Following up with invoices is a fact of life for business owners. But many people get very nervous when a payment becomes overdue and they need to ask for payment.
The most important thing you can do is develop an efficient collections system that you follow with every client and every invoice. This will give you more confidence and allow you to test and measure different approaches to see what works best for your business.
Before I explain how to ask for payment politely I first want to dispel a myth that you can’t ask for payment also whilst improving the customer relationship at the same time, you can. Every time you communicate with a customer is an opportunity to strengthen the relationship and a collections call is no different.
The best way to change your thinking is to change the way you approach invoice collection.
Instead of a collection email it should be a customer service email…
Instead of a collection call it should be a customer service call…
Let’s look at this in action.
Polite Collections Process:
Automated Reminder Email:
Ideally you want to be paid on time every time. So instead of waiting for an invoice to become overdue you want to set an automated email to go out the day before or on the due date if the invoice has not been paid.
This helps the customer to remember the invoice is due and shows them that you are on top of your accounts and are aware they have not yet paid your invoice with a friendly reminder.
A text message reminder can also be used in this case, instead of an email.
If the due date passes with no payment you want to send another friendly reminder email 2 days after the due date. This gives them time for their deposit to reach your account if they did pay it on the due date.
Be sure to maintain a very upbeat friendly tone in the email.
“I just want to confirm that you have received the invoice for xxxxx as I can see it is now overdue. If you have any questions or would like to discuss your order or the invoice please call me on xxxxxx.
Otherwise if you could please arrange payment by (set date 2-3 days ahead) that would be much appreciated.
If you have already made payment, Thank you and please disregard this email….”
If the new due date passes with no communication and no payment then it’s time to pick up the phone and give them a call. It’s important to ensure that you remain polite, maintain your calm and avoid being rude as this will only make the process more difficult.
When making the call be sure you…
- Are Prepared
- Have all the relevant order information on hand.
- Talk to the person who filled the order to make sure it has been delivered in full and to the standards expected.
- Ensure there are no disputes with the order and check if anyone else has communicated with the customer.
- Ask to speak the person who placed the order.
- If dealing with a business it’s crucial to talk to the person who placed the order and who has received the invoice.
- Be Polite and Friendly
When first calling ensure the focus of the call is based around checking they were happy with the product or service first. Once they confirm they are, you can then explain the invoice is now overdue and can they make payment today?
- Confirm Payment With Accounts
If the invoice has been passed onto account ask for the accounts managers contact details so you can quickly follow up and check they have your payment scheduled.
Generally if you follow this process you will be paid immediately. Keeping a positive relationship is key. When people like you, they pay you.
Alternatively if after your best efforts and polite reminders the customer refuses to pay or you cannot get hold of them it is recommended to utilise the services of a debt collector.
This will save you wasting any more of your valuable time and allows the professionals to continue with the follow up of the invoice in a ethical, polite and highly effective manner, that will give you the best chance of recovering the funds and maintaining a good working relationship with the client.
If you’re having problem with outstanding invoices speak with JMA about our professional no collect no fee services to collect outstanding debt for your business quickly and effectively. Contact us now.