Bad debts are becoming a significant problem for many businesses under the shadow of the recession. The solution is to nip the problem in the bud and stay on top of debtors before it threatens your own ability to pay suppliers.

It isn’t always easy to recover payments though – especially when a customer is difficult to get hold of.  When posted communications are returned, phone numbers ring unanswered or emails bounce, you may need to call in the help of a tracing agent.

Before your debts reach that critical stage, there are various actions you can take to prevent gone-aways in the first place.  Setting up accounts correctly at the beginning of a transactional relationship can help you avoid debt problems further down the line.

If you are struggling to reach a debtor, the experts at specialist tracing agency P&J offer some useful advice on confirming if your customer has genuinely disappeared.  A returned envelope in the mail doesn’t always mean your contact has moved on.  Serial debtors have become wise to using stalling tactics and won’t hesitate to return an invoice, statement or letter with ‘Addressee Unknown’ if it gives them more time.

  1. As a starting point, you should contact the Royal Mail to find out if your debtor is still at the address you have.  Most people, when they relocate, give their local post office a forwarding address to ensure continuance of mail service.  Try sending an unbranded recorded delivery to the address, as this will require a signature from the resident.
  2. Call all phone numbers (main switchboard, direct line, mobile number and past numbers if necessary) to speak to the debtor to verify if your contact is taking calls.  Call at different times of the day and call from a different number than you normally dial from.
  3. In the case of a business, e-mail multiple contacts in the company, not just your main contact.  If sending an email newsletter, check to see if the email has been opened.
  4. In the case of a business debtor, review your client’s current credit report with Companies House for updates on the company’s trading status and credit health.

In all of these cases, you must make sure you do not give any information away about your debtor in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998. �You are only looking to verify contact details, not share them.

If, after carrying out the above actions, you can’t trace your customer, a Tracing Agency can help .  They operate strictly under the law and have access to databases and third parties who can track down your debtor.  For more advice, contact P&J.