What to cover in your courtesy call
If you regularly read our credit control tips, you’ll have noticed a recurring theme about the importance of making a courtesy call as soon as you send your invoice to a customer.
This is one of the most important parts of the credit control process, yet it is frequently overlooked. Done correctly, it can dramatically improve payment times and help to nip potential problems in the bud early on to give you maximum time to address them.
But what exactly should you cover when making a courtesy call?
Ask how they are
First and foremost, be sure to show an interest in the person you’re talking to. By building a positive rapport with them and being personable, they’re more likely to remember you and less inclined to delay payment. It’s human nature, not wishing to offend people who you like. If they tell you something interesting about their week or plans, perhaps make a note of it to refer back to in future calls, which will show that you remember them and care. What you mustn’t do is rush the call or be blunt, as this could irk the customer – particularly if the person paying the invoice is the same person who placed the order.
Has the invoice been received?
This is the number one purpose of the call. By confirming that the invoice has been received, you remove the chance for the customer to argue they didn’t receive it in the first place. This excuse can of course be genuine, particularly if you rely on the postal service and, if you send it electronically, given the rigorousness of spam filters these days. Also ensure that it’s been sent to the right person, as different companies will have different people processing invoices for payment. Account opening forms are a great way of capturing this information at the outset. This blog explains a few other ways you can overcome common late payment excuses…
Are the customer details correct?
The main thing here is to check that the customer’s company name, address and purchase order number (if applicable) are as they should be. Some businesses’ trading names, for instance, will be different to the name of the limited entity. Again, account opening forms will ensure you have the right information to hand.
Confirm the amount owed
Disputes are another key weapon in the armoury of your customers, and can really disrupt your cash flow if a dispute is made days or even weeks into the credit period. By confirming the products or services provided and their price over the phone, it gives the customer an immediate opportunity to query any elements of the invoice in case there are inconsistencies with the original quote. If their dispute is genuine and easily rectifiable, address it immediately and send across a revised invoice (before calling again to check it’s now correct). If not, and they’re only disputing part of it, request that your customer pays the undisputed part according to the credit terms and explain politely that you will address the dispute as soon as possible.
Confirm the due date and acceptable payment methods
Ideally your invoice will state both the credit terms and payment due date prominently, to avoid any confusion. Similarly, a well-designed invoice will list all of your accepted payment methods. The courtesy call gives you the chance to reaffirm both of these points. This sample invoice should help you with your design…
Give them your contact details
Unfortunately the courtesy call isn’t infallible, and it could be that your customer notices an inaccuracy or has a query a bit later on. To help them raise any issues immediately, make sure they have your contact details (phone number and email address). These ought to be included on the invoice, too.
Set expectations for another call
Finally, thank them for their time and mention that you will give them another call a bit closer to the deadline, just to double-check that everything is still on track with the payment. This manages their expectations and demonstrates that timely payment is important to you and that you have an efficient credit control strategy in place.
Do you have any additional tips you’d like to share? If so please leave your comments below!