What sort of credit controller are you?
Everybody approaches credit control differently, and there is no one size fits all when it comes to communicating with clients and ensuring the timely payment of invoices.
However, a better understanding of the type of credit controller you are can give you insight into how you react to different situations, and when that is more or less effective.
While there are many different ways to approach credit control, and most people will use a mixture of them, here are 4 of the most common approaches.
Types of credit controller
Often, when chasing late invoices, clients will come back with an excuse for why payment has not been made. These can range from reasonable, such as an email getting lost or a staff member being unwell, to the absurd.
It can be difficult to determine whether someone is being truthful, and a sympathetic credit controller will be inclined to believe what the client is telling them and make allowances.
When this works well: This approach is great when clients are telling the truth, and whether it’s a small oversight or a larger problem that has prevented them from paying, your understanding will encourage them to pay as soon as they can. They will likely also be happy to work with you again, and it will contribute to a strong relationship.
When it is less effective: When clients are trying to avoid paying, a sympathetic approach may feel like free reign to delay further and might lead them to think you won’t push to recover the payment at all.
Another common approach is to be firm and direct in your collection efforts. After all, an agreement was made by both parties, and in not paying the client is putting your cash flow and company at risk.
When taking this more forceful approach, it’s likely you’ll be pushing for a clear resolution, normally payment in full or part to be made immediately.
When this works well: This approach sends a clear message and shows clients that they will not be able to get away with delaying payment. Where the client is able to pay, this may mean you get the money quicker and in full.
When it is less effective: When the client’s reasons for not paying are genuine, this approach can feel very confrontational and may lead to them feeling trapped in a corner. If things do become heated, it can be damaging to the relationship and may mean they are not willing to work with you in the future.
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If you take a more practical approach to credit control, it’s likely that your main aim is to be paid at some point, as well as keeping the situation within your control.
While you are willing to hear and even accept excuses from clients, you also push them to offer you an acceptable resolution. You may quickly turn to payment plans, or else try and discover reasons why clients cannot pay and how they will overcome them.
For example, if you’re told they can’t pay you until their own invoices have been paid, you’ll ask when that payment is likely and arrange for your invoice to be paid then.
When this works well: This calm and fair approach again works well for clients that have genuine excuses, as it allows them the chance to prove they will pay. It is also effective for clients who were just hoping to delay payment for convenience, as it shows that you are still expecting them to pay and forces them to elaborate on any excuses they have made.
When it is less effective: This approach may not work very well for customers who are willing to lie outright to get their own way. It can often also mean you wait longer for payment, which could have a negative impact on your cash flow.
Regular contact with your clients is always a good idea, and some credit controllers carry this through into their approach to collecting payments.
Contacting clients to remind them when the invoice is due, check up on their situation and remedy any disputes can be a good way to keep you invoices front of mind and apply gentle pressure to get them to pay.
When this works well: This approach is great when clients are paying late due to minor issues or administrative errors. It can also work well for customers who are trying to delay payments, as they may decide that paying the invoice is more convenient than spending a large amount of time answering your questions.
When it is less effective: When clients are determined not to pay, they may end up avoiding your communications all together, leaving you in a worse position than when you started. This approach can also become time consuming for you, and you need to ensure it doesn’t end up taking so much time that you aren’t able to do your job effectively.
Adapting your approach
All of the above approaches have merit and will be more beneficial in certain situations than others. No matter what type of credit controller you are, you’re always going to encounter some customers who pay quickly and others who are going to be more difficult.
However, understanding your default reaction to customers and the techniques you use can help you realise when to vary your approach. Being able to switch ‘personas’ means that you can select an approach that’s best for both you and your customer.
For more advice when it comes to credit control, take a look at these 5 resources that can help you perfect your approach.
Have you had experience with any other approaches to credit control? We’d love to hear your stories in the comments below.