3.3 EFFECTIVE STANDARD CHASE LETTERS

While telephone calls are usually more effective than letters in chasing bad debt, letters provide a clear record of your debt recovery efforts and would form an essential part of any legal case which may ensue. Where a large number of invoices are being chased, it may be impossible to make a telephone call to all overdue debtors. Some of the larger or more bureaucratic customers often need a physical document in order for their system to function. Therefore, standard letters should form part of any effective credit control process.

You need to decide upon how many documents, phone calls and letters you use, and when, within your debt chasing process. However, since it should include at least one phone call, an invoice and a statement, we suggest that a maximum of three chase letters is enough.

FIRST & SECOND CHASE LETTERS

  • All letters should be firm but polite in tone and should contain all relevant details of the debt, e.g. account number, invoice number and amount.
  • All letters should be as short as possible, but still contain all of the necessary information.
  • All letters should be addressed to a specific person or, failing that, a specific role such as ‘Accounts Manager’.
  • The first letter should be sent as soon as possible after the debt becomes overdue.
  • The second letter should inform the customer that it is a second letter and that the matter is becoming more urgent / serious.

EXAMPLE OF A GOOD FIRST CHASE LETTER:

27TH October 2011

Dear Mr Brown

OVERDUE ACCOUNT SJL/00256              SMITH & JONES LTD          £356.78

We note that our invoice number 1100634 (£356.78 dated 23/09/11) is now overdue for payment. Please arrange payment immediately, or contact me on the number below and advise any reason why payment should not be made.

If you have paid this invoice recently, please accept our thanks.

Yours sincerely

_____________________________________________

EXAMPLE OF A GOOD SECOND CHASE LETTER:

4TH November 2011

Dear Mr Brown

OVERDUE ACCOUNT SJL/00256              SMITH & JONES LTD          £356.78

We have not received a reply to our letter dated 27th October which requested payment for our overdue invoice number 1100634 (£356.78 dated 23/09/11).

If there is any reason why payment should not be made, please advise us immediately. Otherwise, your account is seriously overdue and you should arrange for immediate payment.

Yours sincerely

_____________________________________________

THE FINAL CHASE (7 DAY) LETTER

Regardless of how many letters or telephone calls you have in your collection process, you must always include a ‘final warning’ letter. Should the matter go legal, the court will expect one to have been sent before allowing any claim. A good final chase letter will usually result in the settlement of a legitimate claim. (A guide on the legal aspects of the use, format and content of standard debt collection letters is available from The Office of Fair Trading at www.oft.gov.uk.)

You should only ever send one final chase letter. At this stage of the proceedings, and provided you have followed a reasonable and structured chase process, a will constructed and authoritative 7 day letter will usually result in a quick  and positive response.

EXAMPLE OF A GOOD FINAL CHASE LETTER:

14TH November 2011

Dear Mr Brown

OVERDUE ACCOUNT SJL/00256              SMITH & JONES LTD          £356.78

Please be advised that your account is now seriously overdue. Despite previous reminder letters which we sent on 27TH October and 4TH November, the outstanding debt remains unpaid.

We write to advise you that, should we not receive payment within 7 days, (by 21ST November), or reasons why payment should not be made, your account will be passed to our agents with instructions to commence legal proceedings, without further notice to you.

Yours sincerely

_____________________________________________

(Please note that the periods indicated by the dates on any of these examples are not a recommendation for actual timings between letters.)

By incorporating good standard letters into your chase process you will increase your debt recovery success and improve you cash flow. You will also, by adhering to that process and maintaining accurate records, establish a firm basis for any subsequent legal actions and greatly increase your chances of a positive outcome.

If you do not have the internal structure in place to implement such a process, or you need to focus actually running your business, we can act as your complete credit control department or just chase your aged debt for you. We are experienced in all aspects of credit control and operate on a no recovery, no fee basis. Call us soon on 0161 830 0168 for informal discussion about your credit control issues and how API Debt Recovery can help your cash flow.

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