You just HAVE to get inside your account customers heads sometimes. Some friends of mine run a Child Care Centre. Fees are due at the beginning of each term. Parents weren’t paying on time and my friends were desperate to collect the money. They ran a tight ship. But they also wanted to keep the family atmosphere of the Centre. It had taken them a long time to create that. They were very worried though that confronting parents with overdue accounts would damage all of that hard work.
“Michael”, said a very upset Robynne over the phone, “What can we do? I need the accounts paid but
– I don’t want to send them any ‘nasty’ letters.
– My staff simply haven’t got the time to phone them, and
– I don’t want them to speak to the parents when they bring the children to the Centre, and
– I don’t really want any of your people phoning them either.“
“So,” I asked, “What you’re saying Rob, is that you don’t want to write to them or speak to them and you don’t want any of my staff calling them for you either? Let me come over and have a look-see. There must be something we can do.”
As I drove over there I really felt this would be a wasted trip. It was like asking Mike Tyson to go into a boxing ring blind-folded, with both hands tied behind his back. It wouldn’t matter how good a boxer he was if he couldn’t use his main weapons, his fists.
As we walked through the Centre, I saw a large canvas wall-hanging. It had lots of pockets sewn in. In the pockets were drawings that the children had done that day. There were also circulars about outings and upcoming events. Each pocket had a child’s name under it. “We also put the fees in these at the beginning of each term,” explained Robynne. “Eureka”, I cried. (Well, not literally.) “I’ve got it.”
The Centre has very few problems with any late fees now. We used embarrassment to solve the problem. The fees still get put into the pockets at the beginning of each term. They are still personalised. The correct amounts are shown on each. But now, one week later, if the fees aren’t paid, a standard, non-personalised “reminder” circular is put into the pocket of the children whose parents have fees that are overdue. That circular is photocopied on to light blue paper. No amounts + No names = No effort. Just the light blue circular. Two weeks later. Still unpaid? Another standard, non-personalised “reminder” circular is put into the pockets with overdue accounts. That’s photocopied on to pink paper.
It did take three terms. But that’s all it took. Robynne took a phone call recently from a very worried parent who had an overdue account. The parent didn’t want to get a “pink” in her daughter’s pocket. Her friends might see!! We’d used embarrassment! No letters, no phone calls, just colour.
So, why does it work?
Because the Mums and Dads don’t want the other parents to see that they have a pink reminder in their child’s canvas pocket. Is Robynne pleased? You betcha.