Be Polite: Collect More Revenue

In my last missive, Thoughtful Anger, I ended with a couple of personal stories about the power of politeness. The day after it went live I saw a story about how the city of Syracuse New York has done me one better and used the power of politeness to significantly increase their collection of delinquent property taxes. I received a hotel upgrade to a big suite, Syracuse collected thousands and thousands of dollars. How did they do it? Simply and inexpensively.

Instead of sending threatening lawyered letters demanding payment, the city sent notes politely requesting residents to pay their back taxes.

The result? The polite notes brought in 57% more revenue than they expected they would receive from a lawyer letter.

Clever companies know about this inexpensive collection technique. When the subject of late payments and growing accounts receivables comes up among my clients, I’ve offered a simple solution which always works. As soon as a payment is past due, send a nice note with a copy of the invoice suggesting the client or customer must not have received the invoice as payment has not been received. Would they please take care of payment?

I think a dash of humor is even more effective. I suggest they might mention that the Internet seems to sometimes eat invoices and the post office occasionally tosses mail away rather than delivering it. Perhaps that happened in this case.

It always works. A significant number of past due invoices get paid rapidly, sometimes with notes of apology attached. It even works for collecting some of those way-past-due invoices you’ve given up on.

Think about your company. What issues have you let slide because your regular tactic is uncomfortable or difficult or costly?  Think of how politeness could be used instead.

While I am focusing here on collections and similar things, don’t forget that this technique also applies to issues with your staff and partners and others you work with. A little politeness regularly and consistently applied as the first response to problems not only helps solve numerous issues but makes for a much nicer culture.

Give politeness a try and see what happens. I expect you’ll be pleasantly surprised. And as for the attorneys reading this, don’t worry. There will always be those reprobates who only respond to a hammer.



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