Why Do We Have to Call Customers Every Week? – Michael Dennis, CBF

Why?
Why?

A friend of mine is a credit manager. She told me that during a regularly scheduled staff meeting, one of her newer collectors asked why they were required to speak with a delinquent debtor no less frequently than once every seven days — in contrast to simply leaving voice mail message for them. My friend said that she quickly considered a range of answers, including these:

  • Because I said so
  • Because it is your job
  • Because you could be terminated if you don’t do it
  • Because follow up is an important part of your job duties
  • Because calling customers works; it is an effective collection tool
  • Because if the debtor answers your call, at least we know they are still in business
  • If for no other reason, because we measure this, meaning this is one way we evaluate your job performance

Instead, she asked the other members of the credit team to explain why calling delinquent debtors each week is important. They responded:

  • Because it works as a collection tool
  • So the debtor does not become complacent
  • To remind the debtor that we are not going away
  • Because if we don’t call, it can easily become a matter of: “Out of sight, Out of mind”

In my opinion, rather than always being the one that answers these questions, it is important for the Credit Manager to encourage peers to address issues such as this. To do so requires little more than a simple question such as this: Who would like to take a shot at answering this question?

Michael Dennis, MBA, CBF, LCM
Michael Dennis, MBA, CBF, LCM

Sometimes hearing the answer from peers rather than management makes acceptance of the answer easier.

Does anyone reading this have another answer as to why calling delinquent debtors weekly is important?

Michael Dennis’ Covering Credit Commentary. Michael’s website is  www.coveringcredit.com

The opinions presented are those of the author.  The opinions and recommendations do not necessarily reflect the views of CMA, or their Officers and Directors.  Readers are encouraged to evaluate any suggestions or recommendations made, and accept and adopt only those concepts that make sense to them.

11 Replies to “Why Do We Have to Call Customers Every Week? – Michael Dennis, CBF”

  1. Every collection call starts as a customer service call. It is how I learn of problems with the order, the product, the invoice delivery, pricing, and terms nobody else is going to tell me about. Then action can deal with the problem and we are paid.

    1. Excellent point Gordon, some of my close customer relationships have come from this type of service – trying to help resolve any issues and follow up along WITH our customer to get a resolution. When I work together to bring an issue or delinquency up to speed, we can all get back to business and that positive resolution can lead to better payment histories in the future.

      I try to look at my job as an advocate for my company. And in order to protect the interests of my company, I must provide a (sometimes firm) communication to you, an advocate for your company, of the responsibilities and commitments your company has made in ordering and receiving our products/services. At best, we’ll be able to come together to resolve the issue and move forward, knowing that if future issues should arise, we have an advocate to turn to who’s willing to help where they can.

  2. As Gordon states, a collection call starts as a customer service call. By using this approach and actually speaking with a person we can learn any problems the company may be experiencing. From cash flow issues to an owner’s pending retirement all of which can slow payments to vendors. This information can be a guide in your decision whether to release future orders.

  3. While all of the answers are true, for me keeping in contact with the client builds my relationship with them, allowing them to feel comfortable sharing news they might not if we didn’t have that relationship. (cash flow issues, reduction in staff, etc) Contact also allows you to deal with potential problems as they are occuring and find solutions before the get out of hand.

  4. I also agree with Gordon’s comment. An important reason to call customers is to determine if there is a problem that is preventing payment. Therefore, the sooner the call is made the faster the problem can be addressed and resolved.

  5. While initial contact to sort out the issues is critical, if payment is not forthcoming after the path is cleared, I find that email is a much more effective tool. This also holds true for the simple delinquencies not tied to a dispute where you have already established a relationship. The added benefits are that your contact has time to research the invoice(s) and reply with real information. Then too, the email can be copied to the account manager and if need be, to your contact’s supervisor and/or the purchasing department whose order might be on hold. An actual communication trail versus phone recollection if stronger support for a firm position regarding release of held orders.

  6. I find myself agreeing with basically every comment as well as the points originally made in the Blog… even though I realize that some are, at least to some extent, contradictory.

    I think the broader message was that rather than the credit manager being the dispenser of all wisdom, it is useful to have issues discussed among collectors, and discussions about the best way to accomplish any given task to be in the form of peer to peer discussions facilitated by the credit manager.

  7. I like the comments the fellow collectors made and agree that as mangers sometimes we forget to let them come up with better answers.
    They are the ones influencing customer payment behaviors by solving problems quickly, satisfying customers and building relationships. I believe being good at follow up is important.

    Our collectors have their preferred methods of communication with individual customers and if it works for them and gets good results…it’s great ! Occasionally I find they’re getting too passive with emails or leaving messages without satisfactory results on a particular customer and I have to remind them to choose a more active/persistent method for a while to get the customer back on track.

  8. I agree with an earlier comment. Everyone made valid points. Thank you to everyone for taking the time to respond.

    Best regards

    Michael Dennis

  9. This morning as I was reading the attached article, I wondered if exchanging the words; credit & collections with sales, debtor with customer, removing the word delinquent, if the article would be as spot on for sales and it is for credit. Wow! It works for sales as well as it works for credit to explain why regular scheduled calls to customers need to be made.

    As a manager, getting staff to come up with the solution builds employee’s confidence and lets them know you are listening and open to their ideas and points of view. Some of the best solutions come from listening. I appreciate the article and all the comments.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *