Most people have strong feelings about being collected from and collecting from their clients.
In fact, if done right, this can have the exact opposite effect.
When dealing with the business client that need your service, you are already doing well, being able to sell them yourself once. Now it is up to you to keep them happy and retain their business for a long time. The only time you will hear from such client is when they want to order something new, renew their contract or complain that something isn’t right.
When do you contact them? If you are trying to sell them something or if they owe you money.
Everyone can admit, that client who is late to pay isn’t a dream scenario. Yet, there is a big opportunity for you to turn this mini-crisis into success.
Your clients already know that it isn’t OK to pay you late if they aren’t crooks, hustlers or psychopaths. This is your time to prove that you are a world class vendor, so they will want to stick with you no matter what.
Be nice – many businesses don’t know how to act when the client doesn’t pay on time. That’s OK, you aren’t a professional collector. Initial communications with clients about their past due invoices should be friendly and nice. If you over-react about an invoice that is only a few days overdue, you might lose this client and their business. In fact, your client or their staff could have thought that they paid, should have paid yet or sent you the check, which hasn’t reached you yet. Being rude and aggressive, won’t help you to get paid faster. It will definitely leave your client having second thoughts about dealing with you in the future.
Ask – people want to be heard. Maybe something bothering your client and they wanted to grab your attention by delaying payment. One of the first questions you should ask them is: why the payment wasn’t made – you will be surprised to learn what issues your clients might bring up. Solve these issues and address their concerns. You will get you paid faster and help yourself to address the concerns that might cost you the client at renewal or the next deal.
Show empathy – something your clients are dealing with something that prevents them from paying you on time. In a perfect world, you shouldn’t be affected. In real life showing your client that you care and will show them how great you are. People appreciate this sort of behavior. You will end up yourself getting referrals from these clients over time. While some people might try to take advantage, and you should watch out for them, most people are honest. If your client was out sick for a week and unable to send you the check, asking about their health will get you much better result than yelling that they are late and charging a late fee.
Be professional – any interaction with your client teaches them about your company and how buttoned up you are (or not). The same way you want your client-facing staff to be dressed sharp and have a neat website trying to market, any late payment related communications have to be top notch. Make sure that any e-mails, SMS, letters or phone calls must be well worded, have your logo, contact details, and payment instructions. Typos are a big no-no. Whoever contacts the client must be well informed about the contract, owed amounts, and their payment terms. It shows your client that you have your facts right and know all about their deal. If you get it all wrong, your client will start thinking what else did you get wrong. Not a good look for you.
Getting the above points right can take you a long way with your customer relationship. After all, you invest so much in customer acquisition and retention, that it will be a shame to ruin it all because of invoice paid a week late. Especially because the check reached you late.