Did you know that according to statistics, businesses spend an average of 15 days every year chasing late invoice payments? Continue reading to learn more about how to write a payment reminder that actually works.
As a business owner, you probably know the frustration of not getting paid on time. You've done your part of the job delivering the product or service, but the transaction hasn't fully finished until the customer actually pays for it. And let's be honest - it's pretty much inevitable that every once in a while, the customer fails to pay their invoice on time.
Whether we are talking about a business that sells customized services, or a company that accepts recurring payments on subscription-based models, you will have to get in touch with the client at one point or another.
In this article, we will talk about some quick and easy steps to write a payment reminder for overdue payments - and make it as polite and professional as possible.
Analysis of late invoice payments. Source: brodmin.com
What is a payment reminder?
Before we learn more about the steps that you'll need to take in order to write a payment reminder that's actually effective, let's take a look at exactly what a payment reminder is.
A payment reminder is a notification, typically sent via email, letter or SMS, that a company delivers to the customer if a payment is overdue. As the name suggests, it is intended to remind the customer of their past-due invoice, which has exceeded the date agreed in the invoice terms.
The approach of writing and sending a payment reminder may differ between merchants and business models. Let's take a look at some examples:
Fixed recurring payments
If the merchant is accepting recurring payments, which means that the customer has authorized them to withdraw funds automatically from their account or credit card, what often happens is that the payment doesn't go through.
It can be for a variety of reasons - for example, if the credit card has been declined due to insufficient funds or because it has reached the expiration date.
In this case, the company should write a payment reminder that, on top of serving its original purpose, also lets the customer know about the reason for the credit card decline - and what they can do about it, such as trying with an alternative payment method.
Irregular or variable payments
In other occasions, companies charge customers based on the customers' usage of the product or service. This is often the case with electricity and other utility bills that change month by month depending on how much the customer is using them.
This also happens in the digital marketing industry, where many brands advertise their products on platforms such as Google Ads or Facebook, and their monthly advertising budget varies.
While these platforms give customers the option to charge funds directly at the end of every month from their bank account or credit card, it can also be invoice-based, especially for higher advertising budgets.
Of course, late payments aren't an issue exclusive to recurring payments. Many companies, especially the ones outside of the ecommerce industry, provide personalized services to their customers and get paid once the service has been delivered. For example, marketing agencies, law firms, consultancy agencies and more.
Because these type of payment reminders might require more personalization depending on each individual client (and are more difficult to automate), this is exactly what we are going to focus on today.
So now, let's take a look at the steps to write a payment reminder:
1. Decide on the follow-up timing
The first step to write a payment reminder that works is to decide the exact times on which you are going to follow up. Are you going to start sending reminders before the payment is due, or only after it has been late? What would be the amount, frequency and time intervals for your reminders?
Of course, this can mean different things for different businesses, but generally, there are some common patterns that you can follow. According to Invoicebus, businesses that follow up on unpaid invoices at regular invoices are able to reduce the rate of delayed payments by up to 47%.
And, to give an even more specific and detailed overview of the situation, a study conducted by MYOB has found out that:
• 21% of all invoices are paid on first follow up (typically an automated email reminder)
• 20% are paid after a second reminder
• 32% are paid after the third reminder
• 13% are paid on the fourth reminder
• 10% are paid on the fifth reminder
• 3% are paid on the sixth reminder
• 0.5% are paid after a demand letter
• 0.5% are collected via professional debt collectors
Invoicebus also found out that the following timeline yields the highest success rates for businesses:
So, before you write a payment reminder, make sure that you have a clear strategy on how to effectively follow up on customers in a way that's frequent enough but doesn't stress them out too much either.
2. Include all invoice details
The next step to write a payment reminder is to ensure that you have included all the invoice details. This should include, but is not limited to:
• Legal name and address of the company (you)
• Name and address of the customer
• Invoice date and number
• Number of client
• The date when the email or letter is sent
• New payment due date
• Overdue amount, including taxes and/or discounts if applicable;
• Description of the services that have been provided
Additionally, make sure to provide a clear mention of the payment reminder number (for example, if it's the first one), as well as what happens if the payment isn't completed on time.
3. Use a clear subject line
If you need to write a payment reminder, make sure that you are using a descriptive and clear subject line. It should give the customer all the information they need, so that they don't overlook it in their inbox. In the subject line, you can include:
• Number of the invoice;
• Company name, especially if it isn't clear at a first glance;
• The due date of the payment, so they know how long they have until they incur any late fees;
• If the payment is past due-date, include how far overdue it is;
• A Call to Action, such as "Action required" or "Response required";
This is especially important if it's the first reminder that you are sending to the customer.
4. Reattach the invoice
Another important element to include if you are looking to write a payment reminder is the invoice. Make sure that you have attached it to the email - collecting the payment will be harder or slower if the customer has to dig through their email history (or log into a platform) in order to find it.
Make sure to either attach the invoice or include a link so that it's easily and quickly accessible by the recipient. In addition, don't forget to include the payment details on the invoice itself and provide clear instructions on how to pay it in the email body.
How to write a payment reminder. Source: invoiceocean.com
5. Keep the copy short, professional and straight to the point
While it can be tempting to show frustration or urgency, don't forget to keep your professional tone and show empathy, especially in the first payment reminder message. There could be a variety of reasons why a customer hasn't paid yet, and it can be as trivial as simply forgetting about it. So, there's no need to get out of your friendly tone.
Keep your language straight to the point, but neutral, simply informing the customer that the payment is due by XX date. Make the email or letter short and clear - nobody has time to read through lengthy and boring paragraphs, especially if they leave a place for misinterpretation.
6. Make sure your message is branded
Users are extremely cautious when getting requests for payments, and even more when this is happening online. And we can't really blame them - considering the different types of payment frauds that are going on at all times, especially when it comes to email.
One of the most common types of fraud is phishing, in which the fraudster tricks the customer into thinking that the message is coming from a known brand or a reputable source, luring them into giving away their private information. In fact, according to different studies, one in every 4,200 emails is a phishing email.
Having said this, make sure that your email or message is fully branded with your corporate colors, logo and elements. Include the full information of your company, and make sure that it's name that your customers know. Otherwise, they may not be convinced that it's you, and you will have a harder time collecting the payment.
Bonus: payment reminder examples
Now that you know how to write a payment reminder that works, let's take a look at some good examples that you can take inspiration from (or use directly).
A) How to write a payment reminder: 7 days before due date
Subject line: Payment Invoice from XXX | #000345
Hope that everything is going well. We are sending you this email as a friendly reminder that invoice #000345, which was sent on April 15, is due April 22 - one week from today. Please, when you have the chance, take a look and let us know in case there are any doubts or questions. We are attaching the original invoice for your convenience.
We remind you that you can pay the invoice by clicking on this link, as well as by bank transfer or credit card. Don't hesitate to get in touch with us in case we can help with anything.
Company Name & Company Information
Here is how to write a payment reminder for the very day the invoice is due:
B) How to write a payment reminder: on due date
Subject line: Payment Invoice #000345 is due today | Action required
This is a friendly reminder that invoice #000345, emailed on April 20, is due for payment today. We have re-attached it for further reference. You can pay by credit card, bank transfer, or payment link. Should you need any assistance, please don't hesitate to contact us.
Company Name & Company Information
C) How to write a payment reminder: 7 days after due date
Subject line: Action required: Invoice #000345 is 7 days overdue
We hope you are doing well and you are satisfied with our product/service. We are sending you this email to inform you that invoice #000345, sent April 20, is one week overdue. We would highly appreciate your response confirming whether you have received the invoice.
In case the payment has already been sent, please disregard this notice.
Company Name & Company Information
D) How to write a payment reminder: 30 days after due date
Subject line: Immediate action required: Invoice #000345 is 30 days overdue
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