Credit Matters Blog

The Unpaid Invoice - Why the fear of making a telephone call?

Kim Radok 24 August 2011


Many experienced business people live in fear of contacting their customers about the unpaid invoice. In the case of inexperienced business people, this fear is often pulpable. Both groups keep hoping the invoice will be paid - any day now. The result is; contacting the customer is a last resort and only after it is obvious that waiting is not a good payment strategy.

In these situations, when the call is made, the business person is often stressed. As a result, many of the telephone calls made when the business person is in this state, are often irrational in contact and context. Inevitably these telephone calls end badly in damaged business relatonships and often, still no cash.

So how can we take the stress out of these telephone calls, make them in a timely manner and get the cash?

First, we must debunk the marketing/sales theory that "The customer is always right!"

To believe this adage applies to all aspects of doing business with the customer, is plainly dangerous. For instance, if this adage is correct, it means the customer:

(i) has the right to not to pay you if they want,;

(ii) can change terms of trade after receiving your goods and services; and

(iii) can lie to you or commit fraud.

Therefore, in these situations, the customer is not always right.

Second, one of the sad facts of being in businees, is the realisation that some of your customers will not pay you. You may not like it, however the non-paying customer, is just one of the issues which exist in business.

In this blog, I am not going to discuss the how and why of the non-paying customer. What I intend is to give you simple reasons on why you should make the telephne call as soon as possible the expected payment date.

The reasons why the customer has not paid you include;

(i) they did not receive a copy of your invoice;

(ii) there is an unknown dispute which has not been sent to you;

(iii) the terms of trade were different;

(iv) the invoice was sent to the wrong address and/or person, etc

Not one of these reasons reveal that the customer is deliberately trying to avoid paying you. All of these reasons can be resolved by a timely professional telephone call. 

Finally, a business person is often reluctant to make the telephone call because they fear the customer will get upset and take away their business.

What the same person person often forgets, is when their supplier contacts them about unpaid invoices, they do not get upset and leave the supplier.

So why this fear of losing a customer exists, just because a telephone call is made about unpaid invoices, is hard to fathom.

So what have we learnt?

Never fear about telephoning your customer for the unpaid invoice. It is always a good business and cashflow practice and does not offend a customer or cause them to stop buying. The call  may resolve a situation that is no one's direct fault, or again it may reveal a deficient business process issue in your business. Either way your business is a winner.

May you be paid today rather than tomorrow.

Kim Radok