Making An Initial Contact

29 Sep

At the outset of any collection call, it’s important to focus on the goal and to keep that focus throughout the conversation.

The main goal is to get paid. But it’s also important to create good will with a customer so that these calls become less and less necessary. The way to achieve both is to listen intently as he/she explains the situation, be flexible but firm with a resolution and remain professional and calm throughout the process.

Before you begin a call, have all the essential pieces of information you’ll need at hand. Know which invoice is due, how late the payment is, when the invoice was sent, etc. You might find it helpful to have a script in front of you like this:

Hello, [his/her name] this is [your name] with [your company name]. I was just calling to follow-up on [invoice number] for [$$$]. According to my records it is [XX] days past due. Since we have still not received payment, I wanted to make sure that there was no problem with the invoice and if there is no problem, determine when payment will be made. (If this is a customer who has been slow in the past you might change the last words to read as follows: and if there is no problem, determine why payment has not been made.)

Responses vary, but if your customer claims the payment is sent, request the details to be sure there isn’t an information breakdown. You’ll want the check number, the amount and the date it was mailed. If it clearly should have reached you by the time of the call, you’ll want to confirm the mailing address. From there, assure them that you’ll look into it and that if the check is not found, you’ll contact them for a reissue.

Often clients respond by promising to drop the payment in the mail that same day.  All you really need to do at that point is respond positively with something like:

That’s great! As you know our terms are [net 30] and we try to make sure all of our customer’s accounts are kept current with full purchasing power. I’ll watch for the check in the mail over the next few days.

If, on the other hand, the client is less specific or evasive, you’ll want to be specific for him/her in order to recover the past due invoice.

As you know our terms are [net 30] and this invoice is now [XX] days old. Is there anything that can be done to expedite this payment and get it in the mail today?

This is where being flexible but firm can help to nail things down.  If it’s impossible to drop it in the mail that same day, schedule a date. Then follow up with a phone call if you don’t get it.

Of course, the best way to avoid a call in the first place is to take proactive measures to help your client stay on track with payments.

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