Any AR professional has heard, “the check is in the mail” or, “It is on the way” or some other version of that statement. So when you hear it, do you believe it? Most customers might truly mean it, but there are some who say that knowing they check is not on the way and simply trying to buy themselves more time.
There are some accounts receivable procedures that can help you handle this conversation in a way that will get you the information you need without harming your relationship with your customers. Whether you think the check is really in the mail or not, there are a few follow up questions you may want to ask after you hear that the check is in the mail, especially from customers who have a less than stellar track record. By following this procedure, you can slowly weed out the customers with good intentions from the customers with not so good intentions.
Think about following up with these questions with the following questions:
- When was the check mailed? If I do not see it by XXXX I will follow up with you, ok?
- Who mailed the check? In case I need to clarify they send it to the correct address.
- What invoices were being paid with that check?
- How much was the check for?
- Where was it mailed? Anyone’s attention? That will help me track it down once it gets to our office.
- Always confirm bank, type of account, check number, and the date on the check.
It’s important not to fire off these questions like you’re interrogating them. If you do, they will know your suspicions are raised. For a customer who truly did put the check in the mail this will be very off putting to them and come off as rude. Ask these questions in a more conversational manner and assure them you simply need this information in order to process the check and close the open balance. They will feel less attacked and be more open to answering your questions if you approach them nicely.
Another approach is to eliminate the need for paper checks altogether. Waiting on checks in the mail or cashing checks can be a pain and actually extend the invoice to cash cycle. If you start using online bill pay options, customer can pay you immediately using a credit card. This eliminates the excuse of “the checks in the mail” and the added tasks that goes along with it, like asking follow up questions to determine if the customer is sincere.