Customers …some don’t pay on time!

Customer Problem ResolvedIn my articles on customer service, the focus is usually from the front facing person who provides the actual customer service. This article takes a different part of the equation into consideration. For example, you or your team may be responsible for accounts receivable, billing or collections. My concern is that the front facing team members have “busted their a—‘s” to provide this award winning service, but that is only a part of the process.  If your organization is a business, you must be paid for your product or service to be able to book a profit.

The hard truth is that if you or your organization is not paid for your products or services, commercial survival is impossible. If you have been in business or a profession for any length of time, you know that the older a debt gets, the harder it is to collect in full, if at all. So let’s consider a few issues that we may face in getting paid for our excellent services and products.

Here are a few suggestions:

Avoid showing anger to the customerDo not treat the customer as public enemy number one. If a good customer has a payment problem, it could be that they are facing a short-term cash crunch or they may be in deep trouble. As with any meaningful relationship, approach your customer or client with an empathetic attitude.

Work with the customerTo the greatest extent possible and appropriate to the situation, try to continue to extend courtesy, friendliness and understanding to the customer. Actively listen to the customer’s story so that you can try to develop some suitable options to resolve the situation with minimal pain and discomfort. Usually, accommodations such as a special payment plan or return of merchandise may be possibility. If your product was a service, you may be able to arrange a lower tier or frequency until the problem has been solved. A win-win resolution is likely to be best for both parties.

Maintain accurate records of communicationsBegin the recovery process with a non-threatening letter outlining the delinquency and ask for a prompt resolution by a specific date. If there is no or insufficient response, your communications will need to be progressively firm. I the relationship is business to business, it would be helpful to contact a principal at the company, and follow-up with your understanding of the points that were covered.

AdjustmentsWe learn from our experiences. If policies, the nature of your business or customer base is experiencing an increase in accounts receivable issues, a comprehensive review should be conducted to ensure compatibility with current business conditions. As last resort some customers may need to be placed on C.O.D. or up-front payments.

Related Articles:   Customer Retention Is King   and   customer service … Be Careful What You Cut!

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James E. McClain is the author of Successful Career Development: A Game Plan, the book upon which some of our training programs are based. He has over 30 years' experience as a corporate HR executive, small business owner with ongoing experience in career development and as a college instructor. His educational background includes a B.S. and Masters degrees Education and Certification in Financial Planning. Our promise is that "you can pay more for training but you can not buy better training." The mission is to deliver the most effective and cost effective training and development programs.

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