Why face-to-face meetings over email are vital to a successful invoice finance client relationship management strategy.
In this fast paced, ever changing environment, email has increasingly become the communication tool of choice. In some instances it is the preferred medium to collect debts and deal with clients and their customers.
While the benefits of communicating by email are well known and justified, invoice finance client managers should be aware that in some instances email may not be the best medium to use.
Why? When we email we lose the ability to read body language and facial expressions. We cannot:
• Actively listen.
• Alter our communication based on either seeing or hearing the recipient’s reaction.
Increasingly invoice finance client managers (or relationship managers/customers service managers as they are more commonly being called), are expected to develop and grow relationships with their clients. Email allows for easy and regular communication with a high number of contacts at any one time.
However emails should never be used as a total substitute for face-to-face meetings and networking events.
Spend a lot of time talking to customers face to face. You’d be amazed how many companies don’t listen to their customers.
When invoice finance client managers should communicate by email
• In an invoice finance environment, is it often essential that a record is kept of communications made between the invoice financier and its client/client’s customers. Not only does this record serve to clarify the positions of the various parties, it also serves to document the discussions, disputes and agreements that may have occurred.
• Email provides invoice finance client managers with a papertrail of conversations.
• Sometime email can be more effective than a left message to return a call. An invoice finance client will find it more difficult to deny receipt of an email than a telephone call.
• An invoice finance client manager can confirm in writing agreements made.
• Email is an effective tool to overcome:
• Time differences.
• The constraints of working hours.
• Language difficulties (providing of course the email is written in a jargon free and simple manner).
• It may be the preferred method of communication for some clients or customers.
• Missing or relevant documentation can be attached to an email.
• An email can be sent to numerous recipients, keeping all parties informed.
• Emails can aid negotiation as they distance a client manager or collector from difficult conversations.
When invoice finance client managers should not rely on email
Too often have I seen emails replacing verbal communication as the primary relationship management or collections tool. Invoice finance remains a niche financial product. It has its own jargon and terminology. By not speaking to clients and customers, managers and collectors lose the opportunity to ensure that all parties are in complete understanding of a situation.
• Furthermore invoice finance client managers will find that a client or customer is more likely to tell the real story in conversation, than commit to any possible wrong doing in writing.
• Spelling/grammar/structure: Invoice finance is a financial product. It may not lend itself well to the use of slang or informal language. A poorly written email sent to a MD or FD of a large client may lead them to question the professionalism and competency of the invoice financier.
• You can’t take it back. Remember what is written in the email is there for everyone to see.
• Emails can be misunderstood. What you think you are saying may not be what is actually read.
• An email can be forwarded on, and what may have been intended for one recipient only can be there for the world to see.
• The predictive nature of common email software can result in emails getting sent to the wrong person. Sometimes organisations employ people with similar names. In fact there are two Simon B’s at The Business Bureau!
• Some people have a tendency to ‘copy’ too many people in. This action can alienate the intended recipient. It can also cause delays and confusion if non-interested parties feel obliged to add their own comments.
• Just because you have sent an email doesn’t mean that person has received it and read it. The recipient may no longer be employed by the company or may be off sick.
An email can come across as being cold, blunt and even rude. Thus unlikely to strengthen relationships.
• You may not be possession of bona fide contact details (Gmail account etc.).
• Sending an email limits your control over a process, as you are bound to wait for a reply.
• The over use of delivery receipts and priority emails can alienate the recipient.
In summary, when used correctly, email is a very powerful tool. But beware its over use. Email should never be the only or priority medium of communication, when dealing with your clients and customers.
Author: Simon Belton: Simon has worked in all areas of the invoice finance sector. He is experienced in business development, risk and client relationship management.
Get in touch for details about Simon’s invoice finance training and consultancy services.