We switched to a new lockbox bank nine months ago. We still have clients sending to the old, closed lockbox. Can you suggest a more effective method for getting these clients to change their address?

This problem frequently occurs when companies change lockbox addresses, according to John Salek, GENPACT's vice president, business services.

Salek recommends contacting your customers who continue to send payments to the old lockbox, and ask them update your remit-to address in their vendor master file. Since access to vendor master files is generally restricted, it would be best to call the accounts payable supervisor and submit your request—this might require persistent phone calls.

Bob Seiwert, senior vice president, American Bankers Association, suggests purchasing a red stamp to place a message about the new address on your invoices. The message might say: “Our remittance address has changed. To ensure your account gets credit for payment in a timely manner, please remit your payments to our new lockbox address, which is (new lockbox address).”

If you offer early payment discounts, you might mention that the customer will miss the discount period if they send checks to the old lockbox address. Seiwert thinks people can forget phone calls, and recommends following up with a note to remind your customers about the new remittance address—and mention that you would like to be able to continue reporting to credit agencies that they pay on time. He advises not to use strong language in any written communications to customers, and have your attorneys or legal department review all messages.

Seiwert says to make collectors aware of the situation. If they call a customer about a late payment and the customer says they paid, the collector should ask where they sent the payment. If the customer used the old address, the collector could thank them for their payment and ask the customer to send payments to the new address in the future. If the customer does not know where their check was sent, the collector should ask the customer to fax a photocopy of their check. “Don't use a hammer, try to work it out at the lowest level.”

According to Mike Iverson, the Financial Operations Networks’ chief financial officer, you can send a letter to accounts payable and purchasing saying that for customers who send payments to the wrong address after a certain date, and whose accounts have unpaid balances for more than a certain number of days, shipment or services could interrupted. However, he cautions this situation should be handled delicately to avoid damaging customer relationships.

You mentioned that your mail forwarding address expires in 60 days. According to the United States Post Office, forwarding addresses for commercial and residential addresses are good for a maximum of 18 months, but cannot be renewed.

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