If you work in accounts receivable, then you know how difficult it can be to call customers about overdue invoices. If you’re working in a second language, then the challenges start to multiply: the person might not understand you, they might be rude to you or they might get defensive when you ask for payment. For these reasons, many accounts receivable professionals prefer to write emails or letters about overdue invoices. However, it’s important for you to pick up the phone and speak to the accounts payable department personally.
Three reasons to call, not email, a client regarding an outstanding invoice
- Personal contact can help maintain a healthy working relationship with your customers.
- Consistent personal contact can show you’re serious about collecting payment on time. It might be helpful to manage your calls with a call log so you don’t call customers too often, which can be seen as pushy.
- Your firm will be proactive in comparison to other firms who are content to write emails and hope for payment.
Three English phrases for politely enquiring about outstanding invoices
- ‘Hello, my name is John Smith from ABC Company. I’m calling regarding invoice #1234 in the amount of €1,000,000; due date July 1st, 2013. Do you have the same information in your system?’
- ‘Do you know when we can expect payment for this invoice?’
- ‘How can we support you in the payment process?’
Three possible outcomes of calling, not emailing, clients
- Your patient attention to a client’s payment situation now might turn your company into a preferred supplier later.
- Establishing a personal relationship with your accounts payable contact person will help make future payment issues easier to solve. Even if you’re billing a large company who outsources accounts payable, establishing a relationship with someone responsible for approving payments can make outstanding invoices easier to close.
- Your phone call starts a dialog with the client, unlike an email or letter. A conversation will give you the chance to ask about the overdue payment, but also about other issues connected to the customer’s account: are invoices coming on time? Are invoices being received by the appropriate department? Is there anything you can do to help them?
If you have experience working in accounts receivable, perhaps you know more strategies for collecting payments effectively. If so, please feel free to make a comment in the comments section below.