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Business Collection Letters: the Ones Nobody Wants to Write --- or Receive

Business collection letters almost seem like an admission of failure, don't they? Someone agreed to pay for goods or services, and for some reason they just don't pay. Companies often resort to cold, impersonal and even threatening messages from the outset, and usually they are not successful. This can mean costly legal battles, in which nobody really wins.

So what's the alternative? Well, I suggest you begin with a soft approach to your business collection letters, moving up in intensity (but not necessarily threat level) until you at least hear from the other person. Here is an example of such a series, which you can use to build your own.

Letter No. 1

Is there some reason we have not received payment of your February invoice? Since you have never previously missed payment within our generous 27-day payment terms, I'm sure this is simply an oversight on your part.

Why not make your payment today, while it's on your mind? We look forward to bringing your payment record up to date, and to continuing our long business relationship.

Letter No. 2

When we talked on the phone two weeks ago, I was confident we had come to an agreement around your late payment of our February invoice, and expected to receive your payment within the week. It's now two weeks since that conversation, and so far payment has not been received.

Mrs. _____, I am at a loss to know what has gone wrong. We value your business and look forward to continuing our long relationship, and for this reason we must receive payment right away. Please bring your account up to date so that we can ship your next order without delay.

Letter No. 3

Again, we must draw your attention to the outstanding amount of ____ on your account with us. As you know, Mrs. _____, we have gone out of our way to accommodate any special circumstances that have caused this delay in payment. However, I'm sure that you, as a business person yourself, can appreciate that we can no longer continue delivering your orders without payment of the overdue amount.

Please send your payment by courier today, so that we may reinstate delivery arrangements for your ongoing supplies.

Letter No. 4

Mrs. _____, our Legal Department is becoming restless! They have advised us that if we do not receive your February payment by the end of this week, your account will be automatically transferred to our outside collection agency.

I am extremely reluctant to see this happen to such a long standing customer. I urge you to have payment delivered to me by Friday at 2.30 p.m. so that I can stop these legal proceedings from taking place. I'll be watching for the courier.

Letter No. 5

Since all our efforts to help you pay your outstanding balance have failed, we are reluctantly taking the unpleasant step of going to court. This is not the desired outcome for either you or us, Mrs. ____, and for that reason we will extend your credit for the outstanding amount for a further three days. You can avoid legal action by complying with this final offer.

I look forward to receiving your payment by noon on Friday; otherwise, your next notification will be from our legal representative. Please do what is necessary to avoid this.

As you can see, the tone is kept friendly for as long as possible, even when further action is threatened. As the old saying goes, you catch more bears with honey than you do with vinegar.

Nonetheless, business collection letters have a job to do, and that is to obtain payment. I hope these examples will help you achieve this goal.

Interview Rejection Letters: How to Take the Sting Out

Interview rejection letters are usually form letters. Someone creates the template, and it's just a case of filling in the name and a few other details. But how much thought is given to writing the template in the first place? Judging by some of the cold, formal messages I've seen in the business world --- not much!

Put yourself in the place of the job candidate. A job search is a nerve wracking process at the best of times, and particularly the interview. When people have put themselves through it and put their best foot forward, naturally being rejected for the job is a great disappointment.

Unfortunately, many employment rejection letters are written in a tone that adds insult to injury. Here are some ways you can at least to some extent take the sting out.

• Instead of "Thank you for your interest in our company" (impersonal) try, "Thank you for giving us the opportunity to explore whether you were the right fit for the position of ..."

• Instead of "While your credentials are impressive" (sounds insincere) try, "While you certainly have some of the attributes we were looking for..."

• "We had a number of excellent applicants including you, which made our choice a difficult one. I am, however, sorry to advise you that we have selected another candidate for the position."

• Instead of "We will keep your resume on file for six months in case a position should arise that suits your qualifications" (arrogant --- why would you assume they would still be available in six months?) try, "If another appropriate position should arise that appears to fit your qualifications, we will certainly contact you. In the meantime, thank you for letting us get to know you, and I wish you success in your current job search." Notice that I've used the singular "I" in that last sentence, which makes it more personal.

As these examples illustrate, while losing the job competition is always disappointing, interview rejection letters written with empathy can make it a little less painful.