For the past 20 years, Rural Directions has been helping to grow a strong agricultural industry in South Australia—from providing farmers with advice on how to grow and sell their crops, and manage their small family-run businesses, to advising government organizations and large corporates on investment and capacity building in the sector. “We have our own farm as well…so we understand the challenges of farming,” says Sarah Heinjus, Business Support Team Leader.
The debtor management challenge
Past due invoices were a challenge to manage. The company bills around 2000 farmers for consultancy services and subscriptions to their independent agribusiness resources. Despite 14-day credit terms, invoices were ageing up to 120 days, says Sarah: “We would let them linger because you never like to ask people for money even though you’ve provided the service.”
“You never like to ask people for money even though you’ve provided the service.”
What Rural Directions looked for in its debtor management solution
- Email reminders
The company recently changed from posting invoices to emailing them. (Internet reliability and coverage was a problem in some rural areas.) Sarah soon learned that her customers were very accepting of the increasing use of technology and email became the norm.
- A set-and-forget system
Rural Directions issues hundreds of sometimes low dollar-value invoices per month. It was taking too much time to follow up the vast majority of these that became overdue. “Taking two hours to chase up a $400 invoice was not a good use of time.”
- Ability to exclude some customers
Large government-funded clients still require individual management due to their billing cycle, so Rural Directions wanted to exclude them from automated reminders.
Being polite and respectful to their customers is a high priority for the business. “We know exactly what the feeling is like when things are tough,” says Sarah. Being able to express their understanding in their payment reminders was important to Rural Directions.
- Make it easy for clients to pay
“We know they’re busy and forget,” says Sarah. She looked for features that presented past due amounts neatly to her customers, didn’t overwhelm them with too many emails, and allowed them to make a payment easily.
The results with ezyCollect
Sarah started seeing results during her free trial. “Once I finished the trial I knew I would continue because it just saves so much time,” says Sarah.
“Once I finished the trial I knew I would continue because it just saves so much time.”
- Aged receivables declined from 47 percent to 15 percent in the first month.
- Customers appreciate being reminded. “Once a first reminder goes out I get a flurry of payments and customers ringing up to say: ‘I thought I’d paid but I’ve made a mistake. Thanks for the reminder’,” says Sarah.
- Since starting ezyCollect at the end of November 2016, ageing receivables have been trending downwards compared to the same time last year. “The trend is pretty obvious,” says Sarah.
- Rural Directions no longer allocates half a day per week of staff time to follow-up unpaid subscriptions. Instead, automated payment reminders prompt renewals.“That’s a huge saving of time for just one service area of our business,” says Sarah. Since starting ezyCollect, ageing receivables are consistently lower than the previous year.
Sarah’s top tips for using ezyCollect:
- Customise the templates to suit you. “Ours is just a friendly reminder to say ‘I know you’re busy, here’s a reminder.’”
- Attach a copy of the overdue invoice or a statement of all overdue invoices to your reminder. “No one has time to go hunting for previous emails or invoices.”
- Add a link in your reminder emails to your online payments gateway.
- Invest some time in initial setup so you get the most out of the system.
- Use the online support to send queries or feedback at any time.
Sarah recommends ezyCollect for any business that offers credit terms and doesn’t have the time to manually follow-up when they become past due, particularly if they are small dollar-value. “It’s good for businesses that prefer a soft approach instead of having to make a reminder phone call. I hardly need to make a phone call anymore.”
Rural Directions has been backing farmers for over 20 years. Backing themselves means more time and resources are available to do what they do best. And that’s good for everybody.