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Jul 01 2019
Why Customer Visits?
Rebecca Mullins, CCE, Codale Energy Service & Supplies

Customer visits are essential to the growth of any company, large or small. The customer relationship generally will begin with a sales call as the initial contact, however customer visits can influence the customer relationship on many different levels from sales to marketing to accounting.

Building relationships with customers is an excellent way to set a good foundation for future success with a company whether it is future sales or the ability to collect an account. The visit opens the door to allow the credit team to partner with the sales team which can be a constant struggle. The credit department's most important function is to protect assets and the A/R which does not always sit well with sales teams and has garnered the credit department the lovely nickname of "The Sales Prevention Department," as one of my sales managers has called the credit team many times.

That moniker, however, does not have to define the credit team; this article will present a few ideas on how to prepare for a customer visit and to maximize the information gathered.

1) Ask the sales team if you can spend a day going on sales calls with them. Ask if a lunch meeting has been set in the future that the credit representative can tag along on.

2) Set an agenda. What type of information does the credit team need from the customer? An agenda helps keep the topics and conversations on track.

3) Is this a good will - 'get to know you' visit? It is very important to get to know all customers when possible, both the customer that pays current and the customer that pays past due. Take the office some cookies or treats. Once you get to know the customer better, it will make any hard conversations in the future easier because they know who you are. A visit can build trust between the credit department and the customer, allowing an avenue for open communication and transparency.

4) A visit to their location will give the credit team a visual view of how the company is doing. Is it still growing or does it look empty and being cleared out? Does the customer look like they have the funds to pay the trade account? Those are just a few examples of many questions that could be answered on a visit so that the credit team has a greater understanding of what the customers business status is.

5) Does the credit department need to understand how the accounts payable team operates at their customers office? The answer is YES! It surely helps the credit team with payment application and any dispute resolutions. Understanding the customer will allow the company to service the account in a better and more efficient way.

The credit/customer relationship is one of the most important relationships that a company will hold, in addition to the sales/customer relationship. There is not a way to have one without the other in trade credit. It is imperative to have strong customer relationships to lower risk, assess stability and partner with sales to allow growth. Please give your customers a visit to strengthen your relationships today, it will help open doors to communicate in the future.