General Controls to Keep Your Cash Flow Steady
Have you noticed a decline in prompt payments from customers?
How can you take back control?
Keeping a steady cash flow is difficult in good economic times and a real challenge when recessionary pressures set in. A domino effect occurs when your customers fail to pay your company on time – resulting in your company’s inability to pay its creditors on time. To keep your cash flow positive and sufficient to cover your company’s bills, you must implement some general controls as a part of your credit policy.
Be aware of slowing payments – This is a big red flag! Watch for any signs of deterioration in paying habits. While one late payment may not break the bank, a late payment shows a disregard for your company’s payment terms – such that even one late payment does justify a polite nudge to the customer. The nudge can be a compliment such as, “thank you for the payment,” combined with a reminder of your payment terms, “please keep in mind the payment terms.”
Be ready to respond to customer bad habits – Communicate with your customers. Let them know slowdowns in payment habits aren’t acceptable, and prompt them to make payments. After a second late payment, inform the customer that you may have to take steps to correct late payment habits, such as suspending their credit terms.
Be considerate, yet firm – No need to panic and ruin a relationship at this point. Your communication at this stage is still very polite, yet firm enough to display your dissatisfaction – such as notifying your customer that a privilege, such as favorable credit terms or 24/7 availability of goods or services, may be suspended until your confidence in their payment habits is restored.
Be prepared to reduce a line of credit, require cash on delivery (COD), or cut off deliveries or services – if a customer is paying invoices more and more slowly, don’t get yourself in any deeper. You don’t want or need the added credit exposure.
Let your customer know you’re following established credit policies that require specific responses to deterioration in payment habits, including reduction and possible elimination of credit terms. The “it’s nothing personal – it’s just business” approach can help you avoid sending bad vibrations to a customer you’re simply trying to nudge back on track.
Be honest in your communications – If you threaten to act if you don’t get what you’ve asked for, be prepared to do it.
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