After a foreign trade order is placed, what troubles you the most? Is it delivery delays or post-shipment product issues? While these are indeed concerns, with careful management, they can generally be mitigated. What truly causes headaches is when customers delay payment of the final installment.
Since the majority of our customers are overseas, our collection methods mostly rely on email, phone calls, and the like. This soft approach to debt collection often fails to create a sense of urgency, allowing customers to keep postponing payment. So, how should we deal with customers who are masters at procrastination? Let's take a look in this article.
First and foremost, it's important to use diplomacy before deploying force. After all, our relationship with the customer isn't a one-time deal. Allowing personal emotions to take over might feel satisfying, but it may not lead to a successful resolution.
The correct approach is to communicate with the customer through email or phone, to understand the real reasons behind the outstanding payment. Then, negotiate a solution that fits the situation. This not only helps recover the losses but also wins the customer's goodwill.
Here's how it can be done: If the customer is facing cash flow issues due to company problems or an economic downturn, leading to an inability to pay the full amount at once, you can negotiate an acceptable payment timeline or have the customer make a partial payment with a set deadline. If the customer is withholding payment due to product quality issues, a sincere apology and an appropriate resolution need to be provided. This way, the customer can sense our sincerity.
During communication, it's essential to play the emotional card appropriately. For instance, convey your dedication and responsibility to the customer, explaining how their delayed payment has led to criticism from your superiors. This can help gain the customer's understanding.
Next, consider protecting your rights to some extent. While most customers have legitimate reasons for delayed payments, there could be cases of deliberate delay. In such situations, after multiple failed attempts to communicate, it might be necessary to resort to measures like return of goods, formal complaints, or even blacklisting to make the customer realize the seriousness of breaching the contract. If the customer remains uncooperative, you may need to consider visiting them for collection or pursuing legal actions to recover the debt.
Don't be timid when collecting debts, but also don't let the fear of losing customers deter you. Fearing that debt collection may upset the customer or cost you their business will only embolden the customer to further delay payments. However, if a customer insists on not paying, losing such a customer may not be such a big deal.
Below are some templates for collection emails:
1. Again, we call your attention to your payment due April 30.
2. We again call your attention to the following invoices which, according to our records, are still unpaid well beyond our normal terms.
3. Once again, we ask for your cooperation in paying your account which is now more than two months past due.
1. Would you please let us have an explanation of why the invoice is still outstanding?
2. Please let us know why the balance has not been cleared.
3. We would like to know if there is a reason for your delay in paying your long overdue account.
Extending an Opportunity:
1. I am sure it is not your intention to ignore past due notices at the expense of your credit standing.
2. I am sure you are not intentionally trying to make our work difficult, but that's what it amounts to.
3. We realize that financial conditions in your firm have not been good recently. By now, however, we feel you should be able to start paying again.
Expressing the Stakes:
1. It is essential that this account be settled at once to avoid any problem with your credit standing.
2. The delinquent status of your account will leave us no alternative but to remove your company from our list of credit customers.
1. We are counting on your cooperation in making a prompt payment.
2. Please restore our confidence in you and maintain your good credit rating by sending us your payment now.
Repaying debts is a matter of course, so there's no need to feel embarrassed. However, during the collection process, it's crucial to maintain politeness and mutual respect to foster long-term cooperation.