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Top 15 debtor excuses + useful tips on how to respond

How to deal with debtor excuses

Debtors can have all kinds of excuses not to pay. If you are going to call your debtor, then be prepared for excuses. Wondering what to expect and how best to respond? Our debt collection specialists and lawyers have compiled the most common excuses below and explain how you deal with these excuses.

1. We have not received an invoice

Inform the customer when you sent the invoice, and any payment reminder if you have sent one as well. Check if you have the correct address details. Is this correct? "How strange, I will send a copy of the invoice immediately by e-mail. When can we expect the payment?". Make sure that you can send the e-mail directly while you are still on the phone with your customer. Have you sent the payment reminder by post? Then call back at short notice to ask if the invoice has been received.

2. The invoice has already been paid

Before you called the debtor, you probably checked whether the invoice had been paid. But it is possible that the payment has been made but has not yet been processed. So, ask what date the payment was made, what amount was transferred and what payment reference or description was used. Let your customer know that you are going to find out and come back to it. Check your administration. Still no payment? Contact your customer immediately and make concrete agreements about the payment.

3. We are waiting for a large payment from a customer

Make it clear that you are not responsible for a bad (payment) agreement between your customer and their customer and you shouldn’t bear the brunt of this. Refer to the agreements you have made with your customer and let them know that you need to pay your customers and staff on time. Ask your customer when you can expect the payment. If your customer is not able to pay your invoice in full quickly but they still want to pay, they may ask if they could set up a payment schedule. With a payment schedule, the invoice is paid in parts over a set period of time. Be aware however, that you are not obliged to agree to this.

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 4. We are not satisfied with the service or products.

Usually, a customer immediately notifies us if there is something wrong with the service or the products supplied, because they want the problem to be solved quickly, don't they? That's why it's weird when a phone call suddenly reveals problems.

Nevertheless, it can happen that there is indeed something wrong with the service or goods. Therefore, try to find out exactly what the problem is and, if necessary, ask for proof (for example, if the supplier claims that the goods are defective). Is it justified? Then solve the problem quickly. Does your customer have no proof? Then you should continue the debt collection process.

5. The bank probably made a mistake

In general, banks do not make mistakes in money transactions. Nevertheless, there are debtors who dare to claim that the bank probably made a mistake. Remind your debtor that you have a contract with them and that you expect your debtor to solve the problem as quickly as possible.

6. I’m not responsible for accounts payable

Ask if you can speak with a colleague of theirs that is responsible for the payment of your invoice. “No problem. Is there someone I can speak to that will discuss payment of the invoice with me?”. Is it not possible to be transferred to that colleague because they are in a meeting / on the phone / have a day off? Then ask for the working hours of this colleague. Do not agree to wait for the colleague to call you back but rather call back yourself at a later time.

7. The responsible colleague is ill or on holiday

Sometimes, your debtor may try to buy themselves more time suggesting that the responsible colleague is on holiday or absent and will be for a long period of time. In this case, ask who is responsible for handling their daily tasks. It is normal business practice for someone else to take responsibility for the financial administration of the organisation. Is no one overseeing the financial administration? Then put the responsibility on to the person on the phone: "How are you going to make sure that the invoice is still paid?"

Do you want to call your debtor? Read our tips on how to call a debtor. This way, you are optimally prepared.

8. We have not received the products

That's very strange, of course. Why didn't the customer immediately let you know that the products they ordered hadn't been received? Initially, you’ll need to delve into the paperwork and see if there were any receipts or acknowledgement of the delivery. Do you have proof that the products have actually been delivered? Then let your customer know that according to your administration, the products were delivered as usual. And that you also expect the payment to be made quickly.

In addition, there is usually a duty to complain. This means that your customer must complain in time if they have not received products or if there are defects in the products received. This needs to be done within a set amount of time, as outlined in your contract, and definitely before the invoice is received. Check in your contract what agreements there are about the obligation to complain. Has the complaint period expired? Then your customer cannot use this as a reason not to pay.

9. The invoice is incorrect

This means that the invoice has been received! But why didn't your customer immediately report that something was wrong? Ask what exactly the problem is and check if your customer is right. If necessary, tell the customer that you will call back at a later time, so that you can check whether there is a mistake and indeed a need to make any changes to the invoice. If the invoice was incorrect, send an adjusted invoice to your customer as soon as possible. Is your customer wrong? Then let them know that you expect the invoice to be paid within a set period of time and that otherwise you will start the debt collection process.

10. We have other payment conditions

Some companies do not care about the agreed payment terms and apply their own payment terms. Don't just agree to this. Let them know that when they accepted your general terms and conditions, your payment terms and conditions also applied. Or perhaps you agreed to different payment conditions than what the customer is claiming when the contract was signed. Indicate that you have not deviated from this and that you expect payment to be made in a very short period of time.

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11. The system is down

That's very annoying, of course. But has the system been down for days? And the customer didn't think it was necessary to let you know that there was a problem with the payment of the invoices? Ask when the system will be repaired and when you can still expect the payment. Don't settle for "we don't know yet, it may take a while", but make concrete agreements about the payment.

12. I don't have time now, I'll call back later.

Of course, it may happen that you call at an unfavourable time. But don't just let your debtor put you off with the message that they will call you back later. Make an appointment and call your debtor yourself.

13. We cannot pay

Unfortunately, it also happens regularly that a debtor (at this moment) does not have sufficient financial means to pay the invoice. Of course, it is always questionable whether this is an excuse to get out of the payment, or whether there is really no money. Try to find out what the exact problem is and when your customer expects to be able to pay you.

If necessary, you can also make a payment arrangement with your customer. However, you are not obliged to agree to this. You can simply stick to the payment agreements previously made. In some cases, it may be advantageous to make a payment arrangement. This will give your debtor a little more space to breathe and you will still receive payment for the goods or services delivered.

14. We have agreed with your colleague that…

According to your debtor, other agreements have been made with one of your colleagues. In this case, ask what exactly the agreements made were and with which colleague these agreements were made. Does your customer no longer know which colleague is involved? Let your customer know that you are going to find out and ask internally whether someone is aware of these agreements. If you cannot find the colleague in question, then call your debtor back and indicate that there is nothing known about other agreements and that you therefore expect the invoice to be paid within a short period of time.

15. I'm going to fix it as soon as possible!

Hopefully this is not an actual excuse and that your customer will keep this promise. But this promise does not offer you much certainty. Therefore, make sure that you have concrete payment agreements for paying the invoice. After all, the previous payment agreements have not been fulfilled, otherwise you would not have had to call.

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