The First Collection Letter
The First Letter — The first letter should be merely a courteous reminder that the account is overdue. It is well to assume that failure to settle the account promptly is due to an oversight. Do not intimate that you have any doubt of the customer's intention or ability to pay.
It is often a good plan to inject a special sales paragraph in the first letter, telling in a friendly way about goods in which the customer might be interested. The object of such a paragraph is not so much to make sales as to appeal for payment by means of a friendly attitude, though letters so constructed often accomplish both objects.
Here is an example of a courteous, businesslike reminder to which no customer could take offense.
Is this your understanding?
Our records show that the terms on which you purchased (quantity and style of product) were $125.15, less 2 % payable in ten days or net in thirty days from the date of invoice. But no payment has yet been received.
Apparently the account has escaped the attention of your Bookkeeping Department or possibly we are in some way at fault. In order to have your account promptly adjusted so that it will not appear overdue. Please use the enclosed envelope for the payment or for some explanation on which we may base a satisfactory adjustment.
May we hear from you before the 25th, the day on which we again take up overdue accounts?
Notice how this letter presents the matter fully, firmly and yet tactfully to the past due debtor. The opening paragraph — but one sentence — makes a frank and friendly appeal for a get-together spirit. The letter in no way censures the reader for his tardiness. It merely calls his attention to the fact that the account has not been paid and should be immediately adjusted. This letter is particularly noteworthy, because it gets entirely away from the hackneyed terms remittance and check to balance.
Here is another letter sent out by one of the largest manufacturing concerns in the country to its dealers. This, too, shows a clear understanding of the customer's position.
Just as a strictly business proposition, the $63.85 you owe us should have been paid sometime ago.
However, circumstances don't permit a man to live up to his agreements in every instance. We understand how poor collections, slow business and the like sometimes prevent a man from paying when he expects to.
But in order that we may know positively that you have good reasons for not paying, we ask that you write us what the cause has been. Then we won't form the wrong opinion of you.
The number of days this account is past due makes it imperative that it be paid by the 20th of this month. Please arrange to send us your check for $63.85 on or before that date.
Yours very truly,
Picture the feelings of a small country dealer, hard pressed himself by poor collections and perhaps finding business coming none too plentifully, when he receives a courteous letter like this one that so completely realizes his difficulties. The dealer may rightfully feel that the manufacturer is desirous of extending every possible consideration to him, if he honestly requires an extension. And observe how the letter forestalls objections and deftly asks for a satisfactory explanation or the money. This is an instance where the letter is successful because the collection man really knows the man that he is writing to and can sympathize with him.
The following is a rather brief, but very effective letter.
Your cashier has probably overlooked or mislaid our recent statement showing $40.32 for invoice of September 15.
Aside from the fact that the bill is due and therefore ought to be paid, we would like the money and shall appreciate the prompt action we are confident you will take.
By the way, we have on hand about 250 reams of bond paper that we bought before the recent advance in price. We are offering this to our customers at 9c. Examine carefully the sample and you will be convinced that this is a bargain at the price. Why not include an order for some of this paper along with your reply?
Very truly yours,
And here is another short, but pointed first letter.
This will remind you of the statement of your account sent you on October 15, amounting to $87.29.
The balance is now somewhat overdue and we ask that you let us have your check in settlement by early mail.
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