Topic: Locksmith Jobs
It's an all too common situation that can have any number of reasons from poor management of paperwork to calculated deception. Every now and again someone will try it on and lead you on a wild goose chase for the money they owe you which is both time consuming and irritating, particularly if you a relying on that income for the month.
I am currently chasing a small debt of £200 for some recent locksmith work myself at the minute, from a regular customer no less, that has never given me any trouble in the past.
Whilst you need to be firm enforcing your terms and conditions you sometimes have to relax a little as not to put off a regular customer from ever using you again. However, nobody likes a piss taker and I would rather have no custom at all than one that fails to pay on a regular basis.
Here are a few steps that I have successfully followed in the past to help resolve these situations and identify a genuine fraudster from a simple mistake.
1/ Terms and Conditions
If you haven't got this at the bottom of your invoices already it is something worth adding. State clearly a due by date or reasonable time frame in which you expect to be paid. For new locksmith customers I specify 14 days if not immediate payment, customers that I already have a good relationship with get 28 days which is pretty much the national standard.
Once work has been completed ensure you obtain a signature of satisfaction to say that work has been completed, the customer is happy and they agree to your invoice terms.
3/ Friendly Reminder
You can judge this one any way you feel fit. Based on 28 day terms I would expect payment to have been made within the first 14 days and usually this is the case. The beginning of week three I would call or email a reminder through just to let them know you are still waiting. If you are in a queue of paperwork this usually gets you bumped to the top for immediate payment. Depending how familiar I am woith the customer I would do this a couple of time approaching the due date.
4/ Firm Reminder
Day 28 and still no payment. It is time to send out a reasonably firm reminder in writing stating terms agreed and requesting a reason for the delay. More often than not there has been a staff member away, paperwork misfiled or you were just forgotten. You can include a copy of the invoice if they have lost the original.
5/ Final Request For Payment
It is up to you how long after day 28 you leave this but up until now you have been both reasonable and patient allowing plenty of time for a response. It is now time to state clearly you will not be undertaking any more work until debt is cleared and that further delays will leave you no choice but to hand the debt to a collection agency including additional costs incurred. You may want to specify a further timeframe, seven days is usually more than reasonable. Send this letter by special delivery so you have proof of contact should you require it in the future.
6/ Taking Further Action
Failure to act up upon the previous contact it is now clear the customer has little intention of settling the debt. My mate Rick at Cannock Locksmiths showed me that there are online solicitors that will send out an official letter for a small fee, stating clearly your intentions to escalate the matter and follow up in court, including all the additional fees and potential black mark against their organisation with regards to future credit. A proper letterheaded document from a real solicitor has always been the tipping point in my experience and has yet to fail. Money usually arriving within seven days.
7/ Follow Up / Write Off
If all else has failed you either have the option to write off the debt, take the loss and never engage in further business, or to proceed further via small claims or however a qualified solicitor suggests. If you have followed all the steps above you will already have proof of work satisfaction, records of letters and confirmation they received them. This shows in court you have been reasonable throughout the dispute and have given more than enough opportunity to query or settle the debt.
There is never any guarantee you will see your money after a court hearing and may need to employ further collection agencies on top of court fees. It is something you either follow up out of principal or for a large sum owned.
It is important to maintain good communication throughout to ensure a favourable result and hopefully resolve the issues without damaging the relationship with customers. Never be naive enough to keep accepting work from rogue customers and persistent non payers, it is rarely worth the headache.