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5 Strategies to Keep Customers Paying on Time

June 13, 2010

from American Express OPEN FORUM

When a customer is behind in paying you, it can create an unhappy situation on both sides. No one wants to be making or receiving a call regarding late payment.  By taking some steps toward more efficient invoicing, you may be able to improve both timeliness of payments and customer relations.

The following are five ways to help keep your customers paying on time:

1. Provide payment options
To help speed payment, let customers pay by whatever method they prefer. Give them the option of using checks, electronic funds transfer, credit cards or debit cards. When possible, use ACH payments, which transfer funds electronically and can save you the time it takes to deposit checks. In particular, offering the convenience of paying online can make this task easier for customers.

2. Use a written contract
A clearly written contract or statement of work — including the product or service to be provided as well as the price and payment terms — can help to avoid misunderstandings. When details are ironed out from the start, payment is likely to be made more quickly and with fewer hitches.

3. Provide updates
If you foresee a delay in fulfilling an order or shipment or a change in what will be delivered, alert customers early about the issue and explain your plan to manage the situation. This approach eliminates surprises near the delivery time and provides an opportunity to communicate about changes in scope and pricing that might delay payment later on.

4. Offer quick payment incentives
Giving a small discount to customers who pay within a specified period of time — for example, 2% for payment within 10 days — can significantly shorten your payment cycle. Also establish a late payment fee or interest for invoices that are not paid on time. Post your terms on your web site and include them on every invoice.

5. Follow up
Once a project is completed or an item is shipped, follow up with a call or email to see if your customers like what they received. This is a good customer service practice because it demonstrates your interest in their satisfaction. It can also help to identify any issues that might delay payment.

This article is taken from an Insight Guide on how to Improve Invoicing and Payment Processes.  

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