You’re in a position where your customer hasn’t paid you, and this is becoming a big problem for you. So what do you do?
It’s important to handle the situation calmly and professionally, as you don’t know what your customer’s position.
1. First things first – talk to your customer
Try to speak to your customer, so as to understand why they haven’t paid.
They may be experiencing financial difficulties, or may not have received your invoice.
Once you know what’s going on you can move onto step 2:
2. Can you offer a solution?
To maintain good customer relationships, it’s important to work with your customer, The key is to find a solution that works for both parties and maintains a positive relationship.
- If they haven’t received the invoice, then do send it again. Consider changing the payment due date, to give them some breathing space.
- If they’re having financial difficulties, can you agree a payment plan with them? See below for ways that you can manage this.
- Are they disputing the invoice? If so, find out what the problem is, and try to agree a way forward.
3. Arranging time to pay
If your customer is genuinely keen to pay, but having some cashflow difficulties, you could offer them a way to pay in instalments.
This means that you’re still getting paid, and your customer has a manageable way to pay.
You can also take control of the repayments in a couple of ways:
- IWOCAPay: this solution allows your customer to pay you in 3 instalments, while you get paid straightaway.
- GoCardless: this is another solution that allows you to set up regular payments for your customers.
- Check out their subscription features here.
You can of course let your customer set up their own payments, but this could take you back to square one, if they continue not to pay.
What if your customer won’t talk to you?
This is difficult, but if they’re ghosting you, and won’t respond to your calls or emails, we may have a problem.
Let’s assume that it’s a significant debt, and a couple of months overdue:
1. Don’t do any more work
You’re effectively working for free now, so please don’t continue to do so.
Put their account on hold, and let your customer know, and how they can get in touch with you to find a solution.
If you have team members working with your customer, you should also let them know that you’re not doing any more work, or selling any more products to the customer.
2. Keep trying to contact your customer
Phone calls are best to try to get to the bottom of the problem, but you may need to email.
Be careful to set out the facts only in an email, keep any emotion out of the conversation.
Offer a solution if you can, but bear in mind that until your customer talks to you, you don’t know what the problem is.
3. Consider calling in legal help
By now, you’ve no doubt exhausted all lines of communication, so you may have to ask for legal help. You have some options:
1. Small claims court
You can apply via gov.uk and make a claim online here.
There will be court fees to pay, starting at £35, but you can add this to what your customer owes.
Before getting legal advice, you could try Civil Mediation. This involves a third party mediating between yourself and your customer.
More info here from the Civil Mediation Council
3. Debt collection agencies
You may want to instruct a debt collection agency to collect overdue debts.
Chaser offer this service, as part of their credit control offering.
We also work with ACT Credit Management who offer a professional payment resolution service, for larger scale debts.
4. Legal support
You can also speak to your solicitor who can assist with debt recovery, and will have specialists who can work closely with you to recover the money you’re owed.
How do you make sure it doesn’t happen again?
It’s important to have clear payment policies in place to avoid future payment issues.
Make sure your customers understand your payment terms and are aware of any late fees or penalties.
Always keep accurate records of payments and communication with customers. We love Xero for keeping on top of your invoicing, payments and notes.
Set up automated payment collection where you can, as this will keep you in control of the payment process, and not your customer.
Check out our blog on easy ways to automate customer payments.
A customer who doesn’t pay is not necessarily a lost cause. By approaching the situation with empathy and professionalism, you can find a solution that works for everyone involved.
However, if you have a customer who never pays on time, take time to think of how this is affecting your business. It might be time to make some tough decisions.
Make sure you get in touch if you’d like help with getting customers to pay you, or automating your invoicing and payment process.