For most people, making debt collection calls isn’t one of your favourite tasks. If you work in a credit department or run your own business, it’s probably safe to say this job is often left until last, or is missed altogether when you are busy.
Those slow paying customers get away with continuing to receive extended credit from you, helping their cash flow but not helping yours.
Sending letters and reminders is the easy option, but because it is relatively impersonal, it’s also the least effective. The tactic works with customers who intend to pay you anyway, (they just need a prod) but is relatively ineffective with habitual late payers.
If you want to get on top of your collections, our first tip is to be prepared. Here’s how:
DEBT COLLECTION CALLS: KNOW THE FACTS
Before you pick up the phone, have all the details in front of you. Having the facts keeps you in control, ensures you are confident and prevents the customer from derailing the call.
You want to avoid saying, ‘I’ll have to get back to you on that’ which means payment isn’t about to be made, and you’re going to have to make another phone call. Particularly frustrating if they are difficult to get hold of in the first place!
Here are details you’ll probably need as a minimum:
- amount owed
- what they purchased
- payment due date
- what their terms of trade with you are
- their account details i.e. where the invoices were sent
- details of other outstanding invoices, even if they’re not overdue
- their payment history i.e. do they usually pay on time?
DEBT COLLECTION CALLS: HANDLING EXCUSES
Before making your next calls, make a list of common excuses you are given, and prepare some appropriate responses. Keep this list handy for future calls, because you want to be able to come back to the customer with a well thought out reply, thereby maintaining control of the call and keeping to the purpose of the call. There’s nothing worse than hanging up and thinking ‘I wish I said this or that’.
Here are a couple of examples:
Customer: We have some cash flow issues, so we won’t be able to pay this week.
You: I understand juggling cash flow can be challenging. How about you make a partial payment today, and we can discuss a payment plan for the balance? How much would you be able to pay today?
Customer: I don’t have a copy of the invoice.
You: I’ll email a copy over now, as we are talking. Once you have the invoice, when will you be able to make the payment?
Every customer is different and there is no one way that will get you results every time. What works with one customer will not necessarily work with another. However, if you do your preparation and you plan your calls, you should start to better manage those tricky customers.