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How to chase payment of an invoice by phone

TCM relance téléphonique factureThe telephone follow-up of your unpaid invoices is a useful debt recovery tool, as it brings you into direct contact with your debtors. However, before you call, you should familiarise yourself with the best practices for doing so in order to maximise your chances of achieving your goal.

Generally, the first follow-up call should help you identify the reasons for the non-payment of your invoice so you can adopt a methodical approach in order to ensure that your telephone follow-up is as relevant and effective as possible.

 

1) Prepare

The follow-up of your unpaid invoice by phone should be meticulously prepared. Before you pick up the phone, make sure you have all necessary elements at hand:

  • Surname (and first name) of the person you’re calling
  • Postal and e-mail addresses (you may need to verify or amend the case file)
  • Date, number and amount of the invoice
  • Copy of the invoice (so it can be resent immediately by e-mail, if required)
  • Previous interactions (partial payments, promises, various commitments, disputes, other issues)
  • The range of your reasonable objectives. If the debt is about €50 and indisputable, immediate payment is logical. If it’s a sizeable and disputed debt, a reasonable target would be to decide on an action plan with your client.

Ideally, these points should be noted down on paper.

Have a pen and paper ready to write down the key elements of the conversation as you go.

 

2) Explain

As soon as you get through to the client, you should clearly and politely state why you are calling:

  • “Hello, my name is Pierre Dupont from Company Y. Am I speaking to Mr Jules Durant?”
    • “Hello, my name’s Pierre Dupont from Company Y” indicates that you are open and frank. There’s nothing more annoying than talking to just “Luke from Mobistar”. The first name, which is easier to catch, leads to the generally less familiar surname. This helps avoid you having to repeat yourself. Speak slowly (better too slowly than too fast), as you know your name, but the other person doesn’t. As well, speaking slowly indicates that you are calm and ready for dialogue.
    • “Am I speaking to Mr Jules Durant?” allows you to check that you’re speaking to the right person, as there is no point explaining a debt out of the blue to someone who has nothing to do with it.
  • “I’m calling about your [product/service]” (for example, your delivery of heating oil). “Have you received the [product/service]?” Rather than going straight to the issue of non-payment, it’s better to open the way for a “yes” (if they confirm receipt, then you can move immediately on to payment) or for an explanation of a problem (in this case, you should hear it out).

 

3) Listen

Once you’ve explained the reason for your call, then it’s time to listen actively to your client. They have the information you want, so you need to pay special attention to them:

  • Listen to their explanations or objections (“I’ve been away”, “I haven’t received the order”, etc.). Good listening first and foremost means keeping quiet, while now and then chipping in with a “yes”, “I understand”, etc., to show that you’re still there.
  • Listening also involves reformulating in order to verify (“so you weren’t there when the delivery was made”). The point of these short summaries is to show that you’ve understood. It doesn’t mean you’re agreeing at this stage.
  • Another key aspect of listening is to ask questions in order to clarify the situation which your client is trying to explain.
  • Be precise. Saying “we’re going to analyse your problem” is not reassuring. “I’ll see with my colleague and get back to you around 4pm” is more supportive, as you’re personally committing to seeking a fair outcome.
  • Good listening also involves showing empathy, which means putting yourself in the other person’s shoes. This also indicates your respect and, more generally, your professionalism.
  • Avoid saying “yes, but”, as it comes across as “I’m not interested in what you’re saying”.

 

4) Negotiate

Now you know more about the situation, it’s time to move on to negotiating with your client. You need to cooperate with them in order to find a fair and achievable solution:

  • After having listened and reformulated in order to confirm what your client has said, you can now move on to the more contentious points, but only those useful to the debate. Try to reach a shared perspective and avoid dead ends of the type “you say white, but I’m sure you mean black”. For instance, “you say that our delivery service arrived at 10pm. Are you sure about that, as that seems too late in relation to its route.”
  • The solutions that your client offers are the ones they’re most likely to adhere to. “What do you suggest?” is a good way of obtaining a starting point for the negotiations.
  • Then you can explain, if necessary, that their suggested solution is not practical (for instance, “if you pay €10 per month, that would involve a lot of admin and it would take five years for your debt to be paid off. Could you suggest something more suitable?”).

 

5) Conclude

Once the negotiation process is over, you will need to conclude your follow-up call:

  • When it seems that you have reached an agreement and even if you can’t agree, it’s important to conclude in the firmest and most precise way possible. For instance, “So you’ll pay €250 by 4pm tomorrow at the latest and confirm it to me by e-mail. You’ll have my e-mail address as I’ll send you an e-mail at x@x.be in a few minutes with our banking details and the structured reference for your payment. I’d appreciate it if you could confirm reception of my e-mail with a quick reply.”
  • Invite the other person to confirm in writing what they said they would do, as this will help them remember.
  • Check that you have all useful contact details for this client (other phone numbers, e-mail and postal addresses, colleagues (if it’s a company), etc.).

 

6) Document

The telephone follow-up of an unpaid invoice does not end when you hang up. We strongly recommend that you carefully record the key elements of the discussion you’ve just had:

  • Once the call is over, write down the points of agreement and the key elements of the conversation so that you’ll be able to recall the details if you (or a colleague) have another conversation with this client.
  • Set a deadline in case what’s been agreed is not respected. Bear in mind that it’s advisable to react quickly. If you’ve agreed on payment tomorrow, for example, the funds should be in your account within three further days. Never leave it more than another extra day before re-contacting this client or you’d be sending the message that their case is not important and that they can play for time by always promising payment tomorrow.

 

As you’ll have noticed, chasing an unpaid invoice by phone needs a structured path. To give yourself the best possible chance of obtaining payment, it’s best to start a dialogue that is polite, correct and fair. And feel free to get in touch with TCM to find out what we can do for you in this regard.

Summary

How to chase payment of an invoice by phone

  • Prepare
  • Explain
  • Listen
  • Negotiate
  • Conclude
  • Document

>>> see also “wording of a payment reminder“.

How to chase payment of an invoice by phone

TCM relance téléphonique factureThe telephone follow-up of your unpaid invoices is a useful debt recovery tool, as it brings you into direct contact with your debtors. However, before you call, you should familiarise yourself with the best practices for doing so in order to maximise your chances of achieving your goal.

Generally, the first follow-up call should help you identify the reasons for the non-payment of your invoice so you can adopt a methodical approach in order to ensure that your telephone follow-up is as relevant and effective as possible.

 

1) Prepare

The follow-up of your unpaid invoice by phone should be meticulously prepared. Before you pick up the phone, make sure you have all necessary elements at hand:

  • Surname (and first name) of the person you’re calling
  • Postal and e-mail addresses (you may need to verify or amend the case file)
  • Date, number and amount of the invoice
  • Copy of the invoice (so it can be resent immediately by e-mail, if required)
  • Previous interactions (partial payments, promises, various commitments, disputes, other issues)
  • The range of your reasonable objectives. If the debt is about €50 and indisputable, immediate payment is logical. If it’s a sizeable and disputed debt, a reasonable target would be to decide on an action plan with your client.

Ideally, these points should be noted down on paper.

Have a pen and paper ready to write down the key elements of the conversation as you go.

 

2) Explain

As soon as you get through to the client, you should clearly and politely state why you are calling:

  • “Hello, my name is Pierre Dupont from Company Y. Am I speaking to Mr Jules Durant?”
    • “Hello, my name’s Pierre Dupont from Company Y” indicates that you are open and frank. There’s nothing more annoying than talking to just “Luke from Mobistar”. The first name, which is easier to catch, leads to the generally less familiar surname. This helps avoid you having to repeat yourself. Speak slowly (better too slowly than too fast), as you know your name, but the other person doesn’t. As well, speaking slowly indicates that you are calm and ready for dialogue.
    • “Am I speaking to Mr Jules Durant?” allows you to check that you’re speaking to the right person, as there is no point explaining a debt out of the blue to someone who has nothing to do with it.
  • “I’m calling about your [product/service]” (for example, your delivery of heating oil). “Have you received the [product/service]?” Rather than going straight to the issue of non-payment, it’s better to open the way for a “yes” (if they confirm receipt, then you can move immediately on to payment) or for an explanation of a problem (in this case, you should hear it out).

 

3) Listen

Once you’ve explained the reason for your call, then it’s time to listen actively to your client. They have the information you want, so you need to pay special attention to them:

  • Listen to their explanations or objections (“I’ve been away”, “I haven’t received the order”, etc.). Good listening first and foremost means keeping quiet, while now and then chipping in with a “yes”, “I understand”, etc., to show that you’re still there.
  • Listening also involves reformulating in order to verify (“so you weren’t there when the delivery was made”). The point of these short summaries is to show that you’ve understood. It doesn’t mean you’re agreeing at this stage.
  • Another key aspect of listening is to ask questions in order to clarify the situation which your client is trying to explain.
  • Be precise. Saying “we’re going to analyse your problem” is not reassuring. “I’ll see with my colleague and get back to you around 4pm” is more supportive, as you’re personally committing to seeking a fair outcome.
  • Good listening also involves showing empathy, which means putting yourself in the other person’s shoes. This also indicates your respect and, more generally, your professionalism.
  • Avoid saying “yes, but”, as it comes across as “I’m not interested in what you’re saying”.

 

4) Negotiate

Now you know more about the situation, it’s time to move on to negotiating with your client. You need to cooperate with them in order to find a fair and achievable solution:

  • After having listened and reformulated in order to confirm what your client has said, you can now move on to the more contentious points, but only those useful to the debate. Try to reach a shared perspective and avoid dead ends of the type “you say white, but I’m sure you mean black”. For instance, “you say that our delivery service arrived at 10pm. Are you sure about that, as that seems too late in relation to its route.”
  • The solutions that your client offers are the ones they’re most likely to adhere to. “What do you suggest?” is a good way of obtaining a starting point for the negotiations.
  • Then you can explain, if necessary, that their suggested solution is not practical (for instance, “if you pay €10 per month, that would involve a lot of admin and it would take five years for your debt to be paid off. Could you suggest something more suitable?”).

 

5) Conclude

Once the negotiation process is over, you will need to conclude your follow-up call:

  • When it seems that you have reached an agreement and even if you can’t agree, it’s important to conclude in the firmest and most precise way possible. For instance, “So you’ll pay €250 by 4pm tomorrow at the latest and confirm it to me by e-mail. You’ll have my e-mail address as I’ll send you an e-mail at x@x.be in a few minutes with our banking details and the structured reference for your payment. I’d appreciate it if you could confirm reception of my e-mail with a quick reply.”
  • Invite the other person to confirm in writing what they said they would do, as this will help them remember.
  • Check that you have all useful contact details for this client (other phone numbers, e-mail and postal addresses, colleagues (if it’s a company), etc.).

 

6) Document

The telephone follow-up of an unpaid invoice does not end when you hang up. We strongly recommend that you carefully record the key elements of the discussion you’ve just had:

  • Once the call is over, write down the points of agreement and the key elements of the conversation so that you’ll be able to recall the details if you (or a colleague) have another conversation with this client.
  • Set a deadline in case what’s been agreed is not respected. Bear in mind that it’s advisable to react quickly. If you’ve agreed on payment tomorrow, for example, the funds should be in your account within three further days. Never leave it more than another extra day before re-contacting this client or you’d be sending the message that their case is not important and that they can play for time by always promising payment tomorrow.

 

As you’ll have noticed, chasing an unpaid invoice by phone needs a structured path. To give yourself the best possible chance of obtaining payment, it’s best to start a dialogue that is polite, correct and fair. And feel free to get in touch with TCM to find out what we can do for you in this regard.

Summary

How to chase payment of an invoice by phone

  • Prepare
  • Explain
  • Listen
  • Negotiate
  • Conclude
  • Document

>>> see also “wording of a payment reminder“.

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