When you send a collection letter you have two primary goals; to get paid and to maintain a positive relationship with your customer. It may seem easy, but it’s harder than you might think to send a collection letter that is effective in both respects. Many times, a company will send a letter that is either too friendly and the customer shrugs it off, or too firm and the customer may not want to work with you in the future due to your customer service. Here are a few suggestions to help you find the perfect balance between polite and firm and write a collection letter that will help you get paid faster.
Before we get started it is important to point out that different situations will call for different letters. A customer receiving their first notice of an overdue payment should not get the same letter as a customer who is on their third reminder of their late payment because the language will be different. For the purposes of this blog, we’ll focus on that first letter. You can see examples of collection letters for different stages of the collection process here.
Language is not everything, style matters too. Be sure to write a letter that is:
- Concise. You will want it to be no more than 1 page, shorter is always better.
- Easy to read. Use short sentences and simple words. Break it up with paragraphs, bullets, and other formatting to help you get the point across in as few words as possible. Also, do not use industry jargon they may not understand.
- Customized. Be sure to use the customer’s name, not just a standard greeting like “customer”. There are many studies that have found open and response rates to be higher when you address the recipient personally.
- Obvious. Make sure to include your company logo on the invoice. Many people will recognize a logo before a name, this will help them recall your company and the purchase they made.
The hardest part is to nail the tone; professional, friendly, yet firm. So, here are a few things to consider:
- Never imply that the customer deliberately ignored the invoice, even if you think they did. Use terms like “overlooked invoice.”
- Be firm, but don’t be aggressive or threatening. Use assertive language and tell them exactly what you would like them to do. Use phrases like, “Please remit payment immediately”.
- Always sign off with an offer to help and your name. Try, “If you need any further assistance in regards to this invoice, please call me at 555-5555”.
Including the right information in a collection letter is essential as well, the more questions you can answer the better, so you don’t have a lot of back-and-forth between your company and the customer before payment is submitted. At the minimum you will want to include the following information:
- Date the invoice was sent
- Due date
- Total amount due
- Item list
- Reference numbers
- Payment instructions
- Your contact information
- Attach a PDF copy of the invoice in question.
Writing a great letter is not easy, it takes practice. To speed the process up, you may also want to come up with a template that can quickly be manipulated with customer and invoice information and then sent out. You can use our templates which can be found here.
Sample AR Collection Letter:
Dear <insert customer name>
According to our records your account is <number of days> past due. We’ve sent you a detailed statement of your account. In the event you did not receive it, we have summarized your account below.
- Item(s)/services purchased:
- Invoice sent on: <date>
- Invoice due date: <insert date>
- Agreed upon terms: <insert here>
- Days past due: <insert here>
Please send a check for the amount of $5,000 by February 20, 2015.
- Note: if you offer other payment options like online bill pay, credit card over the phone, etc make a note of that here as well.
If you have questions about your invoice or how to submit payment, please contact me at <your phone number and extension>
<insert your name>
As mentioned above, as invoices continue to go unpaid you are going to need to make some changes to the layout, tone, and content of your collection letter. The white paper below will walk you through how to send increasingly demanding letters while still maintaining a professional tone and positive relationship with your customers. It also provides example and templates for letters, emails, and phone calls throughout the collection process. Click below to get started.