Amongst credit managers, any personal love of the summer holiday seasons is tempered with a professional apprehension about the challenges they bring. Absences during the summer holiday season can cause DSO to take a step up, and levels of outstanding debt take a temporary rise.
Invoice approvers and those responsible for making payment can be away, causing a backlog at the customer end and a cash shortfall to the vendor. To smooth out the peaks and troughs caused by seasonal absences during summer and winter, our Customer Success team recommends the following.
Their insight is based partly on their own professional experience as former credit managers and partly from working closely with award-winning credit teams in global organisations who employ best practice techniques and use the tools in Corrivo to achieve a far more constant level of collections success during problem seasons.
Here are the core strategies used to keep cash flowing during holiday absences:
- Offer convenient ways to pay
- Add notes to invoices
- Shift your processes to put in proactive reminders earlier in the cycle
- Create a seasonal chase path for late payers
- Build a list of alternate contacts or revise last year’s early in the season.
Offer convenient ways to pay
Direct Debit tends to be used for subscriptions or recurring fees rather than for variable amounts, but it doesn’t have to be. If you are not a Direct Debit Originator, then there is an overhead to setting this up but, being able to collect payment for invoices, even for variable amounts, can eradicate a lot of the problems collections teams face.
There is a master or framework agreement or a continuous supply order, which can be an effective tool. Some of our clients have contracts with customers to supply items monthly for a year, and the quantities shipped can vary, but the arrangement is for the supplier invoices quarterly, not after every small order has been put through. In these cases, collection of invoice totals could be a way forward.
Another option is to accept card payments on your invoice portal. Even if businesses typically pay by bank transfer, there are occasions when one-off payments can save the customer time. This comes into its own during collections calls as the credit manager can encourage the customer to pay online while they are on the phone.
It doesn’t even have to be for an overdue invoice. Proactive or courtesy calls to customers to update your contact details, for example, could be a chance to ask a friendly question about holiday plans and suggest that card payments might be a solution.
Add notes to invoices
Not all software makes it easy to add anything to an invoice that is not related to the order. However, nothing is stopping you from sending an accompanying letter or small flyer with the invoice.
In Corrivo, this is achieved by sending a message on the invoice delivery notification or by attaching an additional document to the invoice. Any number of associated documents, such as proof of delivery notes, can be made available to the customer with the invoice, and they can be downloaded as one document or separate ones.
Shifting processes to include earlier reminders
Making reminders calls before invoices are due is especially helpful around the time of summer vacations. A friendly chat can result in the necessary information to understand where there is an increased risk of late payment.
In Corrivo, users can set up scheduled reminders letters to go out automatically a set number of days after the invoice was issued. In the case of letters, typically, the customer receives an email notification that they have a letter to collect, and they click a secure link in the email to read it online. This takes them to the supplier’s branded invoice portal, where they can view or download the letter. The credit controller can check the status of the letter and can see when the letter was accessed.
Knowing the customer received the notification, went to the portal and read the letter may be enough to reassure them that the customer has made plans to pay on time. This means they only need to step in and call if the reminder letter has been sent but not seen.
Create a seasonal chase path
Chase paths are the sequence or process of steps that are set to run for overdue invoices. When an invoice becomes overdue, a reminder letter or a Dunning letter can be set to be created either to be sent automatically or sent on approval by the credit manager. In addition to letters, chase paths can be designed to include scheduled calls. The credit controller is presented with a list of scheduled calls to make and letters to approve.
Even if there is typically a reminder letter on or just before the invoice due date, during certain times of the year, Corrivo users can switch the accounts over to a ‘summer’ chase path.
Those same reminder letters are sent earlier in the invoice to cash cycle. They can just as easily switch them back later. The same summer chase path might include extra scheduled calls. This is a more labour intensive process for the credit team, but it is a necessary adjustment to even out the peaks and troughs in collections.
Updating alternate contact lists.
During the pandemic, a great many AR teams found it necessary to revise the contact details for their customers’ accounts payable teams. As some office phones were diverted to VOIP calls on laptops, the customer could still be reached in some cases. However, the majority of phone numbers for AP managers were instantly useless as businesses started working remotely. Consequently, additional points of contact, email addresses and mailing addresses have been gathered.
In Corrivo, you can keep all the primary and additional contacts’ details against a customer account for us in just these situations. When the person you would normally contact is unavailable. Making friendly calls to check that those details are still accurate can tease out the information about holiday absences.
In most cases, our clients tell us, the accounts payable teams have their roles covered, but hold-ups can occur when the person that needs to approve an invoice is not there, and their alternates are not authorised to approve invoices in their stead. At least by knowing that this might be a problem, expectations can be set internally about the risk of late payment.
To find out more about the ways Corrivo helps credit managers achieve consistently strong performance in their roles, contact me for a quick product tour or read more on our website.