We’re not fond of overused terms here but one we do feel is relevant during the year 2020, is that “now, more than ever,” it is mission critical to be getting paid for the work your business does and the services you provide. Regardless of the size of your organization, cash flow is something that has probably taken a hard hit during the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic fallout that came with it.
There are three factors that have played into the challenges that some businesses have had to deal with. The first is that depending on the type of job or career you have, you as a consumer may have lost that job. Take those in the hospitality industry. There are millions that in very short time, lost their ability to earn a paycheck. The second factor was that when COVID-19 hit us, consumers had already owed our business money. And it got difficult very quickly to get those payments in the door. Collection activity stopped in some states and other businesses felt that it was not a good time to be asking their customers for money. But if you already provided the customer with what they asked for, you should still get paid.
And of course the third is the fact that many business had to shut down for a period of time depending on the industry and whether your local government classified you as essential. Whatever that case was and still may be, we have never seen anything like this in our lifetimes.
Many in business including our clients have asked for additional advice on how to get paid during COVID-19 so we’ve come up with some guidance and expert advice on how to keep your cash flow positive during tough times.
Communication is key
The collection industry during the summer of 2020, took several steps to ensure that communications could continue with consumers through the Coronavirus pandemic. Many groups argued that we should not be contacting consumers at this time but the industry argued that it kept the lines of communication open which resulted in better relationships with a business and its customers.
You can and should continue communicating with your customers, in good times as well as challenging times. In fact, keeping in touch in uncertain times or when there is an issue such as late payments, sets you apart from your competition. You can get angry and upset, and not care about the customer’s situation, or you can communicate and come up with a solution. It is your choice as a business. We prefer working with a hard-earned customer to help them through tough times.
Double down on customer service
Let’s face it. If your customer service is poor, and you don’t have a staff that treats every customer like gold, people will find a way not to pay you on time. We’re not saying your customer service is bad, but this is the time to look at how everyone in your company is treating your customers, how quickly are they getting calls back and check if there are any internal service procedures you can adjust to make your customers happier. Does everyone answer the phone with a cordial tone? If there is an issue with a customer, do you treat them with respect and not talk down to them?
There are some very simple ways in which you can make your customer service the best in your industry and, make every customer experience better and more enjoyable. When customers respect you, they are more apt to pay on time.
Create solutions with customers
Whatever your business is or your industry, consumers come to you to help them solve problems, make life easier or provide them with a service they desire. So do what you always do. Work with your customer, not against them. Your team has worked hard to earn the trust of that consumer so continue to keep that trust and show them you value your relationship. If you treat them poorly the minute they default on a payment, you’ll be losing customers at a time when you need every one of them. Teach your team to create solutions.
Very important. Work with your customer, understand their situation, work together to create a solution, and you’ll keep that customer.
Get some outside help
There are some organizations out there, and you may be one of them, that have hesitated to hire a collection agency for your outstanding customers. But there are some clear advantages to working with professional debt collectors. First, they know the laws so when they are calling on late and non-paying customers, that agency will stay compliant with local and federal laws.
Second, a reputable collection agency that embraces diplomatic collections will help preserve your relationship with your customer during tough times and be experienced in creating solutions and negotiating payments. Our team here knows exactly how to work with a consumer when they make contact and get them to the table to find a way to make affordable payments.
Third is that you have many others things to be attending to during this crazy year of 2020 and a professional agency will take that uncomfortable task of calling late-paying customers off your plate and allow you to out more time into building your organization during this time of uncertainty. Depending on the agency you choose, they can save you time and money in the long run.
You can continue to get payments in the door during this COVID-19 era, maintain good relationships with your customers and preserve your cash flow if you stick to your values and treat your customers with respect.