The 7 Most Common Late Payment Excuses (And How to Handle Them!)

Posted by Factor Funding Co. on October 6, 2015


One of your customers is late in making payment. It is not time to contact them to see what is going on. Before you pick up the phone, you know that the excuses are going to fly as soon as you tell them who you are. What do you do?

Preparation is the key to getting past the excuses. If you know the most common excuses for late payments, you will know how to manage them effectively.

The Top 7 Excuses for Being Late on a Payment

Here are seven of the top excuses you will hear from customers who are late paying invoices and how to handle each one of them.

  1. "The check is in the mail." An oldie, but a goodie. It may be that the customer's A/P department actually sent out payments a day or two ago and it has just not arrived at your office yet. Or it may be just an excuse. Ask for the check number and when it was sent. Then set a date on your calendar to follow-up if the check does not arrive. If the check was supposedly posted several days ago, ask the customer to cancel that check and issue a new one. The new one should be sent by certified mail.
  2. "I'm waiting for my customers to pay me." You are not a bank and you need to reiterate that with your customer. Go over the terms of credit the customer agreed to. Then express that you need full payment immediately. If they do not do this, you will need to suspend product delivery or services immediately.
  3. "I didn't get the invoice." Okay, you know that you sent the invoice. There are two things to do to address this. First, resend the invoice in question to the client in three ways: by mail, by fax, and by email. That will take the missing invoice excuse off the table. Second, start sending out statements, separate from invoices. That way they have a list of outstanding invoices every month. If one is missing from their files, they can request a copy.
  4. "I don't have time for this right now." This can be a legitimate statement or an excuse to avoid talking with you. If you hear this, then ask when a good time would be to call back. Note that on your calendar and then call back at that time.
  5. "The person you need to talk to is not here right now." In some companies, there are only one or two people who can talk to vendors about payments. It can also be used as an excuse to put off collection calls. Ask who the proper contact person is. Ask when that person will be available. Then call back at that time. Alternatively, you can call another department and ask to be transferred to the appropriate person.
  6. "We only do check runs once a month." Many companies run A/P checks once or twice a month. But, that is not an acceptable excuse for not paying an overdue invoice. Insist on an alternate form of payment. All companies have the ability to issue individual checks in the middle of the month. Note when the check runs are done in the company for future reference.
  7. "There is no one here to sign a check." Many business accounts require two signatures on checks. If one of the signatories is on vacation or out of town on business, it may not be possible for the accounts payable clerk to get a check signed immediately. Ask to speak to the available signatory. It is possible to authorize specific checks to go through with a single signature. If no one is available, get a name and expected time of being available, then follow up.

Calling a delinquent customer is not easy for most people. Facing their excuses only makes it more difficult. Being prepared and taking a proactive stance will let you manage these difficulties.

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