As long as your business has customers, there will be customers who have trouble keeping up with their payments. The financial side of your business can be absolutely fraught, especially because you don’t want to compromise your business’s customer service reputation by being too aggressive with debt collection. The best way to avoid this? Do everything you can to avoid customers defaulting on payments in the first place.
Of course, you have limited control over your customer’s financial situation, but there are ways you can minimize the chances that a customer defaults on their payments. Using these tactics, you can incorporate measures to avoid late payments or total defaults from your customers.
1. Be Transparent
This is not only a basic courtesy to your clients and part of an honest sales process but also critical when making it clear what you expect your clients to pay. Your customers aren’t going to be able to prepare effectively for your bill if there are hidden fees or unexpected expenses. Before anything else, your client should know exactly how much they’re going to be billed for. Which leads directly into our next tip.
2. Avoid Billing Mistakes
Your customers expect you to keep track of how much they owe and be accurate when requesting payment. If you accidentally undercharge your client, they’ll feel cheated when you reach out to collect the full amount. If you overcharge your client, they’ll feel like they have to pick through every bill with a fine-tooth comb to ensure that they aren’t being cheated. Make sure that your billing practices are locked down before you send out a single invoice.
3. Send Automated Reminders
In this day and age of auto-pay, it can be tough to remember to submit all of your payments on time. Regardless of the format in which you collect your payments, you should send out automated reminders about when the bill is due and/or when the money will be automatically withdrawn from your client’s account. That way they can remember to either make sure the account has sufficient funds or manually send in payment. Repeated reminders are the best way to prevent customer defaults on your bills.
4. Accept Partial Payments
The fact is, sometimes unexpected circumstances happen. If you’re seeing that a client is scrambling to make the payment but doesn’t have the full amount, accept what they have and make a note of the continued debt. It’s not a perfect solution, but it allows you to handle the situation gracefully and helps you build a rapport with your client by being understanding.
5. Send Itemized Invoices
If you’re consistently seeing questions about your bills, the lump sum at the bottom is probably to blame. This goes back to transparency as well. Sending an itemized invoice allows your clients to look at everything covered by their lump sum payment and break it down in their own minds to understand where the money is going.
6. Implement a Process for Debt Collection
No matter how careful you are, debt will happen eventually. You don’t want to be approaching the situation without any plan at all for how to handle it. Before it becomes an issue, make sure you have a process in place for managing overdue bills.
7. Offer Payment Plans
If your client is suddenly in a situation where your bill has become a problem, you can offer to set up a longer-term payment plan that gives them more time. It’s not an ideal situation, but at least it forces a conversation about the overdue bill and sets a plan in motion for them to pay it. You may not be able to prevent customer defaults entirely, but if you receive even a portion of accounts receivable, consider this as the bonus money which you would have not got if you were trying to recover entire payment in one transaction only.
8. Be Timely
You don’t want to sit on unpaid bills or problem debt. They aren’t going to go away on their own. Address the problem as quickly as possible and make it clear to your client that you aren’t going to simply forget about the money owed on their bill.
9. Keep Records
Every step of the billing process should be recorded, as should every step of the debt collection. If it comes down to it, you don’t want there to be any doubt about what amount is owed and how you took steps to address the situation.
10. Hire a Debt Collection Agency
If a lack of payment is an ongoing problem, it’s time to call in the professionals. A debt collection agency can handle the debt issues you might be facing, and you can go back to focusing on your business.
Financials are one of the more complex aspects of business, but they are what allow businesses to succeed! They allow you to expand your business plan, hire new employees, and ultimately measure your business’s worth. There should be no doubt when it comes to receiving the money that you are owed, but in the event that there is a problem, you can manage it. Implementing these practices into your business plan early is a great way to set yourself up for long term financial success. And if all goes well, hopefully, you’ll never need to worry about debt collection. Collection agencies are the best way to prevent customer defaults on your bills once the boll is over 90 days past due.