Your Credit Control / Debt Collection policy should include a payment timetable.
This will increase your cash flow and the likelihood of your customers paying you on time. Use the following payment timetable as a guide.
Each company, each industry has an established payment timetable. Be it cash on delivery, 7, 14 or 21 days, 20 th month following, whatever it is for your industry, establish a payment timetable that suits you and your customer base.
a) Invoice – Cash flow is a vital ingredient for the survival of most business, and invoicing correctly is crucial to achieving a healthy cash flow. It’s completely unrealistic to expect your customers to pay you on time if you don’t invoice them correctly and promptly,.
Increase your cash flow, and the likelihood of your customers paying you on time by following these easy to implement steps.
- If the invoice is not available at the time of purchase, then send the invoice out immediately after the goods are delivered / collected or the service is completed.
- A clear, easy-to-understand invoice will encourage customers to pay more quickly. Be sure to include a detailed description of the goods / services – your internal codes and acronyms may seem obvious to you, but may be confusing to your customer. For example: 1 x HL4000CN is a what?, whereas; 1 x Colour Laser Printer HL4000CN will!)
- If the customer provided a purchase order number then be sure to include this on your invoice. And finally, always send the invoice to the right person / address / department.
b) Statement – send as soon as possible after end of stated payment period
As with all correspondence sent to customers, your statements should be addressed to a named person or to a job title / department, such as credit controller, finance director or managing director.
The purpose of a Monthly Statement is to:
- a) clearly show the current standing of the account
- b) provide a transaction summary for the previous month – invoices, payments and credits.
- c) highlight the current account balance
- d) request any outstanding arrears
If it is at all possible, include the terms and conditions as they appeared in the original order acknowledgement and invoice.
Get to know the person who writes the cheques – and become their “friend”.
c) First written reminder – send seven days after sending statement
In the first reminder you should politely draw attention to the fact that the invoice remains outstanding and enquire whether there is a particular reason for the delay. Reminder letters should not appear to be standardised documents; more notice will be taken of them if they are personalised. They should be concise and clear. For an example of a first reminder letter, click here.
d) Telephone call – make four to five days after sending the reminder letter
Bear in mind the following points when telephoning to recover debts:
- Speak to the person who has responsibility for clearing invoices (purchase ledger clerk or buyer in a large firm or the finance director in a small business)
Always be polite and calm.
- Have all relevant facts at your fingertips – dates of previous contact, dates and amounts of previous payments received, invoice numbers and so on.
- Ask if the customer has any queries and, if so, listen to them carefully.
- Decide beforehand the policy regarding payment by installments if the customer offers to pay in this way and the procedure to record any agreement to pay by installments in writing.
- At the end of the telephone call, try to ensure that an agreement has been reached.
- Confirm the agreement in writing to avoid misunderstanding.
e) Letter of final demand – send seven days after first reminder letter if telephone calls are unsuccessful.
In the letter of demand you should advise the customer of the action that you are going to take – for example, ceasing to supply goods on credit until the invoice is paid or issuing court proceedings or a statutory demand. Sending this letter by signature required delivery will help ensure you are certain it has been received and can find out later who signed for it if necessary.
f) List the debt with a Credit Rating agency