Finance News & Insights

Collecting via email or phone: Are you setting your company up for success?

For most companies, collections emails have replaced collections calls … at least when accounts first go past due.

After all they’re faster and cheaper … and a whole lot easier to ignore.

That’s unless you hit just the right opening note.

The best way to do that is for you and your A/R staff to think like a marketer. That’s the advice from the experts at Anytime Collect.

And it largely comes down to the subject line.

Gotta catch ‘em early

Highlight these strategies with your A/R staffers to help them craft a subject line that gets customers to respond (and pony up):

  1. Get specific.Studies have proven that subject lines with customer account numbers or invoice numbers helps get those emails opened. So try a subject line like: Payment Needed for Invoice Number 1234 or Account Number 1234 Payment Needed.
  2. Personalize it.No one wants to feel like a part of a mass collections email. So get the first name of your A/P contact right in the subject line. The proof it’s worth it: The open rate for emails with personalized messages was 17.6%, vs. 11.4% without personalization.
  3. Stay out of the spam filter.You and your team know not to use words like “money” or “price,” but even things like “check” or “act now” can land you in the junk file.
  4. Experiment a little.What do marketers do? They test multiple approaches to see which ones get the best response. Encourage your A/R staffers to do the same until they hit upon the winning formula.

And if you have to follow up with a phone call …

Of course, should you not get the desired effect from that email, your team will need to pick up the phone and get calling.

Nothing stops a collections call dead in its tracks faster than a customer getting defensive. At that point you can all-but kiss that call’s productivity goodbye.

But there’s a single word many A/R staffers use that could be doing just that without them even realizing it.

The word? Why:

  • “Why haven’t you paid our latest invoice?”
  • “Why didn’t you speak up about the quantity discrepancy?”

The good news is a single word swap can turn things to your company’s advantage.

 Opens up instead of shutting down

Urge your staffers to use the word “what” when they pick up the phone instead of the dreaded why:

  • “What caused you to fall behind with your account?”
  • “What happened that’s keeping you from paying this invoice now?”

That way, instead of callers putting up a wall because they feel personally attacked, you open the door to answers that give your company roads in to get paid.

It’s also a way to convey empathy – based on their response, you can find a way relate to their situation, which paves the way for smoother collections.

Armed with the best approaches for both email and phone collections, watch those agings improve.

 Adapted in part from “How to Spruce Up Collection Emails Using Marketing Tactics,” by Lindsey O’Brien, at and “5 Steps to Making a Successful Collection Call” by IC System,


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