5 best practices for your dunning process
Repeat the words to yourself, over and over again if you have to: “The dunning process can be a positive customer experience.” As the company and the party making the first move, it’s your responsibility to set the tone and intent very clearly from the start. Follow these best practices and you may even find that dunning enables you to strengthen your relationship with your customers.
1. Make your intentions & next steps CRYSTAL clear
It’s not unusual to get spam emails or false dunning letters from companies asking you for money. When composing a dunning email, choose your language and tone of voice carefully and make sure the following are clearly expressed:
- Who you are: a friendly agent from a trusted company
- The payment type (credit card, automatic account withdrawal, etc.) and suggestions as to why the payment may have been declined
- The amount and nature of the outstanding balance, for instance, “You’re on the $10 per month plan and owe $40 for the last four months”
- When you will process the next payment
- A link back to your payment page and any further payment instructions
2. Get your subject line right
Subject lines are what get customers to open an email. Make sure it is professional and clear, so they know it’s important.
An example of a good subject line is, “Action required: Payment failure due to [EXPIRED CARD].” It’s direct and to the point. You can tailor your approach to your company’s general persona without sacrificing directness. For instance, Spotify, which takes a more informal approach to customer communication, will give a dunning email a subject line that reads, “Oh no, your payment failed.”
Don’t use poorly automated subject lines that look like spam (“Account NO#X9999903 Payment Query .x”), poorly contextualized subject lines (“Payment Due Now”), or subject lines that take an altogether too chummy approach (“There’s a Payment We’d Like to Talk to You About”). Bad dunning emails are not only likely to get your customers reaching for the spam button - they risk damaging the trust your customer has in you.
3. Be empathetic
Now that you have your customer’s attention, be empathetic. View them as a customer, not as a debtor, and approach the correspondence with the same tact and friendliness you would when trying to make any other garden-variety sale. Remember: the dunning process is an opportunity to recover lost revenue.
And the recoverable revenue is not restricted to the last payment that didn’t go through. Make a point of telling the customer that you want to make sure they keep enjoying your services into the future as well.
What you must absolutely not do is blame your customer. Chances are your customer is completely unaware:
- that their payment has not gone through and
- why their payment wouldn’t have gone through
Explain why their payment wasn’t made with as many details as you can provide. Your customer is smart — they will sniff out your assumptions about them if you signal your doubt in their good intentions to pay what they owe. Doing so will reduce the likelihood of actually receiving that payment (if for no other reason than a customer being harassed by their service provider is highly likely to churn).
4. Keep it concise
No one likes to receive long, depressing emails about making payments. A couple of paragraphs, and sound formatting choices can get the job done in a dunning email.
If you’re including technical information about payment plans or aspects of service, use lists and bullet points to make the information digestible. Make sure that any key metrics or other points (e.g., deadline dates, amounts due) are in bold text to draw the reader’s eye.
And remember, most people read their emails on a mobile device - format accordingly!
5. Know when to stop
The verb “to dun” literally means to harry someone with unwanted information. Perhaps that’s the source of its bad reputation, come to think of it.
While you should see it as an opportunity to recover lost revenue, there’s still a point where you have to let go and accept that a customer may be lost. If you have sent four emails over the last payment period with no response, it might be a good time to stop and terminate the service you’re providing to that customer.