Superman vs. Lex Luther, James Bond vs. Dr No, Harry vs. Voldemort – so many epic battles are good vs. evil. Not so in credit and collections. Calling vs. Emailing is not pitting good vs. evil but good vs. good or good vs. better or right now vs. later. People have preferences, maybe personal and/or company dictated, about calling or emailing customers for collections related business but both methods have their benefits. The trick is to find the balance that uses the right method at the right time in the right situation.

Calling is an effective way to reach your customers. It is easier to establish relationships when you are one-on-one over the phone. It’s also harder to ignore a problem situation when you are speaking directly with another human. A phone call is essential for all non-routine situations. People are more likely to open up over the phone and you can get more insight into a problem even if that insight comes from reading between the lines. Along that line, it’s easier to solve a problem when you are having a conversation over the phone than back-and-forth over email. Working together to solve problems is also a big component of building close relationships with customers and providing excellent customer service.

Emailing is also an effective way to communicate. Because you can attach invoices and other transactional documents you are assured that your customers know exactly what you are talking about. For established customers who usually pay on time, email is a breeze. Some AP departments don’t answer phones so you must email. It’s also essential for working internationally when office hours don’t overlap due to different time zones. From a time management perspective, emailing is quicker than a phone call.

There are some tactics for using both methods of communication effectively. To start, call all new customers first – in this way you can find out their preferences for future communications. A lot of people will tell you they prefer email – it’s less confrontational, takes less time to respond to than a phone call but it’s also easier to ignore. So you put them on your list of customers to email first. Then, if they don’t respond to your emails, be prepared to call. Same goes for folks who don’t respond to phone calls first. Make sure you have processes in place to follow up if you don’t hear back after 7 days or the 2nd call or email. When you follow up – it is a best practice to use more than one method of communication.

Never rely on just phone or email unless a client has proven to be consistently on-time and always replies in a timely manner to you communiqués. If you email a customer and get no response, always call to follow up. And if you call but have to leave a voicemail, also send an email. This helps eliminate problems caused by having the wrong email address or phone number as well – the more methods of communication you use the more likely you are to get through to a customer. By using both methods in tandem you get the best of both worlds and are able to effectively use both calling and emailing in the best possible way they were intended.

What method(s) have worked most effectively for you when communicating with customers?