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Confessions of a credit controller


The role of credit controller is undoubtedly one of the hardest tasks in a business. Yet, with the correct skill set, confidence and attitude to overcome late payment – or better still, prevent it in the first instance – it is a task that can be mastered.

That being said, not every credit controller possesses the positive mental attitude that’s required to do a good job. Here we delve into the depths of a credit controller’s mindset to discover their nine biggest secrets and what they fear most.

Confession #1: Some of our customers scare me, so I avoid calling them when possible

Let’s be honest. We can all think of one customer who was rude, even aggressive, and making the umpteenth phone call to ask for payment was a daunting task. This persona is a common tactic amongst customers who are trying to avoid paying and counting on you to put off chasing them.

It’s important not to hold back, however, and to stick to your credit control policy. Treat these cases just as you would any other, and if the problem remains do not be afraid to seek professional help to recover the debt.

To learn how to build a simple yet effective credit control policy, click here.

Confession #2: Sometimes I let late payment excuses slide – even though I know they’re lying

Cheque in the post? Didn’t receive your email? Dog ate their chequebook? You name it, we’ve heard it. Being able to tell apart the genuine excuses from the fake ones is an acquired skill honed by many in the profession, and as your years as a credit controller increase this will inevitably become easier.

Maintaining a light, yet firm stance on late payment excuses without alienating the customer is important during all communication. Remember to use this time to reiterate the steps to be taken, the timeframes and the consequences of exceeding these. Be careful not to acknowledge the fake excuses, stick to your credit control policy and learn how to deal with the different excuses customers make.

With particularly tricky customers, warning them they will be added to a stop list, whereby they will not be supplied again until the invoice is paid, can act as a preventative measure and encourage payment. Remembering to use this stop list when assessing new orders is a must, ensuring you aren’t met with the same problems further down the line.

Confession #3: I give up on chasing overdue debts too easily

If at first you don’t succeed…

One of the most important attributes of a credit controller is persistence. Getting knocked back is part of the job, and should be used as motivation to keep going and secure payment as quickly as possible for the business.

It’s good practice to have a defined strategy for particularly tricky or aged debts, so there will be little time to deliberate over the fate as the process is already outlined. This will include the key times to chase for payment, when to refer it to management for discussion and when to forward the debt to a specialist agency.

Confession #4: I waste loads of time chasing old debts because I refuse to give up

Having said that, there will come a point that continuing to invest time in chasing a customer for payment can be damaging.

Continuing to chase older debts – where a successful resolution remains elusive – not only wastes valuable time, it can also divert attention away from other invoices which may be approaching their due dates.

Instead, consider outsourcing aged debts to an experienced agency, saving you the time and effort and delivering timely expertise to maximise the recovery. But don’t leave it too late, as the recovery value can diminish rapidly the older an invoice gets.

Confession #5: I’m too scared to charge late payment interest

Investing time into chasing late paying customers can be a costly exercise. That’s why the Late Payment of Commercial Debts (Interest) Act was introduced in 1998, enabling businesses to claim interest and compensation on late payment from customers. The interest is calculated at 8% plus the Bank of England base rate, while compensation can be as high as £100, depending on the size of the debt, and put towards the costs incurred.

Yet many credit controllers are scared to charge this, primarily due to the risk of offending customers. What must be remembered is that you are merely claiming what’s rightfully yours due to their tardiness, and feeling too scared to impose this could result in your business losing out. Make sure to always relay the information and ensure the customer understands the charges that may be applied. This can speed up your collections process, and is an invaluable tool.

See how much you could be owed with our calculator tool here.

Confession #6: I lose sleep over late payment – a lot of it!

As a credit controller, you may find you’ll be on the receiving end of some degree of stick at some point. It’s important to remember this is not applicable to you personally, you are adhering to British laws and company procedure, protecting the future of the business you work for.

Losing sleep could mean you’re worried about a particular case, or aware that you’re behind in your work due to a trickier situation. Speaking to your line manager will make them aware of the pressure you are under and allow them to help you, and remembering to acknowledge you are not personally responsible will help you to tackle your work with a clear head.

Confession #7: Sometimes I find it hard to keep my cool.

Becoming personally embroiled into an altercation can serve to undermine your position and give your customer the ammunition they need to avoid your calls.

A good credit controller will know that acting in a responsive, professional, calm and firm manner can make a huge difference to getting invoices paid promptly, giving you a sense of authority.

Confession #8: I hate my job

Becoming downtrodden and downbeat due to some tricky cases or holding yourself personally responsible is sure to make you hate your work.

Remembering you are essentially the good cop and your work keeps the business running is sure to lift spirits and re-invigorate your passion for why you started working as a credit controller in the first place.

Confession #9: The thought of using a debt collection agency terrifies me

We understand that using a debt collection agency to recover payment might not be option number one when it comes to recovering payment from an evasive customer. Businesses like to feel in control and manage their customer relationships as much as possible.

Yet an experienced debt collection agency will always be a mindful of these relationships, whilst dedicating their time and attention to collect the money that’s rightfully yours.

The fact is, using the expertise and authority of a debt collection agency can make a huge difference in the debt recovery process. Often, the mere presence of an agency can be enough to encourage payment, and if it’s not their experience will help to overcome the obstacles posed by the customer and bring a successful resolution.

Get a debt collection quote to find out how little it would cost to outsource your tricky invoices today.

If any of these ring true, let our team help you. Contact Hilton-Baird today on 0800 9774848 or email at collections@hiltonbaird.co.uk to find out how our range of debt collection services can help.


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