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40 politely-worded templates to get invoices paid

The real cost of bad debt: It's more than just money

The real cost of bad debt: It's more than just money

Bad debt is the amount of money that a business has not been able to collect from its customers. It refers to unpaid invoices or accounts receivable that are considered uncollectible and must be written off as a loss.

The direct financial implications of bad debt include reduced cash flow, decreased profit, and increased risk for the company. When a customer fails to pay their debts, the business is left with a hole in their budget that can hinder future investments and growth. Additionally, bad debt can also result in higher interest rates from lenders and decreased creditworthiness.

Bad debt also has an emotional toll on business owners and employees. The stress and frustration of chasing unpaid debts can take a toll on mental health and overall well-being. It can also lead to increased workload and strain on resources as businesses try to recover their losses.
Preventing bad debt should be a top priority for any business, and in this guide, we will discuss the actual fallout of bad debt and some strategies to minimise the impact of bad debt.

Cost 1: Operational disruption

Bad debt can significantly disrupt the daily operations of a business. As businesses rely on incoming cash flow to pay for expenses and investments, unpaid debts create an imbalance in their budget.

This can lead to delayed payments to suppliers, employees, and other creditors, which can then affect the overall functioning of the company.

Furthermore, businesses may have to spend additional time and resources trying to recover bad debt, taking away from their core operations and hindering productivity.

Skilled staff may also have to spend time chasing unpaid debts instead of focusing on their primary responsibilities, resulting in a loss of efficiency and potential revenue.


There are several measures businesses can take to reduce the operational disruption caused by bad debt, such as:

  • Implementing a strict credit control policy: Clearly define payment terms and consequences for late or non-payment to ensure timely collection of debts.
  • Conducting credit checks: Before extending credit to customers, perform a thorough background check to assess their creditworthiness and ability to pay.
  • Regularly reviewing accounts receivable: Keep track of overdue payments and follow up with customers immediately to avoid further delays.
  • Offering incentives for early payment: Encourage prompt payments by providing discounts or other incentives for customers who pay on time.
  • Using Chaser's automated payment reminders: Utilize technology to send automated payment reminders to customers, reducing the workload on staff and increasing efficiency in debt collection.

By taking these steps, businesses can minimise the impact of bad debt on their operations and maintain a steady cash flow for continued growth and success.

Cost 2: Time and Labor

Another significant cost of bad debt is the time and labour spent on trying to recover unpaid debts. This can drain resources for businesses, especially for small teams who may not have the capacity to dedicate much time to debt collection.

The longer it takes to recover bad debts, the more man-hours are lost, resulting in an opportunity cost for businesses. Employees may also become overwhelmed and frustrated with the constant chase for unpaid debts, leading to decreased morale and productivity.

To address this issue, businesses should prioritise training their teams on early detection of potential bad debt and having clear procedures in place for recovering unpaid funds. This can help minimise the time and labour spent on debt collection and allow employees to focus on other essential tasks.


Some strategies to reduce the time and labour spent on bad debt recovery include:

  • Setting up payment reminders: As mentioned earlier, utilising automated payment reminders can significantly decrease the workload for staff in following up with customers.
  • Offering multiple payment options: Make it easier for customers to pay their debts by offering various payment methods such as credit/debit cards, online payments, or direct debit.
  • Outsourcing debt collection: If the workload becomes overwhelming, businesses can consider outsourcing their debt collection to a third-party agency. This not only frees up valuable time and resources but also brings in specialised expertise for more effective recovery of bad debts.

By implementing these solutions, businesses can reduce the time and labour spent on bad debt recovery, allowing them to focus on their core operations and increase productivity.

Cost 3: Legal and recovery expenses

Description: Highlight the man-hours spent on recovering bad debts. Impact: Describe the strain on employees, especially in small teams, and the opportunity cost. Solution: Emphasize the importance of training teams on early detection and having clear recovery procedures.

Bad debt can also result in significant legal and recovery expenses for businesses. In some cases, businesses may have to take legal action to recover unpaid debts, which can be costly and time-consuming.

This not only adds to the financial burden but also causes further disruption in operations as employees have to allocate time and resources towards legal proceedings. By taking steps to avoid bad debt, businesses can save on these expenses and allocate their resources towards more beneficial investments.


Some ways to reduce legal and recovery expenses include:

  • Setting clear credit policies: By having a well-defined credit policy in place, businesses can minimise the risk of non-payment and avoid costly legal proceedings by setting out consequences for late or non-payment.
  • Negotiating with customers: If a customer cannot pay their debts in full, businesses can try negotiating a payment plan or settlement instead of resorting to legal action.
  • Seeking help from professionals: In case of disputes or complex unpaid debts, it can be beneficial to seek advice from legal or debt recovery professionals who have experience in handling such situations.
  • Utilising technology: As mentioned earlier, utilizing automated payment reminders and other tools can significantly reduce the workload on staff and increase efficiency in debt collection, ultimately saving on legal and recovery expenses.

By implementing these solutions, businesses can avoid unnecessary legal and recovery expenses caused by bad debt and ensure optimal use of their resources.

Cost 4: Reputation and customer relationships

In addition to financial costs, bad debt can also harm a business's reputation and customer relationships. Unresolved bad debts can lead to strained relationships with customers, causing damage to the company's image and credibility.

Customers may hesitate to do future business with a company if they feel that their payment concerns are not being addressed promptly and effectively. This could result in lost potential sales and revenue for the business.

Rebuilding trust with customers after a bad debt situation can be challenging and time-consuming, further impacting the company's operations and growth.


To minimise the impact on reputation and customer relationships, businesses can consider implementing these strategies:

  • Effective communication: Maintain open and transparent communication with customers regarding payment expectations, deadlines, and any potential issues. This can help avoid misunderstandings and build trust.
  • Setting clear expectations: Clearly state payment terms, consequences for late or non-payment, and steps in the debt recovery process to manage customer expectations from the onset.
  • Finding win-win resolutions: Instead of solely focusing on recovering lost funds, businesses can explore finding mutually beneficial solutions with customers, such as offering discounts, extended payment terms, or other alternatives.

By prioritising maintaining positive relationships with customers even in the face of bad debt situations, businesses can mitigate potential damage to their reputation and avoid lost future business opportunities.

Cost 5: Emotional and mental strain

One of the least discussed costs of bad debt is the emotional and mental strain it can cause for business owners and stakeholders. The constant worry and stress of unpaid debts can have a significant impact on individuals, leading to burnout, demotivation, and reduced morale.

The overall well-being of business owners and employees can also be affected by the financial burden and uncertainty caused by bad debt situations. This can have a trickle-down effect on the business's overall health and performance.


To address the emotional and mental toll of bad debt, businesses can consider taking the following steps:

  • Encouraging a supportive workplace culture: Create an environment where employees feel comfortable discussing their concerns and seeking support from colleagues or superiors. This can help reduce feelings of isolation and promote teamwork.
  • Providing resources for mental health support: Consider offering access to counselling services or other mental health resources for employees who may be struggling with the emotional toll of bad debt situations.
  • Seeking outside help: Business owners and stakeholders can also benefit from seeking professional advice or joining support groups to manage the emotional and mental strain caused by bad debt.

By acknowledging and addressing the emotional impact of bad debt, businesses can support the well-being of their employees and maintain a healthy workplace culture.

Addressing all the costs of bad debt

While the financial costs of bad debt may be the most visible and tangible, businesses must consider all the other associated costs as well.

By implementing proactive measures to prevent bad debt and efficiently manage unpaid debts, businesses can not only save on financial expenses but also preserve their reputation and maintain a healthy work environment.

By continuously reviewing credit policies, maintaining open communication with customers, utilising technology, seeking professional advice when needed, setting clear expectations, and prioritising the well-being of all stakeholders, businesses can minimise the overall impact of bad debt on their operations and optimise their resources for sustainable growth.

Ultimately, this can contribute to the long-term success and sustainability of a business. So, businesses need to take steps towards minimising bad debt and managing it effectively to ensure their overall health and growth.

For more information on managing bad debt and improving credit control, check out Chaser blog posts and resources at Chaser.

To learn more about how Chaser can help your business automate and streamline credit control processes, request a demo today or start your no-obligation 14-day free trial today!

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