How Creditors Communicate with Customers
By Kendall Payton, editorial associate NACM
Creditors do everything possible to ensure timely payment from customers, but collections often come down to effective communication. However, communication in the business world has evolved over recent years as we moved from face-to-face conferences to Zoom and Teams meetings—which raises a question: Do customers respond better to certain communication methods over others?
Different contact methods induce different feelings. For example, a phone call expresses more urgency than an email, and text messages are viewed as more casual and are traditionally reserved for personal relationships.
According to a recent eNews poll, most credit professionals (75%) use email as their primary form of communication with customers, while 21% use phone calls the most often. “Nowadays, everybody uses email as a primary and preferred method of communication because it is fast, easy and there’s a paper trail,” said Yazmin Yepez, CBF, CCRA, CICP, credit supervisor at Mitsubishi Electric Automation, Inc. (Vernon Hills, IL).
But the way you decide to contact a customer will depend on the message you are trying to send. For example, if a customer has to pay a large amount of money in a certain number of days, a phone call would be a better way to express the urgency of a payment. “There is no better way to get emotion across than with a live conversation,” Yepez added.
Email is one of the most commonly understood means of communication because it has been around for a long time and is efficient, which is why it is still so popular. Email is especially helpful for creditors who need to send and receive large amounts of documentation, said Nanci Levin, credit analyst at Argos USA LLC (Irving, TX). “My primary means of communications with customers is email for sure. I can send them a quick email with requests for information, attach anything that’s needed and it allows them to hopefully address it when they have a free minute.”
Text messages are only used by 2% of credit professionals as their most common method of communication with customers. But it is useful for fast responses and is becoming more common in business.
“People are more apt to respond to texts because it’s quick,” said Douglas Swafford with NACM Southern Valley. “Email communication isn’t that old, but someone may or may not answer depending on whether the subject line catches their attention. Some emails can be sent into junk mail which can cause issues as well.” On the other hand, “text is clearer and to the point,” he added.
Customers in the consumer credit arena have long received text messages for missed payment reminders. But B2B relationships are often more complicated than B2C relationships, so it is unclear if text reminders would work the same way in trade credit.
“Text can be invading for customers in terms of payment or collecting purposes, crossing the private line,” Yepez said. “Regardless of the age of the recipient, business is business. All communication must be respectful and professional.” Given the many reports of U.S. postal system delays and lost mail, its reliability comes into question. “Postal service for us is definitely a no. We typically don’t even mail invoices or statements anymore,” she added.
The age of your customer is still a factor to consider when communicating. “Gen Z and Millennials are willing to spend an average of 134 minutes on a customer support call,” reads an article from Inc. “Boomers and Gen X, however, will drop the call after just eight minutes. … This has implications for the different sets of customer priorities companies need to consider as they address pain points and generate better experiences for both audiences.”
“… while young B2B customers love communicating over things like email, texting and Slack, Boomers predictably avoid these options,” the article continues. “So how can a B2B company deliver on the speed that Boomers demand, without relying on the same modern solutions their Gen Z counterparts prefer? The answer lies in a human touch.”