Increasing the Value of Customer Visits
By Michael C. Dennis MBA,
Customer visits are time consuming and expensive, but these visits
can provide the credit manager valuable insights about the customer
that may not be available through any other source. To make customer
visits more productive, know what you want to accomplish. Consider
Always make an appointment. Don't show up unexpectedly and uninvited.
Confirm the appointment in writing. Reconfirm your appointment
again the day before the meeting by telephone.
Always ask for a tour of the facility.
Let the salesperson know that you plan to visit 'their' customer
- and ask if there are any issues that sales would or would not
like you to discuss.
Pre-plan the visit, just as you pre-plan a collection call. Before
walking through the front door you should know the account history,
their volume of purchases, payment history, company history, and
the names of the decision makers you want to meet with.
Send the customer a list of issues you want to cover, and invite
the customer to send you a list of issues they would like to discuss.
If there are disputes that need to be cleared, send all relevant
supporting documentation well in advance of your visit. There are
several reasons to do so. First, by sending the documents in advance
the meeting should be more productive. Second, sometimes by the
time you arrive the customer has reviewed the documents relating
to the dispute and has issued payment to clear the balance owed.
Make sure you know you negotiating authority limits before visiting
the customer. Don't feel pressured to accept any payment proposal
/ payment plan offered [unless the plan involves them handing you
a check to clear the entire past due balance].
Be on your best behavior. Don't get into arguments, and leave
immediately if you are asked to do so.
If the person you are scheduled to meet with is unavailable,
try to reschedule a meeting with the decision maker rather than
meeting with a subordinate who may not have the authority to commit
the debtor company to a particular action.
If you need updated financial statements, ask for them. It is
much harder to say no face to face than it is over the telephone.
Don't threaten the customer with adverse action that you don't
intend to take. By the same token, don't make commitments that
you can't keep.
Know your company's products, and speak positively about them.
Try to coordinate your approach with sales so that you are not
working at cross-purposes. For example, if the salesperson is asking
for a larger share of the customer's business in one room and you
are next door expressing concern about the customer's financial
stability and asking for collateral or some form of additional