If you’ve ever had to make a debt collection call to recover late payments from customers, the odds are you will have heard some, if not all, of these excuses at one time or another.  Don’t let these stalling tactics throw you. Knowledge is power and preparation is key so keep your cool and use the responses below from debt collection experts P&J to maintain control of the call and gain the commitment you need.

1. “We never received the invoice”

We’ve all heard this one.  The missing invoice is the oldest excuse in the book but have faith, it’s one of the easiest to deal with.  If you can, agree to email or fax the copy invoice to a named contact straight after the call and tell them that you will call them back to check they have received it.  Ask when the invoice will be authorised and when their next payment date is scheduled.  If the debtor only accepts original invoices in the post, make sure you send it to the right contact by name and follow up with another call a few days later.

2. “Our systems/computers are down at the moment”

This can be a frustrating excuse as your debtor may close the doors to every question you ask using their IT issues as the reason.  Be persistent in gaining information though – there are some details they should know without having to access their records.  For example, ask when they expect their system to be up and running again and what time you should call back. See if they will give you a date for their next payment run and ask for details of their standard payment procedures, frequency and terms.  Arm yourself with as much information as possible for your next call.  Technical problems rarely last more than 24 hours maximum so make sure you call them the next day.

3. “The person who authorises payment is on holiday”

Another classic stalling excuse is when the caller claims they don’t have the authority to pay you or that the person who is responsible is not available or on holiday.  Push to find out who else in the company has the authority to make payments to avoid further action (if the invoice is sufficiently overdue).  If your invoice has only just become due, get a commitment from the person on the phone that the invoice has been authorized and that a signature is the only reason for late payment. Make sure you schedule a call back and notify them of your intentions.

4. “Your cheque is in the post/you’re on the next payment run”

This is often a true statement but can be a brush off to get you off the phone as quickly as possible too.  To distinguish between the two, make sure you obtain as many details about the payment before your debtor ends the call – this will tell you if payment really has been actioned.  Ask for a cheque number or BACS payment date and ask them to confirm the amount they are paying you.  Take note of a name (first name and surname) and the date of the call too.

5. “We have cash flow problems”

Whilst this reason for delayed payment is useful information, it can feel like a hopeless situation.  You will need to get a clear idea of how serious the company’s cash flow problem is so that you can make a decision about further action should the company stop trading.  If you are told that your payment will be paid when they receive monies owed to them, press for details of who owes them, how much and when they expect to receive their remittance.  You will need to schedule regular calls with this company to stay on top of the situation and you should ideally start speaking to the head of department or senior decision-maker in the business.  Don’t leave the call until you have agreed a payment plan with your debtor to allow them to settle their invoice in installments.

For more information on how to deal with difficult debtors, visit www.pjcds.co.uk