Some people in my sphere hold the opinion that I must be barking mad to work in the area of financial services that I do. Or even in financial services at all. In fairness it’s an apt description given that credit controllers are often referred to as Rottweilers!

Yet, stepping away from the association with aggression carried by that particular breed of dog, it’s fair to say that tenacity is a quality needed by the good credit controller. And that’s not at all the same thing as aggression. I’m tenacious for sure – yet I don’t bark or slobber – so an immediate improvement on the Rottweiler there methinks.

Of course, it goes without saying, I don’t think I’m mad at all. I love credit. It’s my passion. I developed this passion almost literally at my father’s knee via work experience in his accountancy firm during school and later, university, holidays. So working with numbers in some form then was written in the stars for me. It’s in my DNA after all.

Tenacity then is one essential quality in the good credit controller. But there are many more. Credit control services play a key role in any business of any size – more than you might think. So, what other qualities does the credit controller need to support you and your business?

1. Love of the job

You have to love it. And, as we’ve seen, I do.

2. Knowing your stuff

Loving the job is not enough on its own though. You have to know your stuff. And I do. As it says on the NK Credit Consultancy website, I have years of practice under my calculator. I’m also an MCICM (Chartered Institute of Credit Management) graduate. My years of experience and my professional qualification together are your guarantee that you can put your trust in me. When it comes to credit control I know what I’m talking about. Such confidence in having a grip of the subject matter is vital when it comes to the next quality.

3. Holding telephone conversations in a professional manner

Having a professional telephone manner is much easier when one is sure of one’s facts. Knowledge is power – as Francis Bacon allegedly said. And power is control. When it comes to difficult telephone conversations the credit controller needs to be have … well … control. On the topic of talking, being a whizz with an abacus is not enough to be a great credit controller. You need good communication skills and decent vocabulary too so you can:

a. Know the words you should use
b. Know the words you should never use
c. Know the right questions to ask and of course conversely
d. Know the wrong questions to ask!
e. Know when to say ‘Yes’ and …
f. When to say ‘No’

You need to be a good character judge because sometimes people will lie – or at least stretch the truth a tad. It’s useful if you can work out if what you’re being told is genuine or if excuses are being made.

Understand too that you’re not the only one trying to extract money for your customer. You are competing for it – and some empathy and respect will go a long way, because a debtor and a customer are the same thing.

In the difficult circumstance of a desired payment not being forthcoming you’ll need to know how to advise your client on the most appropriate next steps. All these decisions need a solid commercial and risk awareness – an ability to see the bigger picture in other words.

A professional telephone manner is, of course, no obstacle to:

4. Building rapport with your clientele and maintaining a positive approach 

Know them by name and ask for them by name rather than by their title. So, instead of asking for ‘The Managing Director please’ ask to speak to Mr Jones.

5. Accurate record keeping of phone calls made to clients

Meticulous record keeping of all kinds – and of phone calls in particular – is key to keeping a handle on what is happening in any given situation. Which of course links back to the adage about knowledge and power and being in control. Follow up is vital here too. Be sure though that you follow up when you say you’re going to follow up and be consistent. When it comes record keeping, good IT skills are a further prerequisite to the credit controller.

6. Be results focused

The rallying cry of the Suffragettes all those years ago was ‘Never give up! Never Surrender!’ It’s a good one for the credit controller too. For me, being results focused is about not giving up on a situation because it’s got a bit tough. Rather it’s about seeing things through to a conclusion all the while seeking the right solution. It’s the tenacious Rottweiler effect again. Oh, the joy of the glorious Yeeessss!’ feeling when your tenacity pays off and you get a result.

The credit controller that’s truly in the right profession never, ever tires of that ‘Yeeessss!’ feeling. I know I haven’t!

Nicki Kinton, NK Consultancy, Owner

*Nicki Kinton is a Judge at this year’s Credit & Collections Awards. Click here to see how your company can participate in this year’s Awards