Many companies respond to payment problems by setting up credit control departments or out-sourcing debt to collection agencies (what a great way to build a relationship with your customers). As problems with collections increase, so does the volume of work.

When an organisation has problems with credit control there are two areas that require immediate management attention:

1. What is causing the failure to pay? (A ‘system’ problem)

2. How can we resolve customer concerns in a way that creates value or at least minimises customer dissatisfaction?

The first will require an analysis of the causes for failure to pay accounts, and it should take place in ‘our time’, not the customers’ (involving the customer in protracted time-wasting will only worsen the situation). Studying the causes of failure to pay can be used to redesign whatever it is that is causing the problems, to improve the system’s performance in the future. The customer should remain unaffected while this work goes on.

The second requires someone to call the customer immediately in order to understand the nature of the customer’s problem, to show the customer that the problem is understood and to agree a resolution to the problem, or at least to make a commitment to call back and honour it. This may mean putting the best people into the front line and/or ensuring they can access whatever resources they need to in the organisation to get it sorted. Often such ‘fast resolution’ designs have a great impact on customers.

But that’s not the prize. Designing out the causes is. It produces big numbers: less debt, greater efficiency, happier customers and so even greater unknowable numbers.