ON the other hand it is equally important that you consider the debtor first of all as a customer, that his friendly patronage be retained if it is possible to do so and that he be granted any reasonable extensions in time that he may ask.
A customer’s trade is valuable to you until he has shown by a persistent ignoring of your requests for settlement that he cannot or does not intend to voluntarily pay his bills.
Under those circumstances his business is not desirable to you in the future and you are perfectly justified in a more stern demand for settlement or in taking any legal steps that may seem necessary.
Steering a middle course between these two principles—a business-like consideration of the debt and endeavor to retain the customer’s trade—the collection letter may be made as cordial and dignified a communication as any other kind of letter.
Ordinarily four letters gradually increasing in urgency are sufficient to determine any debtor’’ position. When more than this number are used your efforts are spread over too much surface—you run out of ammunition before you reach your climax.
A furniture house which had fears of hurting its customer’s feelings with too sudden a request for cash, got up a series of eleven collection letters. These letters increased in urgency from the first till the sixth then became timid again in the seventh and eighth and not until the eleventh did the process reach the legal stage.
Now the trouble with this scheme was that once the customer caught on to the game, he never had any more fear of those threatening fifth and sixth letters. He deliberately waited until the ninth or tenth had come and then paid his bill, sixty days’ credit to the good.
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