Collecting money from customers must be one of the toughest and most awful jobs that you have to do in business.
I remember when I was in the drinks industry years ago we had a full time credit controller and I really believe that the nature of her role made her age really quickly. She was the one who had to stop deliveries to slow paying accounts (often this meant a battle with the sales reps and the sales manager) and she had to deal with irate customers.
The poor woman was sick quite a lot and I really put this down to the stressful role she had.
In particular in a small business it can be even more difficult when often the person who does the selling is the same person that does the collecting.
We received an email last week from a supplier who was looking for payment. Payment ran a few days over the standard terms because I was on leave and hadn’t left enough signed cheques. This was no bother and we sorted a cheque out immediately, a few days later than usual.
What really bothered me was the nature of the email, the tone, the lack of manners and a total lack of respect for us – after all we are a customer and to be honest a good one who gives them plenty of business and we do adhere to the payment terms.
My gut reaction was to change suppliers, which I did not do. However, a phone call from a similar supplier pitching their wares at the right moment and I would be listening actively.
I sent the credit controller an email and politely took issue with her manner and explained how it does jeopardise the business that they are doing with us and probably other customers of theirs.
I was speaking to another business owner who explained to me that they have an automated “email writing” system to deal with their credit control. He says often people get irate about the emails they receive because the language used is very blunt and to the point.
I received an automated letter from my bank recently more or less telling me to get my accounts in order as a dormant current account had run €2.50 overdrawn as a result of bank charges ..lovely!
How you collect money is an essential part of your business reputation and while you have to get paid for the work you do it is important that you do this with courtesy and manners, never undermining your good reputation and all of your hard work.
You don’t need to give any customer an excuse to consider moving to a competitor.
Greg Canty is a partner of Fuzion