If you are a business that sends out invoices and then sits back and waits for the checks to come, there’s a lot you can do to improve your cash flow.
Remember the old adage about the three most important things in real estate and the answer is location, location, location. Well, the same thing can be said about collecting money owed to you. It’s all about the options people. Just think of options as being synonymous with opportunities. The more options you give your customers the more opportunities they will have to pay you!
There are many reasons why people don’t pay their bills. Some people (and businesses) are jugglers. You know the type, they want to pay their bills but sometimes have cash flow issues. They need to juggle their bills, paying some and leaving others up in the air, while they themselves wait to get paid. If you accepted credit cards as an option for payment, it’s true you would lose that small percentage you pay the credit card companies, (unless you pass that fee onto your customers) but you would be providing your customers with an opportunity to pay you (in full) while they give themselves an additional 30 days to come up with the funds.
For some it’s a matter of convenience. I actually know people who let their bills get delinquent for no other reason than they never (read: rarely) get around to paying them. Seriously, I have a friend who actually paid a late fee every month on her electric bill just because she would wait until the last minute to make the payment. By the time she wrote the check, put it in an envelope, found a stamp, and sent it out, it was past-due and the late-payment fee would show up on her next month’s statement. It wasn’t just her utility bills she was delinquent on either. I know for a fact that her procrastination led to more than one of her accounts to be sent to a collection agency. I can also tell you a story about her late car insurance premium and a fender-bender, but I digress. For her, the answer was auto-pay credit card payments. She currently has as many of her accounts set up on auto-pay as she can. Now when she gets her statements—voila—she knows they will automatically get paid. At least the companies that offer auto-pay get paid. Catch my drift?
Now for me, that auto-pay feature is not practical, I’m too much of a control freak. I like to be in charge of the money that comes out of my accounts. Direct-deposit is good, I’m good (read: great) with people putting money in my account, but I don’t want people just taking it—even if I’ve authorized it. But, with that being said, I love an online bill-pay option, as long as I get to go in there and pull the trigger myself—it’s just so quick and easy!
For others money is tighter than ever and some just aren’t able to pay their bills in full. For these clients it’s important to be able to offer a payment plan. When setting up the payment agreement you should be clear that you are making a concession by allowing them to make payments and that it’s not something that can be done repeatedly.
Once you identify a client as having financial difficulties—act quickly. Chances are, if they owe you money they owe it to others as well. If you get your payment agreement offered first, you should get your money first. Also, remember you catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Even if you get frustrated, you should always act professional and treat people with respect.
If you’ve decided to offer a payment plan, review the clients account history before you get them on the phone. Come up with a couple of different payment plan options that you are comfortable with offering them. Then when you talk you can let them decide which option works best for them. That will improve your chances of getting paid in full.
Once you both are in agreement, put it in writing to avoid any misunderstanding or confusion. You want to be very clear about your expectation for payment. Have your client sign the new payment agreement and return it to you.
When a payment is received, send a response that: thanks them for the payment, lets them know the remaining balance, and when it is due.
There are typically two reasons people don’t pay their bills: It’s either an ability to pay issue or a willingness to pay issue. The more options—opportunities—available, the more willing and able they will be.
A. Alliance Collection Agency, Inc. is a full service, licensed accounts receivable management and debt collection agency providing highly effective, customized one on one management and recovery solutions for our business partners. Founded in northern Illinois in 2005, we have been proudly improving the bottom-line on behalf of our business partners in and around Chicagoland for over 12 years.