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Every business owner suffers from late payments at some point in their business journey. But when it comes to the point when you need to pick up the phone, it’s never a nice conversation to have. To make asking for payment over the phone less awkward, here is everything you need to know.

When do you need to pick up the phone?

When you’ve sent sufficient email reminders and you haven’t received a detailed response explaining why the payment is late or when to expect the payment, it’s time to pick up the phone. Other times include not receiving a response at all and/or informing the client that the situation may have to be escalated to debt collection.

What do you need to make the call?

Before you make any calls, make sure you have everything you need to lead the conversation and resolve it quickly. For example, check the information is correct and up to date as they may have already paid, and have the right information to hand. Make sure you know the invoice reference number, amount, what goods/services the invoice is for, issue date and payment due date, how many days the invoice is overdue, and the time and date of the email reminders you’ve already sent.

What do you say? 

Money is always a sensitive topic to talk about, so remain calm and polite at all times on the phone call and stay focussed on the result that you want. Be understanding and empathetic with the client; this will make it easier to reach a solution.

If you’re worried about what to say on the call, you can prepare for it beforehand. It is likely that your client hasn’t paid for one of these 6 reasons:

  • They forgot – be understanding but ask, now that you have them on the phone, if they are in a position to make the payment now. If they’re not, make sure to agree on a date when they will pay it and note this in your system.
  • The invoice wasn’t right – ask the client to explain the problem and if there is one, update the invoice and resend it to them. If they’ve misunderstood, explain the misunderstanding and ask if there’s anything you can do to help facilitate the payment.
  • They didn’t receive it – confirm their email address and if it’s the right one, explain that X number of reminders have been sent on these dates at these times. Ask them to check their spam just in case they haven’t seen them and enquire whether they can make the payment now over the phone. If not, agree on when you can expect the payment to be made and make a note in your system.
  • It hasn’t been approved – be understanding that approving the invoice is out of their control and ask if there were any issues or queries with the invoice for it to be left unapproved? If there are no issues, ask if it may be approved today since the invoice is overdue by X number of days.
  • They are not at the office – ask if they can make the payment now over the phone. If not, find out when they will be back in the office and agree on when the payment will be made.
  • They’ve already paid – apologise for the inconvenience and ask them to confirm when the payment was made. If you don’t know whether they’ve made the payment, let them know that you’ll check this ASAP. If you know that they haven’t, ask them to please double check that the payment went through on their end.

Of course, if it is not for any of these reasons and they simply can’t or won’t pay then you need to respond to the specific situation which you have in front of you.  You don’t need to feel on the spot – you can always listen to what they have to say and say that you will call them back once you have had chance to consider what they have said.  It may be that in these cases, a firmer line needs to be taken or it needs to be escalated.

Prevent having to have these conversations in the first place

Nobody wants to pick up the phone and chase money if they don’t have to, so focus on improving your credit control process. This will prevent you from having to have a lot of these conversations in the first place.

Automating your invoicing and email reminders will avoid many late payments, but there will always be one or two phone calls that you’ll need to make. After all, anyone can ignore emails, but it’s much harder to ignore someone over the phone!

At The Bookkeeping Department we help businesses set up their credit control systems or we provide a service we do it for you.  If we can help you, please contact us on Tel: 01462 455455 or email