It’s okay to admit it: You really hate making those collection phone calls when a customer hasn’t paid. The fact is, few of us are accustomed to talking about money. You know if the conversation isn’t handled right, you could make a bad situation worse and lose that customer forever.
At the same time, the success of your business relies on your customers. Even if one fails to pay, it’s a lost opportunity to recover your expenses, grow profits, or even cut yourself a paycheck! That’s why it’s important to have a plan ready to go. The good news is, with a bit of preparation, you can set yourself up for a successful call.
Step 1: Gather your facts
It depends on the frequency and volume of the late payments you see in your business, but it’s important to schedule a time once or twice a month to go through the payment status of all customers and flag those that are late. Before you plunge in with phone calls, though, take time for a little information gathering. In addition to the dollar amount owed, you’ll want to know:
• The dates they received services.
• Which services they received.
• Whether this is a new customer or repeat customer.
• Any additional details you can glean. Did something go wrong during the service, such as a late arrival? That, or some other circumstance could prompt a customer to hold off payment? In that case, this call is your opportunity to address their concerns and find a solution.
Step 2: Set your boundaries
Before you get in touch, consider another reality: Your customer may not have the money. If that’s the case, would you accept payments? If so, for how much and for how long? Would you charge interest? How about accepting a settlement? Know the limits of what you can and can’t do.
Part of this solution depends on the expenses you invested in providing the service, and part of it depends on your past relationship with this customer. You might be able to give an otherwise reliable customer some breathing room, while a new customer may need a more stringent plan. Decide in advance just how far you can go, so you don’t agree to something that sets a bad precedent and harms your business in the long run.
Step 3: Don’t make it about you
When a customer gets your very best, and then they ignore your collection phone call for payment, it’s hard not to take it personally. That’s why it’s important to soothe any hot emotions before you pick up the phone. There’s always a chance your customer has a legitimate reason for not paying. (It happens: Bills get lost in the mail.) Follow the Golden Rule today, and later, you could recover your money along with some well-deserved loyalty from that customer. So before you dial, take a deep breath and smile, going in with an intention to resolve this amicably.
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