“Covid-19 has exacerbated the problem of late payment for many small and medium-sized businesses” – Eddie Nott, Ireland Managing Director, Intrum

Business, Guest Blog | Mon 12 Apr | Author – Business & Finance

Eddie Nott, Ireland Managing Director, Intrum, gives guidance on how to collect outstanding payments in difficult times. Intrum is a global credit management specialising in debt collection and ledger management with 10,000 employees and 80,000 clients across 25 countries. 

Covid-19 has exacerbated the problem of late payment for many small and medium-sized businesses. Not getting paid on time – or at all – means companies are struggling to pay their staff, unable to expand in the ways they intended and may even find their survival is threatened. The Covid-19 pandemic has led to many holding onto these invoices longer than usual – afraid to push for payment. While that’s understandable, doing so lowers the potential for recovery in the long term.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Properly executed, credit management and collections activities can enhance customer loyalty and cement long-term relationships instead of torpedoing them. Customers remember that they were treated sensitively and fairly when things were tough. Yet this level of activity can be time consuming and requires expertise that many small businesses don’t have in-house. Often, credit management is only part of a member of staff’s role. They lack the time and the specialist technology needed.

Automation has made tracing those evading debts, engaging with customers and negotiating payment much more effective on smaller scales. 

In the past, companies required large volumes of invoices before it became sensible to seek outside help. That is no longer the case. Automation has made tracing those evading debts, engaging with customers and negotiating payment much more effective on smaller scales. Now, systems can easily cope with issues such as multiple invoices owed by one customer, as well as blending dialler technology with manual case management, speech analytics and contract tracing to find missing customers.

It is important that this technology is backed by teams that understand the intricacies of credit management and the distress debt can cause. At Intrum, our call centre team specialises in helping customers in debt on behalf of large financial institutions. With a net promoter score of +59, for the past seven years we have achieved gold standard Investors in Customers ratings, giving businesses the assurance that the customers they wish to retain are in safe hands.

Of course, there are always those customers who just won’t pay. In certain circumstances legal action is appropriate to protect your business and its cash flow. Other options include reconnection – with field services available to engage with customers face to face.

These problems are exacerbated when the business is cross border, which is why it’s useful to engage a provider adept at collections in multiple jurisdictions. Our Ireland-based multi-lingual team acts as a conduit for collection of payment across Europe and beyond.

Getting paid on time means companies can expand their products and investment, hire more employees and invest in digital strategies and geographic expansion. Ultimately, they can focus on the core business and not the missing cash. Outsourcing early can make all the difference – with solutions for the full debt lifecycle, from ledger management and early arrears to legal strategies where appropriate.

“Effective collections activity boosts cash flow while retaining key relationships, whether the invoice is one day late or the account is in long-term arrears.”

Rising risk from late payment

Intrum’s annual European Payment Report surveys almost 10,000 businesses across 29 countries. In 2020, Irish businesses braced themselves for historic challenges caused by the pandemic: 51% said late payment was hindering strategic growth initiatives, 73% had accepted longer payment terms than they felt comfortable with and 46% of those did so to avoid their own bankruptcy.