When I first bought my house in Florida it was hooked up to a well in the backyard instead of the city water system. Being a California boy, I thought this was pretty cool - free water - what a concept! Unfortunately, this California boy is also a geek. OK, I try to hide it by running some races and playing a mean bass guitar but start talking about computers or software and my eyes light up. Sadly, geeks and home repair don't mix, so after a few months when my sink faucet started sputtering and spitting out little bits of green slime I was stumped.
I may not know plumbing but I sure know where to find some of the smartest plumbers on the planet. After a quick phone call to one of our customers a plumber showed up at my doorstep (thanks, Mark). He showed me that due to my inattention algae had grown on the inside of my aerator tank and mineral deposits had formed on the little screen attached to the faucet (which I think he also called an aerator - although he might have just been messing with me at that point). He quickly fixed the issue and showed me how to perform a little preventative maintenance each month to prevent my system from getting clogged up again.
About five months later I get a call from the same customer looking for information on how to write off bad debt. It turns out his collection efforts were fairly similar to my previous preventative maintenance efforts - pretty much non-existent. So when I told him that ESC has a built in Collection Manager designed to keep receivables balances current he was blown away. If you haven't played with this powerful feature yet, I'm guessing you will be too.
This tool can be accessed by going to the Receivables pull-down menu and selecting Collection Manager. On the first screen of the Collection Manager you can search to find all customers that owe you money. You can refine this search to show just those customers that are over 30, 60 or 90 days past due as well. Once you have a list to work from you can sort it by clicking any of the column headers. This allows you to work the list alphabetically or by whomever owes you the most money.
To start the collection process, click a customer and select Next. This is where the magic happens. From here you can see a list of all outstanding invoices in the top portion of the screen and a list of all your collection efforts at the bottom. At the very top of the screen you will see all the phone numbers for the customer's main billing location. Give them a call and collect that money!
While you're talking to the customer you can email them a statement directly from this screen. If you need more detail about an invoice, double click it and it will be recalled on the Sales Invoicing screen where you can print, email or modify it as needed.
If you are unable to reach the customer on the phone you can select Recall Customer. This will display their information on the Customer Entry screen so you can look for additional contacts or send a collection letter via mail or email.
When you're done with your collection efforts switch back over to the Collection Manager, which has conveniently stayed open this whole time, and click Add New. This will allow you to document your collection efforts and set a follow up date if the money is still outstanding. When you're done with that you can modify the customer's Credit Rating directly on this screen if needed.
The last thing you need to do is to click the Previous button to repeat this process with the next customer on the list. Use this tool to perform a little preventative maintenance on your receivables balances - collect early and collect often. Do that and you'll never have to worry about your cash flow getting blocked again.
Written by Eric Rausin
Featured in February 2010 Newsletter