One of the more frustrating parts of running any type of business is when customers pay late or do not pay at all. We’re confident you would agree with that statement.
As a debt collection agency that works with small business and large organizations, we hear the disappointments regularly from people just like you we are consulting with.
When we conduct our free consultations for debt collections, it’s one of the first things we hear. Business owners, and others that are part of the accounts receivables process continue to experience the aggravations of getting certain customers to pay.
While there are endless reasons why customers become delinquent on their financial obligations to your business, business owners tell us frequently that it’s the lack of communication that sometimes frustrates them the most. In many cases, long-time customers stop paying their bills and stop communicating with your business. And you begin to wonder why.
While many involved in the process of getting customers to pay experience various frustrations, there are a whole host of activities that any business needs to avoid. We see this frequently in the small business debt collection area, where professionals like you are running small operations and know your customers intimately.
When they do not pay, you get frustrated.
Here are a number of areas to avoid when trying to collect debt from customers.
Never harass a consumer. It’s just that simple. A business should never harass a customer when trying to collect a debt. This includes calling the customer at all hours of the day or night, using abusive language, or making threats. In fact, harassing a consumer in any way is counterproductive. It not only doesn’t work and is far from effective, but it can actually get your business in trouble.
If you are running a small business and have representatives from your company contacting customers that haven’t paid you, make it clear that any type of harassment is unacceptable. You clearly want to get paid, but all communications must be conducted with tact and respect.
Never make false statements:
When trying to collect past-due invoices from customers, you must stick to the facts. A business should never make false statements to a customer when trying to collect. This includes claiming to be a government agency or misrepresenting the amount owed. False statements can also include threatening police activity, lawsuits when you do not intend to do so, and putting liens on property. Never misrepresent your company or the amount the customer owes you.
When you use a collection agency to help you get paid, it’s essential to supply the agency you use with accurate and timely information to avoid misrepresentation.
Any type of public shaming or disclosure must be avoided. A business should never publicly shame a customer when trying to collect a debt. This includes posting the customer’s name or debt information on social media or in a public place.
This also goes for disclosing or discussing the debt with anyone other than the individual that owes your business money. For example, you must not even casually mention to a friend or acquaintance that the individual owes your business money. A transaction of money between a business and a consumer is a private matter and must be kept that way.
There are a number of actions your business must avoid to make sure you do not break any federal or state regulations regarding debt collections. A business should never engage in illegal actions when trying to collect a debt. This includes threatening legal action that the business has no intention of taking, or taking actions that violate the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).
Many of our points here in this article are covered in the FDCPA.
Never use any type of discrimination:
Your business and anyone representing it should make sure to never discriminate against a customer when trying to collect a debt. This includes using discriminatory language or taking discriminatory actions based on a customer’s race, gender, religion, or other forms of discrimination. The last thing your business needs when trying to get customers to pay is end up in a legal dispute because of a costly mistake.
Avoiding future mistakes when collecting debt:
The best way to avoid these and other mistakes is to retain the services of a third-party collection agency. You may be thinking this could cause more frustration but that’s just not true.
Using the right collection agency helps your business avoid crucial and costly mistakes that could cost your business money and your good reputation.
The best collection agencies conduct ongoing training in all the legal aspects of collecting debt. That involves any changes in regulations at the federal level as well as constant reinforcement about state regulations. The best example is when our country went through the COVID-19 pandemic. Many states enacted their own debt collection laws and it was important for collection agencies to be on top of these.
Trained professional debt collectors also know how to mediate financial disputes between your business and your customers. Their goal, through respect and dignity is to get your customer to the table and be part of the resolution.
Making any mistakes in debt collections will never help you improve your cash flow and that’s why it is important to rely on trained professionals.