Knowing how to write a collection letter that strikes a tone between serious and personable is a critical skill for an accounts receivable clerk. Asking someone for payment is often a socially awkward thing, but if a business has provided a product or service in good faith, it is the consumer's obligation to pay. Most early debt collection letters are merely friendly reminders for payment, while later letters may take a more serious tone.
Early Collection Letters
An early debt collection letter should strive to preserve the relationship between the customer and the company; therefore, the letter should be no more than one page and should briefly explain the situation. The language of the letter should be cordial, yet firm. The letter should convey a sense of urgency to the customer in order to motivate him to take action.
Open the letter by expressing how much you value the customer's loyal patronage. Explain that the payment for the item or service has not yet been received. Include any relevant information, such as the total amount due, the date of the purchase or service and any invoice or product numbers.
Ask for payment immediately, in a professional yet urgent manner. This doesn't always have to be conveyed in a negative way. One example is to offer a small discount on the bill if the entire payment is received by a certain day. Keep the tone of the collection letter diplomatic, and choose words carefully so as not to offend. The sentences should be short and the focus clear-payment is needed now before further action is taken.
Later Collection Letters
When the first early debt collection letter has been ignored and no payment has been received, it's time to take a tougher approach. Keep the same professional tone as earlier debt collection letters, but mention the previous attempts to settle the debt. Give the consumer a firm deadline for when the payment must be received. Tell the consumer what will occur if he does not make the payment. For example, you may either turn the matter over to a collections agency or suspend the consumer's membership.
No matter what stage of collections you're in, debt collection letters are complex. You want to sound firm and unyielding, but you don't want to lose that person as a customer. When it becomes clear that the outstanding payment is an issue, a more assertive stance will usually provide satisfactory results.