How to ask for payment over the phone

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    Credit control & accounts receivables

    How to ask for payment over the phone


    One in every ten invoices in the UK is paid late and the sad fact is that these late payments disproportionately impact small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

    SMEs in the UK are currently owed around £50 billion in unpaid invoices and the impact of these late payments can be disastrous.

    Cash flow is the lifeblood of the small business and having that cash flow cut off by unpaid invoices leads to around 90 per cent of SME liquidations.

    As a leader in the field of cloud credit control with more than eight years of experience in the field, we’ve helped thousands of small businesses tackle the issue of late payments.

    Our automated payment reminders have helped our users collect around 80 per cent of their outstanding invoices and get them paid, on average 16-days sooner.

    Our automated payment reminders have helped out users collect around 80 per cent of their outstanding invoices and get them paid, on average 16-days sooner.

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    Chaser's award-winning automated cloud-based platform also saves our users around 15 hours per week on credit control management tasks.

    While automated email chasing using our effective email templates will get you most of the way there, there’s no getting around the fact that sometimes you’ll have to pick up the phone and ask for payment.

    We’ve already offered some advice on how to avoid difficult conversations with customers on overdue invoices, but if you do need to follow up with a phone call, here are six of our most tried and tested effective scripts for credit control phone calls.

    When exactly do you need to pick up the phone?

    As we mentioned above, our automated payment reminders are normally enough to prod your customers into making good on their outstanding invoices, but there are certain situations where a phone call is required. We’ve outlined them below: 

    1. You don’t get a detailed response - If you’ve sent your customer three email chasers and have not received a satisfactory response that outlines why the payment is late or given you a date to expect payment by, it’s time to pick up the phone.

    2. You don’t get any response at all - If, after you’ve chased your outstanding invoice three times, you’ve not received any response at all, you’ll need to phone your customer. Some people are inclined to ignore emails, it’s much harder to ignore someone on the other end of the phone.

    You need to escalate the situation - If the situation has degraded to the point where you need to threaten legal action, it’s best to emphasise the reality of the situation with a phone call as well as sending your customer the same information in writing. While we do offer a new take on debt collections that emphasises mediation and maintains your positive customer relationships over harassment and aggression, it is always better to try and resolve the situation before debt collection becomes necessary.

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    Preparing to make the call

    While the conversation scripts we’ve pulled together will help you once you’re on the call, there are some things you can do to prepare yourself for the call in advance.

    1. Make sure your information is correct and up to date - The last thing you want to be doing is making a phone call to chase an invoice that’s already been paid.

      Using Chaser’s centralized hub is an excellent way to track invoices and payments in a way that’s easy to understand at a glance.

    2. Remain polite and focussed - Late payments are an emotive issue, especially when the future of your business is tied to your cash flow.

      However, getting a positive result from a credit card control phone call is more likely if you remain calm, polite, and focus on getting results.

      We also know there’s a cringe factor, so we’ve put together some tips on how to deal with late payments without the cringe factor.

    3. Have the right information to hand - To avoid any risk of confusion, you’ll want to have all the relevant details available to hand before the call, including:

      • The correct invoice reference number.
      • What goods or services the invoice is in relation to.
      • Invoice issue date and stated payment date.
      • The number of days the invoice is overdue.
      • The time and date of any previous email reminders you’ve sent.
      • Notes of any communications so far.
      • Information on who to talk to about your outstanding invoice (if you don’t know, ask for Accounts Payable).

    6 Scripts for chasing payments

    When you actually make the call to your customer, the main thing is to understand, empathise, and negotiate with the customer.

    If you go in all guns blazing, you’ll immediately put the other person on the defensive and make it harder to reach a solution to the problem.

    If you go in all guns blazing, you’ll immediately put the other person on the defensive and make it harder to reach a solution to the problem.

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    To make things as easy for you as possible, we’ve brought together six scripts that you can use to deal with six of the most common excuses for late payment.

    Excuse 1: They forgot to pay

    Customer: My apologies, I've been really busy and forgot to pay.

    You: Thank you, I fully understand that can happen. Now I have you on the phone, are you in a position to make a payment now?

    Customer: I’m a little tied up right now, I’ll do it today or tomorrow at the latest.

    You: Not a problem, I’ve made a note in my system to reflect the promised payment and we’ll look forward to receiving it. Have a great day.

    Excuse 2: The invoice is incorrect

    Customer: I’ve not yet paid as the invoice is incorrect.

    You: I’m very sorry to hear that, could you please explain what the problem is?

    Customer: (Explains issue)

    ---- If the customer is correct ----

    You: Apologies and thank you for explaining, I’ll have that looked into right away. I’ll issue an updated invoice as soon as this has been resolved. I’ll be back in touch shortly.

    ---- If the customer has misunderstood ----

    You: Thank you for explaining. However, there seems to have been a misunderstanding. (Explain the misunderstanding).

    We’ll endeavour to make this more clear in future, however for now this invoice remains overdue. Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help facilitate payment.

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    Excuse 3: They didn’t receive your invoice

    Customer: This is the first time I’ve received this invoice.

    You: Apologies if that is the case. Could you please confirm that your email address is > customer email address here<?

    Customer: Yes, that is correct. 

    You: Great, thanks for clarifying. We have sent emails regarding the payment of this invoice to that address, and they are all sent with an invoice copy attached. The emails were sent on >insert times and dates here<

    So please do check your spam in case they’ve gone in there by mistake. With regards to this invoice, are you able to settle it now over the phone?

    Customer: No, sorry, I don’t have access to my card. I’ll put it on this Friday’s run by BACS.

    You: Brilliant, I’ll make a note in our system to expect payment by Tuesday when the BACS payment clears. Thank you for your time.

    Excuse 4: The invoice hasn’t been approved

    Customer: Unfortunately the invoice has not yet been approved by my director.

    You: Sorry to hear that, I appreciate that these things are sometimes out of your control. Has there been a query with the invoice for it to be left unapproved?

    Customer: Not to my knowledge, no.

    You: In that case, is it possible to request that it be approved today? The invoice is now overdue. If your director has any queries at all, feel free to have her contact me by phone or email.

    Customer: She’s not in the office right now but I’ll do my best to reach her.

    You: Thank you, I appreciate that. I’ll check back in with you soon. All the best.

    Excuse 5: They’re out of the office

    Customer: I’m not in the office right now so I can’t make payment.

    You: Not a problem, I understand you must be busy. We can accept card payment over the phone if that would make things easier?

    Customer: No, sorry, I’m driving. I should be back in the office tomorrow. I’ll make the payment then.

    You: Thanks for that, we really appreciate it. I’ll make a note on our system to expect payment then. Have a nice day.

    Excuse 6: They already paid the invoice

    Customer: Why are you calling me? I’ve already paid for this invoice!

    You: My apologies, I’ll check our system and see why this wasn’t marked as paid and make sure it doesn’t happen in future. Do you know when this was paid?

    Customer: Sometime last week, I believe.

    You: Thank you, I’ll look into this right away for you. I’m sorry to disturb you. Have a nice day.

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    Implementing effective control over your accounts receivables

    While our call scripts are a great way to overcome the six most common excuses for non-payment and move towards getting the situation resolved, having effective credit control in place is normally the best way to avoid late payments.

    For more information on how to optimise your accounts receivable processes, and put an end to late and inconsistent customer payments, download our ultimate guide to accounts receivable.



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