bullet points or notes, find what works best for you and stick with it.

What to do When They Have Questions

Inevitably there will be members who have questions for you – but is investigating and answering their questions the best use of your time? Do your best to answer simple questions during the call but some questions may be more complicated and require some time and attention. Take down the person’s information and get back to them once you’ve had time to fully look into their question. The member will appreciate not waiting on hold as you try to dig up the information as quickly as possible and then you can take your time looking into the question and get back to the member with a well thought out response.

Note Taking

When making membership renewal calls, have an Excel document open with the member names, amounts outstanding, contact information and a space for notes.

I would highly recommend taking notes during your calls, whether it’s just a note stating “voicemail left at two pm Tuesday April fifth” or a more detailed note of questions asked by the member or the reason they have decided not to renew their membership.

This comes in very useful when a second or even third round of calls is necessary. So that you aren’t repeating calls to a member who has already said they are waiting on a cheque from head office that will take four weeks.

Excel’s Fill Colour button can help with colour coding data in your spreadsheet, just set up a legend at the top of the page along the lines of:

Green – Payment confirmed or being sent in
Yellow – Left a voicemail
Red – Unable to leave a message or contact a person

This makes it easy for other staff members to see how successful the calls have been at a quick glance. It also serves as a great reference tool when making follow up calls.

Disappearing Members

During the course of your calls there will always be a member or two who have forgotten to update their contact information. You try the usual methods of phone, email and letter but get no response. So what do you do now?

Luckily for us there is a simple way to find more up to date contact information – social media. People are more likely to update their Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ etc. accounts than their member details and they can be useful tools to help track down missing members. This is most useful for members with unique names or members who have lots of information that you can easily cross check.

Round Two

After your first round of calls you’ll most likely still have some members with outstanding balances. If you check your notes and find no explanation as to why they haven’t paid. It may be time for a follow up call.

As with previous calls, have your script ready and take notes, but make sure to add a deadline i.e. “If we haven’t heard from you by March first we will assume you are not renewing for this year and you will no longer be a member of the organization.” I recommend giving, at absolute minimum, a two week window to allow for vacations and sickness.

This is not a payment deadline, but a deadline to hear a response. Even if that response is “we are still not sure, we need more time to decide.”

So with a positive attitude, a well written script and good note taking your next set of membership renewal calls will be a breeze.