What is Credit Management?
Why is Credit Management & Control Important?
Late payment and payment default situations happen with alarming frequency – it’s critical to the financial health of your company to minimize them. Customers who fail to pay their invoices or drag their feet in paying can directly jeopardize the survival of your business, which is why having a credit management system is important.
Many businesses find it challenging to properly evaluate and track the creditworthiness of new customers. And when conducting business with foreign customers, customer risk management becomes even more complex because it can be difficult to interpret and rely on information used by foreign countries to measure creditworthiness.
Solving the challenge is a must: One in five business bankruptcies among small-to-medium enterprises occurs due to customers that default on their invoices. And though medium and large companies are better equipped to absorb a loss, non-payment events can still destroy their profit and spoil growth plans.
By employing effective credit management procedures, you can help your business bring in the revenue it’s entitled to and ensure long-term business continuity.
Credit Management Best Practices
Credit Management Begins with Contract Management
When it comes to contracts, be sure to state in writing the delivery and payment conditions, and also discuss any provisions in the agreement. This is where you can indicate whether certain conditions apply and that you do not accept any other conditions. As a starting point, you can check with your trade association for the conditions typically used by your industry. Upon entering into the contract, we also advise asking a lawyer to review the conditions. It also may make sense to be up front with your customers and make them aware in your contract and invoicing that you are credit insured. Doing so makes clear that there are greater consequences in the event of late payment or non-payment.
Also, verify that the person who signs for each receipt has the proper authority and ask for a company stamp on the receipt.
Credit Management & Accounts Receivable Collections
- Your company name, address and telephone number along with a contact name
- The right company name and address of your customer and the right customer contact person
- The nature and quantity of the goods or services
- The price in the appropriate currency
- The agreed-upon payment period
- Your bank account number
- Also print your terms on the back of the invoice
If payment has not already been received, calling customers right before or on the due date of an can be handled by the accounting department or the sales department, depending on the relationship with each customer. This call confirms the products you delivered and that the invoice has been received. In addition to facilitating the payment process, this step also provides good customer service to make sure everything is OK. This step can also prevent if your cilent is not satisfied with the delievery - while there's still time to rectify the issue. You can even consider offering your customer a small discount if they pay by the due date.
Are A/R risks holding your business back?
How to Develop a Strategic Credit Management Procedure for Late Payments
Not all customers pay their bills within the agreed-upon payment period, so be sure to have an effective credit management policy for late payments. In the event of late payments, call the customer and follow up with a written reminder that you are expecting payment within a reasonable time, such as one week.
If payment still does not come through, you can then send a warning and eventually a formal written notice. This typically asks for payment within two business days and presents a specific date by which the money must be received before legal proceedings will commence. Given the costs associated with late payments, also consider adding fees to account for collection and interest costs.
- The total amount due
- The payment periods
- The specific dates on which payments must be received
- Your bank account number and other routing information—if payments will be wired/transferred electronically
With a credit management system , you should also monitor the customer’s progress. Are they complying with the rules? Is there any possibility they are on the verge of bankruptcy? Also, inform your credit rating agency. Late payments by your customer may have implications on your own creditworthiness, which underscores the importance of having a credit control procedure in place. Being credit insured means your carrier will handle follow-up and collections of late payments, which, in addition to saving you time and effort, can also help preserve your customer relationship by removing you from contentious discussions.
Begin the Credit Management Process By Researching the Creditworthiness of Customers
Of course, the gold standard data for understanding your customers' financial position is their audited financial statements. Some privately held customers may be willing to share these with you upon request, but many will not. If you have a credit insurer, your odds of having indirect access to these statements increases - customers respect the market power of an insurer and they typically offer confidentiality agreements to put them at ease that specifics will not be shared with the end customer. A customer credit vetting tool like Allianz Trade TradeScore can help. Learn the financial health of your customer today!
Document and Evaluate Your Credit Management Process
Communicate your credit management process to other departments within the company to ensure the tasks and responsibilities of individuals in other departments are clear to everyone. In some cases, they may be able to play a key role in collecting invoice payments. Also set clear limits on required actions from other departments and make people accountable. Evaluate periodically as to how well your credit management process meets the needs of the organization.
Be sure to review each customer with a frequency that aligns with the perceived risk that the particular buyer presents and its potential for default. Be careful not to hold a bias because of personal relationships. Just because you have a good relationship with a customer, doesn’t mean they won’t default.
Set Ambitious Customer Credit Management Goals
The value of an effective credit management policy is sometimes underestimated: Done well, it avoids unnecessary risks, creates opportunities for improvement, and frees up your company’s working capital for critical business investments. It thus makes sense to set ambitious goals and actions, measure your performance periodically, and apply change when necessary.
A few examples of objectives you can establish for strategic credit management:
- Identify the average Days Sales Outstanding in your industry.
- Lower your Days Sales Outstanding (average number of days invoices go unpaid) to X number of days within a given period (your findings from the objective above can help you determine a sensible benchmark).
- Reduce the number of bad debts and annual depreciation.
- Compare your results with those of industry peers.
- Maintain a healthy diversification of buyer portfolio.
Keep Improving on your Customer Credit Control Procedures
Common Credit Control Policy Mistakes to Avoid
Using the Same Strategy for All Customers
- Set clear payment terms and take the time to understand how their procedures align with your expectations.
- Make sure you have a signed written agreement that clarifies all expectations. This makes it harder for a customer to use confusion or misunderstanding as an excuse for non-payment.
- Learn if any specific information needs to be included or procedures followed when invoicing.
- Know whom to contact to address late-payments or other concerns.
Passive/Antagonistic Payment Management
When collecting payments, be assertive but polite. Be ready to pick up the phone and include your sales team and account managers in the process. When they do pay, always send the customer a thank you to acknowledge receipt and maintain a good relationship.
Allianz Trade: A Trusted Partner In Customer Credit Management
Learn more about trade credit insurance from Allianz Trade to supplement your customer credit management process.
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