Debt collection! Not a nice job but a necessity to keep your business going. In these hard times it’s a task that seems to be more prevalent to businesses everywhere. Many years ago in my first ever job I did quite a bit of debt collection and have done since then on and off – quite successfully. I’ve recently picked up some work chasing debtors for a local company and it got me thinking it’s worth writing a blog to share my experience. I hope this is some help for those chasing up debtors.
Before starting your calls:-
• Make sure the invoice is correct and has the payment terms on it, i.e. how many days until the payment is due. This would normally be agreed before doing the job however sometimes the sales team and accounts aren’t always singing from the same song sheet. Surprising how many invoices are “wrong” so you have to start from scratch.
• Email the invoice as well as posting it.
• Give lots of options to pay if possible – bank transfer, paypal, credit card, cheque in post etc. List all payment options on the invoice and/or email.
• Send statements out monthly or bi-monthly – email and post.
• Have a debtor list to work from when you start your calls, maybe on Excel or handwritten if you prefer. Keep the list updated with payments received and new invoices to chase – makes it easier if on Excel.
• Ensure you have the invoice date, invoice number and amount that you are chasing – all the better if there are further details like the work provided.
• Where possible have contact details – telephone number, email and the person to speak to who knows what you are chasing.
When making calls:-
• Keep a record of every call/email on your debtor list – the date, who you spoke to and what was discussed, even your personal thoughts on it. This is invaluable as you can refer back to it if you need to call again.
• Understand that times are hard for everyone these days and the person receiving the call may be stressed. So start off nicely and be diplomatic. I find that being nice and understanding from the beginning earns respect and will hopefully make the person be truthful with you – which always helps. Plus maybe they’ll then prefer you to the hard nosed debt collector for another company and you’ll get paid first.
• If someone says the cheque will be posted today/tomorrow then follow up 4 or 5 days later if not received.
• Keep on the case – if they sense you don’t think of it as important then of course they’ll delay.
• You’ll know after a few calls if you are being messed around or not and when to start being harder on the phone. Repeating what has been said previously sometimes works as they realise they can’t get away with any more excuses.
• Always be polite – it gives you the upper hand.
• Be prepared to be flexible. Maybe the only way they can pay is in instalments and this is better than nothing.
• If it has got to the point where you feel there is no other option then threaten legal action – ensure this is done in writing too so you have a record of it.
• If you really have to go down the legal route then discuss this further with your solicitor – I’m not in the position to give legal advice here.
And a tip for the person being chased for money – always be truthful. It really does help. If you tell me that times are hard and can I give you an extra week or two then I will. And I won’t chase you during that time. But stick to the promise or don’t make it. If you say you’ll post a cheque tomorrow with no intention of doing so then expect another call from me within 5 days and the more often I have to chase because I’m lied to then the sooner we’ll be going down the legal route.
I hope this is of some help to those having to chase debts up. It is one of the services I offer so if I can help further please let me know.
If you have any other tips for debt collection it would be great if you can share them here.