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How to Collect a Debt by Phone

We’ve stressed in the past just how important a steady cash flow is for any business, but particularly for small to medium enterprises (SMEs) that may not enjoy the comfort of a large capital sum to tide them over when times get rough.  One of the best methods of maintaining a steady cash flow is to encourage your commercial customers to pay regularly and on time.  However, this is not always possible if you’re a small business owner you may find that your company is owed money by customers or clients who are not paying promptly, despite reminders sent by email or letter.  In this case, perhaps the most effective method of dealing with the situation would be by making a direct phone call.

Debt collection phone calls can be vital for a business that needs to keep a healthy cash flow so today we’re going to look at some tips you can use to make the conversation go more smoothly and result in success for your company.

  • If the call is answered by a receptionist or secretary, state who you are and ask if it’s possible to speak to the person responsible for payments (you should know this person’s name or perhaps you deal directly with the accounts department) regarding an invoice.
  • When you speak to the person responsible for payments, it’s best to stay positive and polite at all times and don’t make any assumptions about why the payment has not yet been processed.  Instead, introduce yourself and say that you’ve noticed that the payment is late then ask if there is an issue with the invoice that you can help with.  
  • During the call, encourage the person to talk while you listen (and take notes) so that you can find out the details of why the payment is late.  Make sure that the person doesn’t feel under too much pressure by asking if there is any more information you can provide to enable them to make the payment.
  • You may need to offer to come up with a payment plan if the debtor is experiencing cash problems.
  • Before ending the call, make sure that you verbally sum up what you’ve discussed during the call which should include confirmation that the payment is late and the reason for this.  Then confirm with the person responsible for payment when the payment will be received and the payment method they intend to use.  
  • If the invoice has not been disputed, ask the person if they would be kind enough to confirm in writing (email or letter) why the payment is late and when the payment will be completed.  This is important as it is a written record of the call which may be helpful if you have to go to court later.  If the person does not put it in writing, then make sure that you email them with the details of your telephone conversation.

Make sure that you always keep the lines of communication open if possible and do follow up on any actions agreed in the debt collection call, keeping your records up to date every step of the way.