2024 CODiE Finalist


What is Dunning?

Dunning is a means for businesses to collect overdue payments from customers and involves a series of communications or actions aimed at getting customers to settle outstanding debts. Although the primary goal of dunning is to recover unpaid invoices/bills, dunning should be undertaken with the goal of maintaining a positive customer relationship.

Why is Dunning and Dunning Management Important?

Dunning and dunning management are important aspects of accounts receivable and customer relationship management for businesses. Dunning refers to the process of communicating with customers who have overdue payments to encourage them to pay their outstanding bills. Dunning management involves the strategic and systematic handling of this communication process.

Here are some reasons why dunning and dunning management are crucial for businesses:

Improved Cash Flow: Dunning management helps businesses collect outstanding payments more effectively. This, in turn, enhances cash flow, allowing companies to meet their financial obligations, invest in growth, and operate smoothly.

Reduced Bad Debt: By promptly addressing overdue accounts, dunning management can reduce the risk of unpaid invoices becoming bad debt.

Customer Retention: Dunning can be conducted in a way that maintains a positive customer relationship. Effective communication and understanding of a customer’s circumstances can lead to a successful resolution that does not harm the customer relationship.

Legal and Compliance Requirements: In many regions, there are legal requirements regarding the collection of unpaid debts. Dunning management ensures that a company complies with these laws, avoiding potential legal issues.

Automated and Efficient Processes: Dunning management can be automated, making it more efficient and less labor-intensive.

Consistency: A structured dunning management system ensures consistency in the way overdue accounts are handled. This consistency can help build trust and transparency with customers.

Prioritization: Dunning management systems often allow for the prioritization of accounts based on factors such as the amount owed or the length of the overdue period. This helps businesses focus their efforts on high-priority accounts.

Data Analysis and Insights: Dunning management systems can provide valuable data and insights into customer payment behaviors. This data can be used to refine credit policies, assess customer risk, and make informed decisions regarding future customer relationships.

Cost Reduction: Inefficient dunning processes can be costly in terms of time and resources. Dunning management can streamline these processes, reducing the cost of collections.

How Does the Dunning Process Work?

How dunning works will vary by company or industry, but some common elements include:

Reminder notices: A reminder notice is typically a first-off, friendly reminder sent by email, text, or letter to inform the customer that there is an amount due and encourage them to make payment.

Follow-up communications: Follow-up communications occur if the reminder notices do not result in action. The tone and scope may become firmer, encouraging the customer to settle the debt and outlining consequences if the debt is not settled.

Phone calls: Businesses may also undertake phone call campaigns for outstanding debt, typically done by customer service agents and with the goal of starting a conversation that ends with arrangements to settle the debt.

Payment plans: A business may agree to a payment plan with a customer to remedy outstanding debt, and this would be undertaken with a number of factors in mind. If a customer’s relationship with the company is long-standing, they have made payments on time in the past, and they have indicated a unforeseen circumstance that necessitates a payment plan, a company may opt to offer one. Similarly, if a newer customer has great credit but would be more inclined to make the overdue payments over a set time period, the company may choose this option. Before extending a payment plan, a company needs to also look at how it would affect their cash-flow situation.

Collection agencies: A collection agency is an outside organization hired by a company to recover debt owed. Collection agencies may use a more aggressive approach to recover the debt, including those that can potentially have a negative impact on the debtor’s credit rating.

Legal action: As a last resort, a business may take legal action against a debtor to recover the outstanding debt. Legal action is typically costly and time-consuming, so it is usually pursued when all other options have been exhausted.

Are There Any Concerns That a Business Should Have Regarding Dunning?

Dunning can be key to recovering outstanding debts, but because it involves a businesses’ customer relationships and reputation it should be undertaken strategically. Some factors to keep in mind:

  • Damage to customer relationships: Persistent dunning efforts can strain customer relationships, especially if the customer is experiencing financial difficulties. Businesses should try to establish a payment plan after understanding the customers’ reasons for not paying on time and taking those reasons into account.

  • Resource costs: Dunning can be resource-intensive, which can add up and end up costing more than the outstanding debt.

  • Reputation damage: If a business’s dunning process is perceived as aggressive, it can cause reputational damage. Some examples include bad online reviews, campaigns on a customer’s personal social media against the company, and back word of mouth.

Businesses should weigh these possible consequences against any dunning action undertaken. A company should also know how much they are prepared to spend in time and resources to recover a debt before undertaking dunning.

What is a Dunning Notice?

A dunning notice is a communication sent by a business to a customer who has an outstanding or overdue payment. The primary purpose of a dunning notice is to remind the customer of their unpaid invoice and request payment. These notices are typically part of a dunning or collections process aimed at encouraging customers to settle their debts. Dunning notices serve several important functions:

  • Payment Reminder: The primary function of a dunning notice is to remind the customer that they have an unpaid bill or invoice. It provides specific information about the overdue amount, the invoice number, and the due date.

  • Request for Payment: Dunning notices explicitly request that the customer make payment to settle the outstanding debt. They often include details about how and where to make the payment, such as by check, credit card, or online payment.

  • Documentation: Dunning notices create a paper trail of communication between the business and the customer. This documentation can be important in case of disputes or legal issues.

  • Progressive Communication: Dunning notices are often sent in a series, with each subsequent notice becoming more assertive or urgent. This progression may include polite reminders, warnings of consequences, and final notices.

  • Legal and Regulatory Compliance: In many regions, there are legal requirements regarding the collection of unpaid debts. Dunning notices are often drafted in accordance with these regulations to ensure compliance.

Typically, dunning notices are sent at specific intervals after an invoice becomes overdue, starting with a gentle reminder and becoming more forceful or formal as time goes on. The content and tone of dunning notices may vary depending on the industry, the customer relationship, and the company’s policies. It’s important to strike a balance between assertiveness and maintaining a positive customer relationship, especially if the customer is a valuable client or if there are extenuating circumstances that have caused the delay in payment.

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