The current economic slowdown is compelling increasing number of businesses to hold on to payables as long as possible. Companies are delaying making payments to preserve funds for their own business operations. Studies have shown that payments delayed for long periods often go uncollected. Consequently, companies awaiting payments are becoming more vigilant in collecting payments from customers.If you have piled up bad debt on your books, you have three options.1. Assign bill collection to in-house Accounts ReceivablesIf a payment is being delayed, the in-house Accounts Receivable (AR) department is assigned the job of collecting dues from the customer. It is in the interest of both customers and your business to share a good relationship. Customers want products and services from trusted companies and companies want continued sales to customers.The AR personnel work out a payment plan with customers who are unable to pay on time for any reason. The AR personnel can take informed decisions on these accounts, as they know the customer and understand the business need. They also have the authority to withhold pending orders of these customers, to refuse new orders, and to warn them about possible legal action.If the delinquent customers are still unresponsive, AR personnel can decide to call in professional collection agencies to collect the debt.2. Hire a professional collection agencyThe chance of a debt being recovered reduces with time. Non-payment or delay in payment of dues is costly to your business as it reduces your revenue. When it becomes apparent that a customer is not responding to invoices and payment reminders, it is time to consider using the services of a commercial collection agency.Collection agencies offer professional services for collecting debt. They charge 15% to 50% of the collected debt based on the age of the debt and the effort put in to retrieve it. However, the actual amount of debt they will recover from the debtor cannot be ascertained in advance. The point of time at which you decide to pass the customer account to the collection agency is very crucial. The earlier, the better. Timely intervention of collection agencies results in higher collection at a lower cost.It is not easy to decide when to call in a collection agency. You need to assess the best time for recovery of debt. Sometimes, a collection agency is called in when continued contact by the AR personnel is going to adversely affect the relationship with the customer.3. Sell your debt to debt purchasersSelling the debt to a debt purchasing agency is an option when your business is low in capital and needs funds urgently, or you do not have adequate staff to pursue bad debt collection. The upside of this is that you get your money immediately irrespective of the amount recovered by the debt purchaser at a later date. The downside is that the debts are priced very low in the market. However, if you had written off the bad debt, it is better to get some of your money than nothing at all.Deal with those unpaid bills with a sense of urgency. If you ignore them for long, you may have to write them off. But if you take timely action and hire a collection service, the possibility of collection is reasonably high.