There will always be those customers who don’t seem to want to pay, no matter how many invoices or well-crafted reminder letters you send. Hopefully your business can avoid these people, but if not, here are some tactics to help you deal with the situation.
1. Certified Mail
Hopefully you have been keeping careful track of your communications with the client, whether these were by email or regular mail. If you’re using a collection service like FG Receivables Manager, you can check whether the emails you sent were ever opened. Now, you need to do the same thing with a physical letter using certified mail.
Certified letters cost more to send, but the payoff will be worth it. They assure you that the letter was indeed received by the correct party, which eliminates any “lost in the mail” excuse that a delinquent customer might try to use. The US Postal Service now offers return receipts by mail or electronically, depending on your preference.
(Keep in mind that registered mail and certified mail are not the same. Registered mail is great for ensuring the safety of confidential documents during the time they’re in the hands of the USPS, but only certified mail gives you a return receipt with the name of the person who signed for it.)
This certifiable proof that the delinquent customer received the letter will be necessary if you choose to move forward with a collections agency or small claims court.
2. Small Claims Court
The Ultimate Demand Letter template outlines that you will turn the matter over to your collection agency. If the collection agency’s efforts fail, or if you want to skip that step, you need to notify the customer that you are considering taking them to small claims court.
This letter can be very similar to the Ultimate Demand Letter in tone and content. You want to be clear that you intend to collect the debt, restate all the details about the original invoice, and use concise, stern language. Resist the urge to include friendly word choice, but remain professional at all times.
You may also want to bring in a lawyer to help you write this letter. Small claims court regulations differ from state to state, and a lawyer can help you navigate your particular situation.
At the very least, you will need to look up the dollar limits on small claims in your state. If the delinquent amount is more than this limit, you will need to file a civil suit against the non-paying customer, which generally costs more than a small claims suit. Again, a lawyer will be able to further help you determine the best course of action for your business at this point in time.
You can always fall back on your sample demand letters at any stage in the process. These customizable templates take all the guesswork out of your receivables workflow. Simply choose the wording that fits your situation best, and you’re ready to get back to running your business.
As always, keep track of all of your interactions with your customers (including invoices and collection letters you’ve sent or phone calls you’ve made) so that if you ever do need to take action, you will have all of the records you need to get the money you deserve.