Help small businesses thrive. That’s our mantra here at Capital on Tap, and it’s driven our offering since day one. We were recently chatting to our friends at Chaser, the cloud credit control software, about 6 options you have when your business needs an urgent cash flow boost. They ended up giving us some fantastic insight into the mistakes many small businesses make with their credit control function, inhibiting their cash flow. As cash flow is the lifeblood of a business, we asked them how small businesses can most effectively combat these mistakes and establish a world-class credit control function.
Here are the 3 things your business needs to do today to fix its credit control function and get invoices paid on time.
1. Knowledge is power. Arm yourself.
If your business sells on payment terms, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is assuming each of your customers operates the same way. Avoid setting yourself up for excuses and late payments by asking these 4 questions every time you supply a new customer:
- What information do you need to make payment? (Although your invoice should already include the following: payment details, accepted payment methods, payment terms, invoice date, your VAT or sales tax number, and the correct description and cost of the goods/services)
- Does this purchase require you to approve a purchase order? (And if so, when will it be approved? Plus don’t forget to include the PO number on the invoice)
- Who is responsible for making payment on this invoice? (And how do I contact them?)
- When do you make your payment runs?
Armed with this information, you won’t be blindsided by your customer with excuses about not following procedure. They’ll be forced to justify the unjustifiable – why they haven’t paid you on time when you’ve done everything correctly.
2. Polite persistence pays. Chase consistently.
“Polite persistence pays” is a motto of Chaser’s, and it’s an incredibly effective philosophy to follow when conducting credit control. Chaser have seen that almost 80% of invoices can be collected on time through email chasing alone. Here’s what you need to be doing to maximise your effectiveness of email chasing.
Every email chaser you send needs the following information to be effective:
- Your business name
- Invoice reference number
- Amount owed on the invoice
- Payment due date
- Number of overdue days (if invoice is overdue)
- And always attach a copy invoice
In providing this info, you eliminate any chance of the customer using the excuse that you haven’t provided enough info for them to make payment.
It’s important, however, that your email chasers always remain polite and are sent often enough to keep you front of mind in your customer, but without harassing them. To achieve this, a good rule of thumb is never chase more than once a week or less than once a fortnight. Armed with the knowledge you acquired earlier, send your chasers to the person responsible for making payment on the invoice, and consider timing these chasers with when the customer makes their payment runs for maximum chance of getting paid quickly.
While email is a very effective medium for chasing up unpaid invoices, don’t forget the phone. Especially if your customer is slow to respond or sends vague and unclear replies. A rule of thumb from the Chaser team is to make a call after every third email chaser.
And finally, once payment is received on the invoice, whether it was on time or not, always thank your customer for paying. You’ll positively enhance the relationship with your customer and help encourage timely payment in future. Just a quick one-sentence email is enough, but make sure you do it within the 24 hours after receiving payment for maximum effect.
3. Maintain your invoice communications history neatly.
While the above advice can work wonders on the efficacy of your credit control function, it can be undermined by the lack of a single source of truth. Without consolidated and well-maintained invoice communications histories, a world-class credit control function crumbles. Scrambling through sent emails, multiple inboxes, or notes scrawled on the back of an envelope are all unnecessary risks and time-wasters from the credit control of the past. If your business still manages its credit control function this way, it could easily be racking up hours wasted every week. Not to mention operating with the unnecessary risk of missing key info when it isn’t consolidated into one location.
Whenever you’re conducting credit control with an incomplete picture of the situation, you’re inviting your customers to delay payment. You also risk damaging your business’ reputation by providing conflicting info, having to backtrack on something you mistakenly said earlier, or simply creating the image of a “pushover” company.
Keep a centralised log of all chasers sent, replies received, phone calls taken, and notes made. Make sure it is easily navigated and searchable by customer, invoice, and date. This will not only save your business a world of time, it will empower you to deliver world-class credit control and get your invoices paid on time.
Chaser is cloud credit control software to get your invoices paid on time, in less time. Their average customer saves 7.3 hours a week on credit control, and boosts their cash flow by £4,400 per £100,000 of turnover. Check out how their product can help your business today.