Overcoming Collection Email Hurdles: Part 1

For anyone involved in the process of collecting invoices from customers, sending out emails about overdue payments is an everyday occurrence but it’s not something that should be quickly completed, crossed off the to-do list, and forgotten. Being successful with invoice collection emails is much harder than you might think and there is a big difference between writing a collection email and writing a collection email that actually gets results. In order for an invoice collection email to be successful it has to overcome four major hurdles:

  1. Getting the email to the customer’s inbox.
  2. Getting the customer to open the email.
  3. Writing an email the customer will read.
  4. Inspiring the customer to take the required action (pay the invoice, call you, etc.).

Over the course of this blog series we will talk about each individual hurdle, mistakes companies make at each stage, and what you can do to overcome all four hurdles and walk away with a much more successful accounts receivable process, healthier cash flow, and happier customers.

Hurdle #1: Getting the Collection Email into Your Customer’s Inbox

You can’t expect a customer to pay if they haven’t even received the email. Contrary to what most people may think, this is one of the biggest problems that collections representatives have when sending collection letters via email. This is made evident by a survey conducted in August of 2014 by the National Associate of Credit Management (NACM) that found a large majority of office managers, collectors, etc. are doing nothing to avoid their customer’s “spam” or “junk” filters. The survey asked respondents  “Do you or does your credit department take a proactive approach to ensure that important email communications aren’t caught/lost in customers’ spam folders/detectors?” the findings from the survey are below:

  • 41% of respondents said “yes,” they have measures in place to ensure that important emails aren’t caught/lost in customers’ spam folders/detectors.
  •  49% said “no,” they do not do anything to ensure that important emails aren’t caught/lost in customers’ spam folders/detectors.
  •  10% answered “I don’t know.”

With statistics like the above the excuse “I never received the invoice” may not be an excuse after all. To make matters worse, growing numbers of email scams and cyber-attacks have spurred IT departments and internet security product companies to step-up their game when it comes to blocking unwanted emails. Due to this trend a collection email is far more likely to wind up in a spam or junk folder since, according to a recent NACM enews report, emails with the subject line including words such as “collections”, “credit”, “overdue”, etc. are more apt to send up red flags in an email system than other subject lines, especially if there is an attachment on the email (like an invoice).

So the bad news is that you may be sending all of your collection email attempts directly to the customer’s SPAM filter; seriously delaying payment and slowing cash flow. But the very, very good news is that this problem is easily fixed! Here are a few ideas to help you correct this issue and sail over this first collection email hurdle:

  • Try to avoid using words that might trigger the spam/junk filters.
  • Ask your customers to add the email address that will be sending invoices to their contact list.
  • You could send a fax but this can be time consuming if you have a lot of invoices to deal with.
  •  Follow up with a phone call. If you send an email and hear nothing back from the customer in a day or two, try giving them a call to make sure it made it safely to their inbox. Even if the customer does not answer, leave a message asking them to check their spam/junk if they did not receive the email from you. If you do get the customer, it’s a great opportunity to ask them to pay over the phone or if there are any questions/concerns with the invoice keeping them from timely payment.

Stay tuned for the next part of the series where we discuss the second collection email hurdle which is quite a bit more challenging- actually getting your customer open your email.

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