Altering your company's billing procedures can affect how you do business with scores of customers. You can't simply change scheduled invoice dates, raise payment amounts or otherwise revise your terms without giving your customers advance notice. Otherwise, you face the prospect of calls, complaints, loss of revenue and negative comments. Craft the letter you send your customers so it provides complete answers to the "who, what, when and where" of your new policies.

Clarify Purpose

Formal announcements of procedural changes should open with clear statements of the source of the information, the population it affects and the nature of the change. To accomplish this objective, use your company letterhead so the recipient immediately knows your identity. If you set up your message in word processing software as a mail merge project, you can incorporate a customized salutation into each letter to avoid the dreaded "Dear Valued Customer" introduction that depersonalizes any message. Reaffirm your appreciation for the recipient's business and spell out the policy basics in a brief first paragraph. For example, you can announce "Because we value you as a customer, we're contacting you to inform you of an upcoming change in our billing procedures that affects your account with us."

Provide Details

After you introduce the overall subject of your communication, get to the point in the next paragraph. Explain -- as succinctly as possible -- the change that's coming and how the new rules differ from the old. Customers want to know exactly how your policies affect them. If you fail to provide a clear, logical explanation that answers all the obvious questions it raises, your phone will begin ringing shortly after your letters arrive in the recipients' mailboxes. To assure that you've addressed all the necessary details, ask friends, colleagues or other outsiders to read your letter in its prototype stages and refine your message in light of any questions they raise.

Confirm Timing

Delineate exactly when the changes take effect. If customers must begin using a new payment address effective with a specific month's billing cycle, tell them "Beginning with your [month and year] payment, please send your check to [address]." If customers will see a change in payment terms, tell them "We are raising your minimum payment from [number] to [number] percent of your balance as of [month and year]." To avoid confusion, use this timing statement to recap the change and provide a complete date so your letter becomes a viable future reference for customers' files.

Make It Official

Before you close your letter, make it clear in a firm but friendly way that your changes don't represent optional terms. Customers must realize that they can't opt out of your procedures, except by closing their accounts, and that continuing to do business with you past the date of the change confirms that they accept and agree to abide by your new rules. Provide your name and contact information, even if it all appears as part of your letterhead, and emphasize that you welcome customers' calls if they have questions or comments.