It’s Hector and I’ve been hearing from a few of you regarding what to do with onsite visits to your customers during this pandemic.
During our pre-pandemic days, from time to time when a commercial customer became delinquent, the sales or credit/collection manager may have made a stop-by to see what the status was. Depending on the nature of the relationship, the distance from the office, the size of the outstanding balance, and other factors, this was not completely out of the ordinary (but certainly not like the old days when you could just walk into a place of business unannounced). If the person in charge was around and willing to take a moment to bring you up to date, you could get a better handle on the payment status. At a minimum, a stop-by would let you see if the company was still a functioning entity with their usual staff in place, phones ringing, trucks in the dock, and goods being shipped out the door.
Fast forward six months — if we were to make a stop-by at our customer’s location today, we’d probably find that most of the staff are not there because they’re working from home, including the executive management. Due to the risk of the Coronavirus infection, many organizations are now transitioning their teams to work remotely on a permanent basis.
The question then becomes, can you stop by the home of your contact to check on the status of your account? Even with the ease of being able to find someone’s home address, regardless of your client being a commercial account, the legal murkiness of showing up at someone’s personal residence is probably not a good idea. Not only would it probably be viewed as an invasion of privacy, but a case could be made that it steps on the fringes of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
In addition, in view of the ongoing pandemic, showing up at any location is probably not a good idea since everyone is trying to minimize the number of people they are randomly coming into contact with.
Unfortunately, this pandemic has probably changed for good the habits that allowed a little flexibility to deal with some outstanding accounts. That said, as more and more people rely on Skype, FaceBook video chat, FaceTime, etc., you might want to try your luck “ringing their bell” through these televideo tools. They may be surprised to hear from you but at least you won’t have to worry about coming too close for comfort.
Hector the Collector is a credit and collection advice column by Nancy Seiverd President CMI Credit Mediators Inc. Your thoughts and comments (email@example.com) are most welcome!
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