Practical Tips For Writing Effective Credit & Collection Letters
Writers of any business correspondence have to know how to influence others to see their point of view. The key in credit letter writing is that the letters must be especially well-written since they are supposed to encourage a reluctant debtor to do something they don't want to do - pay up!
With that in mind, here are some principals off effective business letter-writing:
Avoid Business English
Any book or seminar on letter writing will stress a conventional approach to business correspondence. Unfortunately, standard or conventional collection
letters are frequently ignored. One way to improve letter-writing skills is to save copies of letters that you feel are especially effective. From time to time, you should each of your form letters and revise them in order to make them as effective as possible.
Experienced credit professionals know that effective letters:
- Are concise, direct and easy to understand.
- Request immediate action.
- Include all relevant information.
- Have all relevant documentation attached.
- If appropriate, give the debtor company a face-saving way out.
Are there paragraphs, sentences or even words that do not contribute to accomplishing the goal of the letter? If so, remove them. Less is sometimes better.
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Recommendation: Rarely is a carefully crafted credit or collection letter more than one page.
A credit or collection letter can reference other documents (with copies attached). Supporting documentation should be attached to remove excuses for additional delays in payment.
Minimize Form Letters
Every businessperson recognizes that form letters are a useful shortcut. Form letters can be most effective when they do not look like form letters - when they are personalized. If a nonpersonalized form letter is used, the recipient will probably dismiss the creditor as not a serious threat since the method of delivering the message is so weak and impersonal.
With the widespread use of personal computers, it is normally possible -- even simple -- to customize and personalize letters that are, generally speaking, form letters. With that in mind, there are very few good reasons to use a form letter that looks like a form letter to the reader.
Be a Salesperson
Many credit professionals do not view themselves as having much in common
with salespeople. However, if creditors are going to collect using letters, those letters must sell the idea that it is in the debtor's best interest to pay the creditor as soon as possible. The reader should be told how cooperation is in the best interest of all parties concerned.
Misuse of Tone
All the facts contained in the letter may be correct. The creditor may be justified in sending a letter to the debtor; yet the reader may take the letter the wrong way. Why? Perhaps the letter rubbed the debtor the wrong way. Some common problems are that the letter:
The tone of a letter should avoid unnecessarily antagonizing the debtor, no matter how severe the collection problem.
Observation: A professional approach displayed in the credit letter will further support the facts contained in the letter and the serious nature of the problem. Therefore, the debtor should be more likely to respond appropriately.
- Is more demanding or threatening than required.
- Stresses the creditor's needs more than the debtor's.
- Conveys a condescending attitude.
- Repeats points.
- Is discourteous.
- Is unprofessional.
- Lacks tact.
- Is not truthful.
- Is not accurate.
One of the most useful and powerful sections of our site is our Download area, which contains letters and templates to help you in all phases of the collection process.
One such area focuses on Other Effective Letters used in the credit process. Click here to peruse the many helpful letters and downloads in this section.