Credit Matters Blog

Thank you - How do you say it in Accounts Receivable?

Kim Radok 21 July 2011

Thank you - are the least used words or actions in the accounts receivable process.

Yet how strange is this. When selling, we say thank you in many different ways on the signing of the sales order.

Rarely do I see a supplier say thank you when the customer pays their account. For instance, when did your business last say thank you to a customer for paying their account?

Furthermore, how did you say thank you?

Was it just a typical paragraph on an end of an email or on an invoice,  or was it something more personal like a Chhristmas card, bottle of wine or theatre tickets which really said - THANK YOU 

Many years ago, I took the accounts payable manager of one of our major customers to lunch. This was what I thought, a normal thank you gesture for helping me manage their account. I was amazed to hear, this was the first time a major supplier had said thank you to her in such positive manner.

Over the years, I have discovered my action was anything but the norm. Too often since, I found that my employers were not even interested in thanking their customers' accounts employees with a simple Christmas card for their help over the previous year.

I have wondered why this occurs. Is it because the accounts payable employee doesn't authorise the payment, has no 'face' in the sales transaction, or has no authority to influence decisions which are meanighful to us?

Well I believe these attitudes are wrong. In my view, my customers' accounts payable employees are amongst my most valued business aquaintances. It is these people who do  the work on our unpaid invoices. These employees are also the interface between ourselves and the people with the authority in the customer's business to release our payments.

The fact is, the majority of accounts payable employees do not have the authority to release the payment. They do however, no matter the size of the business, have a great deal of influence in how we suppliers get paid.

This influence is demonstrated in the way they prioritise their work. There are many accounts payable people who will respond positively to supplier contacts when they are treated with respect and understanding.

When a customer's accounts payable employee feels that their work is appreciated by a  supplier,  they respond positively to requests for assistance. You can gauge how well an accounts payable employee thinks of you and your business by this response.

Receiving a prompt reply to your requests and for you to quickly answer their enquiries, is critical in being paid at the first opportunity. For instance, you ask about an unpaid invoice and see how long it takes to find out if it is missing or has just not been processed.

Likewise, don't supply a copy of an invoice or a POD (proof of supply) and see how quickly you get paid. Furthermore, if you do not reply to these requests, watch how quickly these requests stop coming.

So why did I take this accounts payable manager to lunch? It was simple.

It was to say thank you for their help and because I needed this person on my accounts receivable team.

May you get paid today rather than tomorrow.

Kim Radok