All businesses should make sure they’re making it as easy as possible for customers or clients to pay their invoices. This blog is the perspective of a delinquent payer, to help you understand why delinquent customers don’t pay, and how to approach your collection communication efforts to result in payment.
Note: The following is the true account from a real individual. Names, locations, and other select details have been changed to protect both the innocent and the delinquent.
Hi. My name is Jane. And before I tell you my story, I feel like it’s important for you to know that I am a good person. I rarely break the speed limit, I open doors for the elderly. I donate to charity when I can. I’m not the sort of person one would expect to be a delinquent payer.
But I was. Here’s my story.
I had just graduated college and moved to the city—off on my own for the first time in my life.
I moved into my first non-campus apartment, started my first full-time, grown up job… It was official. I was an adult. Yikes.
The biggest step was preparing to pay all of my own bills. Between two student loans, car insurance, a car payment, my cell phone bill, rent, a credit card payment, and utilities—it was a lot to keep up with. On my minuscule entry level salary, I was a little nervous about covering it all. But I was even more worried about just managing all of those different payments each month.
So, like a lot of consumers in the millennial generation, I set up auto drafting for each account. I created a second checking account with my bank and had all of my bills draft from that account. That way, I was just responsible for making sure that I moved enough money into the account each month. One thing to remember, instead of eleven. It sounds like the perfect solution, doesn’t it?
Well, it would have been—if it weren’t for the power company.
While the rest of my billing companies allowed easy setup for auto drafting, the local electric company was still stuck far into the dark ages with their accounts receivable practices.
Not only did their billing department not offer automatic payments, they didn’t even offer an online payment option! My only choice was to receive a paper bill by mail and either mail a check, or call their customer service department during normal business hours to pay with a credit card.
I’m not sure I even had a physical check book at that point. And during the company’s business hours, I—like most people over and certainly like other delinquent customers—was busy at work.
If you have much experience in accounts receivables, you can probably guess what happened next. I missed a payment. And then another.
Next thing I knew, it was about 6:30 one evening, and I got a text from my roommate while out to dinner.
Kate: Umm…Did you know our power is out?
Jane: It is?! That’s weird. Is it our whole building? Did the guys next door lose power too?
Kate: I checked with them, and their power is on. And they checked our breaker box…That was fine too. Could it be a problem with our bill?
Jane: Oh no! Maybe. I’m on my way home.
I left dinner early, rushed home, and used a flashlight to dig through our pile of unopened mail.
Yep, there was the power bill. And the final date for payment had been two days earlier.
The problem wasn’t a lack of funds. Compared to a lot of my monthly bills, this one wasn’t expensive. I had the money to pay it. But in the midst of my brand new, busy, grown-up life, I simply couldn’t keep track of manually calling in or physically mailing the payments.
I had been categorized as a delinquent payer, and the company shut off our electricity. They never even gave me a email or call!
The Moral of the Story
Of course, it is always a customer’s responsibility to make timely payments. I should have come up with a better system for remembering to pay the bill. The company had every right to shut off our power and turn my account over to a collection agency.
But doing so involved a lot of time, resources and headache on their part. Wouldn’t they have been better served by simply making it easier for me to pay my bill on time?
Business owners would do well to keep in mind that customers aren’t just checks in the mail. We’re human beings with busy lives and a lot of demands to juggle on a daily basis.
If that company had simply made the investment to update their accounts receivables technology, they—like all of my other service providers—would have gotten paid on time, every time.
From setting up systematic payment reminders, to offering online billing and creating easier ways to pay, improving your receivables processes is always a worthwhile investment—both for your customers, and ultimately for you.
Improve your AR process & Reduce Delinquent Customers:
- How to Make Every Collection Call You Make More Effective
- How Proactive Contact Helps Get You Paid on Time
- Accounts Receivable Management Overhaul: 13 Tips and Tricks to Get You Paid
- Free Collection Letter Templates & Call Scripts