This is a series of Q & A interviews with Nicki Kinton of NK Credit Consultancy in which PPD is looking at the typical excuses that suppliers often hear when chasing late payments, and asking Nicki how best to handle them.
Excuse #5 – Cheque is in the post
This sounds like a classic delaying tactic, based on your extensive experience how often would you say it’s likely to genuinely be the case?
It’s probably the most popular fob off in the book. Not helped by the fact that there’s a general perception that the postal service is unreliable and underperforms, therefore supporting the assertion that it’s at fault.
Assuming it is a stalling tactic, what should be the supplier’s next move?
You should ask for the date sent, by what class of postage and the cheque number. Of course, they can’t provide the latter if they’ve not sent it! If they can’t give you the cheque number ask why not? You may get some interesting reasons, be prepared to challenge them by asking if it really has been sent yet.
The post can be unreliable at times, if I were trying to delay payment my next play would be to suggest the cheque got lost in the post and to wait a while longer.
What can a supplier do to counter this kind of persistent delaying tactic?
This depends on how long ago the customer is suggesting they sent it. If only a couple of days then agree to wait a couple more (with the above details obtained). If it’s been more than a week then ask them to cancel the cheque and send a replacement BACS/Faster payment with the assurance that you will return the cheque to them or destroy it should it ever arrive.
Direct debit or bank transfer both seem like obvious work arounds but what if a customer refuses to go that route?
Unfortunately, even in this modern electronic age there are still many businesses that insist on paying by cheque. These are usually business were the owner/director feels more in control of their money by having to physically sign a piece of paper to make a payment. BACS doesn’t have quite the same feel of control and Direct Debit means relinquishing control completely!
This applies to consumers too, particularly more “senior” customers who may not be so comfortable around electronics and the internet, though this is lessening.
You have every right to refuse to accept cheques, but with that decision you have to accept that there will be some businesses or consumers who won’t want to buy your goods or services because you don’t. You need to look at your customer demographic and decide if the loss of a few late paid cheque payments would have a significant impact on your business.
Are there any circumstance in which a cheque might be a genuinely better mode of payment?
I really can’t think of any. With the advances in online and mobile banking you should be able to pay for just about anything, from anywhere. I can’t remember the last time I wrote a cheque.
A perceived advantage from the buyers’ perspective is that they delay payment, because funds aren’t taken out of their bank account until it’s presented at the bank. So even if they pay you on time, you don’t get the funds on time.
From the sellers’ perspective cheques are easily lost, do not represent cleared funds so can bounce and mean you have to physically go to the bank to pay them in.
NK Credit Consultancy Ltd offers a complete credit management solution for your business covering all the core competencies including due diligence / designing credit policies / designing terms of business / improving the accounts receivable process / ensuring compliance with consumer credit regulation and Credit Insurance Policy / establishing reasonable credit limits and payment terms and more. To contact Nicki click here.