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Reaching out to customers about late payments is hardly the highlight of anyone’s day, but it is necessary to promptly nip the problem in the bud, and getting on the phone is one of the most effective ways to do that. Here are some suggestions for making collection calls that will get you the results you want.
Preparation is a key ingredient in making a successful collection call; this refers to the specific preparation before contacting an individual client as well as general preparation for the collections call process. For the former, you want to review the client account thoroughly to make sure the invoice is correct ,and that all goods and products were delivered as promised; are there any records of the customer contacting you regarding the bill? Is the customer generally a prompt payer or is there a pattern of late payments? As for general preparation, you should compile a list of the most common excuses for late payments, and your rebuttals. This way, you will not be at a loss for words when the customer offers some sort of excuse for not being able to settle the bill, which is more likely than not. If you are on your toes, you will maximize the chances of a successful outcome.
Late payments are not exactly something to cheer about, and you are probably a bit miffed with your customer; but, it is important to make the call from an upbeat place. It is easy to take the past due invoice as a personal affront, but it has nothing to do with you personally. Keep your calm and do not raise your voice. Smile as you make the call and your upbeat, friendly nature will be contagious. But, at the same time, maintain a professional, straightforward demeanor. You are a business and your provided a good or service that you have the right to be paid for promptly. Being pleasant and being professional are not mutually exclusive.
If the call ends with a vague promise to take care of the bill, it was a wasted call. When dealing with a late-paying customer, you need to end each interaction with a specific resolution. Payment amounts, date it will be received and any other aspects of the transaction need to be hammered out before you put down that receiver; near the end of the call, summarize the results to make sure the customer is totally clear on what he needs to do. Take detailed notes so you can lead off with that should the customer not fulfill his end of the bargain—this shows you mean business and will persist until the invoice has been settled.
Pursuing late payments is never a good time; we worry about alienating customers and losing their business, but you must make the financial health of your company top priority and getting on top of late payments immediately is the best way to ensure the best outcome. If you are experiencing cash flow issues because of late receivables, accounts receivable financing may be an option to consider.
Kelli Cooper is a freelance writer who blogs about all things business and finance.
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