Businesses across the globe continue to experience significant distress due to the late payment of invoices. When a business does not get paid for its services, it faces immense difficulty in sustaining and expanding its current operations. It also places tremendous pressure on the existing financial resources of the company and thereby exposes them to the risk of insolvency and bankruptcy.
In such critical times, the communication that a business holds with its customer in order to extract the payment, determines to quite an extent whether the business gets paid or not. While a tone of impatience is understandable in times like these, a business needs to know how to put across the demand in a way that justifies rationale and does not irk its customers.
Many SME’s find that collecting payments in time is a constant struggle, which is a huge problem as smaller companies are in a position where they need payment certainty. For SME’s, the payment of a large invoice may be the difference between suppliers and staff being paid, and having to go without for a set period.
Nucleus Commercial Finance recommends the following timeline and suitable actions that should help businesses in writing credit control emails and receiving their due credit:
Before an Invoice is Due
If a business wants to remind the customer of an instalment that is due in a couple of days, prior to the invoice reaching its due date, it should consider making a polite enquiry regarding the customer’s situation. This is to ascertain whether the customers situation is favourable enough to make a prompt payment or not.
When writing a credit control email, it is necessary to make optimum use of the limited characters of the subject line. Assuming that your customer receives many emails in a single day, the subject line is the only opportunity your business has to differentiate itself from the legions of other emails in a customer’s inbox.
For this reason, it is advised that in the subject line itself, a business should include its name and also the reason for contacting the customer For example, an ideal subject line would be ‘Subject: Nucleus Invoice xxxxxxx’, where x represents the invoice number.
Such a subject line is found to be self explanatory and the recipient understands at once what the correspondence is regarding. It may also be a good idea to attach a copy of the invoice as it would ensure that invoice payment is not delayed simply because the customer did not receive a copy of the invoice.
The important points that must be covered in a credit control email include:
It’s also important to draft the email in a professional way, with the right choice of words, so as to not come across as a business that can potentially harass a customer over payment.
The Invoice is Early Overdue
Usually when the due date for payment has passed, businesses tend to adopt a harsh and aggressive tone in their correspondence with the customer. However, such a practice can be counter-productive. Even at this stage, it is important for a business to maintain a polite tone as it could be the best way to make the customer agree on a particular date for paying the remaining dues.
It is always a good idea to keep the tone friendly and cordial, as it ensures that you build long-lasting relationships with customers.
The email should be drafted in such a way that it not only expresses concern over non-payment of dues, but also extracts a piece of information from the customer, which is the prospective timeframe in which they proposes to make the due payment.
By making them commit to another deadline, you increase their responsibility towards making the payment. Once again, it is important to attach a copy of the invoice. The frequency of such emails should not exceed more than one every one or two weeks.
The Invoice is Late Overdue
If many days have elapsed since the invoice has not been paid, the business needs to change its tactics and include subtle elements in their emails which hint at how the tendency to pay late is not particularly encouraged by your business.
One such tactic is to include the word ‘OVERDUE’ in the subject line of the email, as it instantly draws their attention to the fact that a payment is overdue. Once again, the purpose of sending this email is to establish a prospective date of payment when you as a business can expect to be paid for the services that you have offered.
A business should also include a mention of how severely late payment of invoices can impact a business’s ability to operate – this taps into the customer’s softer side and in some cases, may speed up the payment process.
Remember to Say Thank You
Once you have received the due payment, you should follow up your customers with an email which thanks them for processing the payment. It is crucial to maintain a healthy relationship with all of your customers and thanking them at the end of a transaction is a fantastic way to ensure that happens.
If you are a business that finds itself in this predicament, trying to constantly claw back funds from unpaid invoices, there are finance products out there that can and will help alleviate the problem.
Many reputable lenders provide invoice finance to businesses of all sizes, and thousands of SME’s rely on this product to continue running a smooth operation. Invoice factoring tends to be the most popular option, as the lender takes full responsibility for the sales ledger management process, meaning businesses can focus on doing what they do best – providing a service or product that customers are happy with.