How to make a phone call with a delinquent payer?

Every entrepreneur knows the problem of invoices that are paid too late. When it happens, we recommend calling your customer first before sending out a reminder. A phone call is quicker than sending a letter, it's more personal than an e-mail and you'll receive instant feedback from your customer. What's more, your customer won't be able to keep ignoring you once you've got him on the line. The purpose of a phone call of this type is always to set a final deadline for payment. But how exactly should you approach the conversation? Here are our five tips.

1. Respond promptly

The longer an invoice remains unpaid, the lower the chances of a spontaneous payment. Don't wait more than a week to call. Otherwise you will give the impression that it's acceptable to pay late. Schedule a regular time to call your delinquent payers and mark it in your planner. For example, reserve Monday afternoons for making phone calls to your delinquent payers. That way, you can guarantee that all of your invoices will be followed up on a weekly basis.

calling with delinquent payer

A good start is half the battle. Be sure to gather all the necessary information in advance.

  • How many invoices are involved?
  • What is the outstanding amount?
  • Who is the contact at the customer's company?

Most of this information will be listed on the invoice, so you will certainly want to have a copy of the relevant invoice in front of you. Also be sure to keep good records of all other information. This could include, for example:

  • Did the customer have any complaints or comments after the invoice was sent?
  • Is this the first time that he is late with payment?
  • Were there any specific arrangements made with the customer?

3. To the point

When you make the call, you need to be assertive. There has been a delay in payment and you need to find out when the customer is going to pay. That is why you should not ask your customer why he has not paid. That only gives him the opportunity to make excuses. Ask him when he intends to pay.

If the customer still gives you excuses, then use them against him. If he is waiting for a customer of his own to pay, tell him that you also have suppliers you need to pay. If he explains that he is going through a rough patch, then point out that you are not a bank. If he does not have enough money, then he will have to find another solution.

4. Set a specific date for payment.

Before you make the call, decide for yourself how long you are willing to wait for payment. Some customers will do their utmost to test your flexibility. By determining the latest possible date in advance, you will be able to resist the temptation to give in.  During the conversation with the customer, discuss when he will pay. If the customer suggests a date that is within the margin you have set for yourself in advance, then you should agree to it.

Verify whether the customer is willing to pay no later than on the date agreed. You don't have to be content with “I'll do my best” or “I’ll see what I can do”. You want to hear a “yes”. You should insist on it. If necessary, you can give them an ultimatum.

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5.Written agreements.

Always confirm the agreement (or the ultimatum) by e-mail. This is proof that the conversation took place. Also attach a duplicate of the invoice and possibly a copy of your general terms and conditions to this e-mail. That way your customer cannot claim that he has lost the invoice or never received it.

Have you still not received payment, even after your phone call?

Then it's time to take the next step and send a reminder.

Does this still not result in payment? Then it's time to involve a third party.

Unpaid can help. On our platform, it's easy to start up claim online. Within 5 days, our bailiff will pay a visit to your customer at home to deliver an official payment order. All you have to pay is an advance payment; your customer will pay the full invoice amount, as well as all collection costs.

Would you like to start a claim right away?

Submit your first claim here and get ready to recover your hard-earned money.

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Enter your VAT number and we will handle the rest.

Do you have an unpaid invoice or do you have questions about how Unpaid works? Call +32 9 396 34 00 or let us know when you want to be called.