It might seem like an obvious question, but the first thing to establish before you chase somebody for payment is whether or not they actually owe you anything.
Although that sounds like it would be pretty clear, it’s not always that simple – you might have sent the invoice to the wrong place, or forgotten to send it at all, or simply missed the payment when it came into your account.
These are the hallmarks of good and bad credit control; ensuring that invoices are correct and are received by the customer, and checking that payments received correspond to those invoices so they can be ticked off in your records.
You might also have a problem if a customer has disputed the goods or services delivered, or the amount of money stated on the invoice – so if you receive any enquiries about such things, make sure to investigate promptly so a corrected invoice can be issued if necessary.
However, a customer should not retrospectively use a ‘dispute’ as an excuse for not paying, if they never raised that dispute with you when the invoice was first sent out.
When it comes to chasing for money you are owed, it is still essential to know all of the details mentioned above, as it helps to put you in control of pursuing the payment.
For instance, if you know the precise amount owed, when the invoice was issued, when the deadline elapsed and who the correct individual is who should be authorising the payment, it should be much easier to approach that individual – whether on the phone or in writing – and ask where your money is.
In some instances (genuinely) it is an oversight, or a scheduling error, or some other minor mistake that is easily fixed, and you will receive your money immediately when you have notified the client – but these instances are admittedly quite rare.
You might have to wait for the customer’s accounts department’s next scheduled payments date, and if these are only once a month that could theoretically mean waiting a few weeks beyond your agreed deadline date – but again, if this is a genuine reason, you should really expect to see the payment within a few days of going overdue.
When you are owed money with no indication that payment is impending, then you might want to consider more formal action – and a debt recovery company can help by making the necessary phone calls and sending out strongly worded letters.
These genuinely work in a large number of cases, even without the threat of court action; so if you are owed money, it’s time to tool up and go to work pursuing the debtor for payment.