Good credit control doesn't end when you put down the phone after a chasing call or hit "send" on your email - in order to keep on top of it, you'll need to make sure you have a full set of notes for each debtor account, logging every call made, every email sent and every response (or lack of) from your customer.
Hopefully you'll never have to use them for this purpose, but your notes could be extremely valuable if you ever have to go down the legal route to get paid. Aside from this, they can also give you a guide as to the best time to contact your customers, for example times to avoid because of lunch breaks, or contacts who work only mornings, afternoons or on specific days. They could even be the first indicator that something may be amiss with your customer, such as a sudden increase in them being in meetings, or their phone line constantly ringing out or going to voicemail with your calls not being returned. This could be a sign that the customer is reluctant to speak to you because of cash flow issues, or even that they have ceased trading.
Of course, for this to start showing as a pattern, you need to be noting down everything. If you ring and it's engaged or no one answers, note that down. If you ring and leave a message, don't forget to say whether the message was on voicemail or left with a colleague - it may be a genuine case of their co-worker not passing on phone messages.
So, what should you include in your note to get the most information out of it next time it's looked at? As well as logging the date and time of your call, it should be able to answer three questions:
1. What did you ring for?
2. What was the outcome of your call?
3. What is the next action needed on this account?
"Rang to get a payment date on overdue invoice 456. Was put through to Wendy's extension - went straight to voicemail so left message for her to ring me back. Call back tomorrow if she doesn't return my call."
Nice and concise...but not too concise - I have seen notes that simply said, "Left message," and left the rest to guesswork! It doesn't need to be an essay, but anyone who looks at that note would know enough to be able to pick up where you left off with the credit control calls.
Now, where to log these notes. If you use an online accounting package, such as QuickBooks or Xero, there are add-ons you can use that, along with sending out automated reminder emails and statements to your customers, will also allow you to log your own call notes and callback reminders. A few examples are Satago, Debtor Daddy, InvoiceSherpa and Chaser. Alternatively, there are several online CRM packages that can be used to enter notes and flag up when it's time to make that follow-up call. You could try looking at Capsule, Insightly or ZohoCRM, among others. Both types of package should have the option to link into your email account, so any email reminders will be logged with no further effort on your part. A final option would be to use a spreadsheet, but you would need to manually enter details of any email conversations into these, as well as a manual follow-up reminder note.
Once you're in the habit of making these notes, you should soon start to see which customer accounts need consistent reminders in order to get paid, and if you ever have a change of credit controller, the handover should run much more smoothly as they'll know exactly what's been happening on each account.
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