Any time in credit management that is not spent communicating with your customers is time not adding value to your business.

Customer contact is what makes your customers pay faster and cash is the fuel of your organisation. In our years of experience offering customers credit management software we have seen a large portion of organisations spending excessive time in pre-call preparation and prioritisation. By the time you're ready to contact you customer it might be tempting to just send an email reminder. But in our view, depending on how your policies are set up and which type of relationship you (want to) have with your customer, phoning can be more effective than sending an (e)-mail or text message.

Here are 7 reasons why direct customer contact is the better way to achieve results within credit management:

1. Proactiveness Phoning is a more proactive approach than an email or a letter. By phoning the customer you show that you are committed to your own cause as well as the customer's – collaboratively removing barriers that are preventing them from paying that invoice.

2. Getting the right person When you call the chances are higher you will get the right person on the phone. This is important if you are dealing with open invoices and payments. Getting the right person on the phone gives you instant access to all the facts and details about the barriers mentioned above. And this also allows you to keep your customer contact information current and accurate.

3. Direct result In our experience no other medium achieves direct results like a phone call. When you have your customer on the phone you can do business instantly, rather than waiting for a response to an email or a letter. It takes the hassle out of putting next steps in place or letting the customer decide the next move.

4. Two-way commitment Sending a letter or email asks your customer for commitment, but it does not mean that they will give you that commitment. If you call your customers and discuss options with them, you will end up with a two-way commitment, rather than a one-way request.

5. Tracking dissatisfaction When you have your customers on the phone they can feed back any dissatisfaction that could stem from an invoice they have received. In this way you can move quickly to the root cause of the customer not paying, provide a solution and move on.

6. Building customer intimacy You have an agreement with your customer. Stick to your policies and processes and let your customer know that you are expecting them to keep their promises. Communicate in a pragmatic business way but keep your communication friendly and personal. So stick to your agreements but don't forget to apply the personal attention that a customer needs. Personal commitments by the customer take promises and performance to a different level.

7. Picking up on the less obvious signals Speaking to someone allows you to pick up on emotions and behaviour. You might be able to detect "hidden messages" and ask that extra question to get to the bottom of the situation. In writing you do not know whether you are reading fact or fiction.

All the above steps have something in common. By creating customer intimacy you start nudging your customers in the direction that you want them to go, by communicating and understanding. It is about achieving success through mutual commitment, rather than pushing through a process which could lead to conflict and jeopardize the long-term relationship.

Sending emails and texts definitely have a place and can be very effective. Phone calls can often be seen as the more time-consuming option. But appropriate communication is what we are aiming for.

Modern, focused credit collection software can help you free up the time to pick up the phone and call those customers who need direct contact, by:
— prioritising which communication is appropriate for which of your customers, at which point in time.
— automating your administrative tasks, to give you more time to focus on customers.

Aroud Visser is head of International New Business Development at OnGuard Netherlands. He enjoys sharing exposure to current international 'best practice' trends in credit management. Onguard is represented in Australia and New Zealand by Cosyn, OnGuard's certified Business partner freephone 1-800-123 613 or email info@cosynsoftware.co.nz. Alternatively you can visit www.cosynsoftware.co.nz or follow @OnGuardHQ on Twitter to stay up to date with international best practice.

Download full article