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The credit control calls your business should be making

29/11/2016 / Comments 0

A famous television advert once told us it’s good to talk, and rarely is this more true than in business.

Good communication holds the key in so many aspects. From keeping staff motivated and happy to negotiating the best terms with suppliers, it’s crucial to fostering strong relationships with each stakeholder.

One of the most important is a business’s relationship with its customers, both in terms of securing new (and repeat) business, and in getting paid.

Particularly amongst smaller firms, it can be difficult to keep on top of customers throughout the duration of the credit period.

Our research suggests that the average business spends less than 17 hours on credit control each week, with 61% dedicating less than ten. And, in a climate where late payment is rife, much of this time will be concentrated on liaising with customers whose invoices have exceeded terms. In reality though, the most important touch points come much earlier than this.

Here, we focus on the five most important calls to make once the invoice is raised:

Call 1: After sending the invoice

This is usually the first time your credit controllers will have liaised with the customer, so it’s important to make first impressions count. Give them a call soon after the invoice is sent to confirm it has been received, that there are no disputes and to verbally confirm the due date. This provides the perfect opportunity to identify any potential issues immediately and start to build a rapport, whilst demonstrating an organised and professional approach to credit control.

Call 2: Before the due date

This call could be the most important call of the credit control process. By contacting your customer in the days leading up to the invoice due date, it immediately tells them that you know payment should be coming soon and could encourage them to put your invoice at the top of the pile. It also allows you to find out about any potential delays, enabling you to work with them to agree a workaround or, depending on your relationship and the importance of the payment, apply the pressure. The savviest of businesses may also use this moment to drum up any repeat business opportunities.

Call 3: Just after the due date

So your customer has missed their deadline. It’s not necessarily a big deal, it could simply be down to an innocent mistake or the funds could be clearing. The only way to find out is to call. While many businesses prefer to call within 24 hours of the due date, others will give customers a little more leeway. Whatever your preference, don’t wait too long. You’ll want to apply some pressure, but the tone of this call will usually be quite friendly in order to encourage payment as quickly as possible.

Call 4: Applying the pressure

Both the timing and the tone of your subsequent communication will depend on the outcome of the previous call. Unfortunately it is rare that any two cases are the same, so staff must be empowered to use their initiative whilst adhering to your company policy. If your customer has got to this point, however, it is unlikely that the ‘good cop’ role will work, meaning it’s time to get more assertive in your communications. Many businesses are wary of pushing too hard out of fear of damaging the customer relationship, but it is important to consider their value as a customer if they fail to pay on time.

Call 5: Asking for help

If your attempts to get paid simply aren’t working, it’s vital that you know when to admit defeat. Spending too much time and energy on individual customers who are resisting all forms of communication can be hugely damaging and divert attention away from other customers. Defeat doesn’t have to mean money written off though. Sometimes the hardest call to make is the one asking for help, but it can also be the most rewarding. Working on a success-only basis, debt collection agencies such as Hilton-Baird specialise in bringing successful resolutions to challenging cases, and their presence and expertise alone can often be the catalyst for payment to be made.

Read more on how to let go of fear and act on late payment here.

If your business is struggling to allocate the time and resource that’s required for effective credit control, our outsourced services could help. Call 0800 9774848 or email collections@hiltonbaird.co.uk to discuss your requirements.

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