The Kind-Hearted Bailiff — how a touch of humanity brought unexpected results

The Kind-Hearted Bailiff — how a touch of humanity brought unexpected results

In his “Day in the life of an HCEO” series[1], Frank Whitworth, a High
Court Enforcement Officer, shares some of his experiences, and one story in particular, touched me…

Many years ago, Frank and a colleague were sent to serve eviction papers on a farmer whose home, where he had lived his entire life, was to be demolished to make way for the M62. When they arrived at the farm, they found themselves staring down the barrel of a shotgun! Hoping he wouldn’t be recognised, Frank later returned to the area with his dog and soon enough, bumped into the farmer. In the ensuing conversation, Frank discovered that the farmer had been unable to read the documentation and was frightened and unsure of his next steps. When Frank explained what compensation he’d be entitled to, the farmer was only too happy to move on — the farm had been getting to much for him — and three weeks later, he moved into a new bungalow in the village.

What this story emphasises is that automated processes – whilst necessary – only get us so far. There comes a point when intuition and personal intervention are required, and it pays off to find out what is really going on.

It reminded me of a situation we dealt recently with where two large invoices to a large corporation kept missing the payment run again and again. Copies had been re-sent many times and we soon realised that a standard payment request wouldn’t work here because the issue was the P.O. approval and the number of people involved. So instead, we:

  • spoke to sales to hunt down the purchasing contact (not always easy in large companies!)
  • contacted purchasing to find out the cause for non-approval
  • had sales clarify product/service issues
  • arranged for the invoice to be corrected
  • emailed the invoice to the purchasing team and followed up with a call to make sure it would be approved
  • emailed the invoice to the accounts payables department and followed up with a call to get the invoice on a special payment run.


The result delighted our client. Because we applied diplomacy and tact, payment was arranged specially, ahead of the next payment run and the customer relationship remained intact.

So, next time an invoice has not been paid and reminders get you nowhere, pick up the phone to speak to your client or better still, visit them — you might find out that there is a serious underlying cause for the delay with payment. It could simply be a cash-flow problem, or perhaps they have issues with the service or product you provided. Either way, once the reasons for late payment have been established a plan of action can be agreed.

If you’d like to learn more about giving your credit control processes the human touch, please drop me a line at or ring me on 01628 487849.

[1] Published in CICM Magazine, November 2016

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