As a business owner, you likely already know the importance of providing outstanding customer service. When you earn a reputation as a business that cares about your customers, you’ll win new customers through word of mouth and positive online reviews.
However, there’s an even bigger reason for service-based businesses to focus on offering top-quality customer service. This reason benefits your business, improving cash flow and preventing issues that could stall customer payments for weeks, even months. Here are a few things to consider as you review your customer service processes.
Bad Customer Service Is a Red Flag
You may be concerned about getting paid promptly, but your customers are concerned about getting the services they requested. When your service desk process is nothing but a series of obstacles designed to put your customers off, you’ll likely raise a few red flags, especially for new customers. While waiting to see if you’ll actually deliver on your promises, your customers will likely delay payment.
Make sure you aren’t giving customers a reason to put an invoice on hold for weeks. They should be gladly putting the payment through each month. While even the best customer service won’t guarantee every customer will pay on time, it will at least keep payments from stalling due to resentment or uncertainty about the solidity of your business.
Accessibility Leads to Success
When a business owner is unavailable or incommunicative, he sets himself up for issues from the start. If you’re too busy to answer the phone or respond to emails, bring on someone to help you with managing administrative tasks. If you can’t afford to bring someone on full-time, consider a virtual assistant to help with responding to emails and answering basic questions.
By being accessible at all times, you’ll let your customers know if they ever have a problem, they can count on you. This means instead of deciding not to send payment this month, they’ll pick up the phone and contact you about the issue, giving you the opportunity to resolve it before it gets worse.
Unclear Invoicing Causes Confusion
One issue that could delay payment is a lack of clarity within the invoicing process itself. Your customers may be confused about how they’re supposed to pay or whether they’re supposed to wait until services are complete before paying. By outlining this from the beginning, they’ll know what to do when your invoice arrives.
Confusion could stem from the invoice itself. Your invoice should clearly outline what’s being charged, as well as how they should pay. Avoid wording like “Net 15” and instead put a clear due date. This will give your customers a defined date to pay. Your invoice should also include a link to allow them to easily pay online, as well as an address to which they can remit paper-based payment if they prefer.
Tracking Issues Prevents Misunderstandings
The best way to keep up with each of your customers is through a fully-integrated CMS that incorporates your billing system and your customer information. You should have the authority to check your systems on any device to research information on customers. The disconnect that happens when you don’t know about your own customer’s complaints can lead to negative word-of-mouth publicity that can destroy your reputation.
If your system isn’t set up to determine exactly why people aren’t paying, you’ll end up with a customer service nightmare. Before firing off a late notice, check to make sure your customer hasn’t been trying to get in touch with you. This is especially true if you’ve automated or outsourced your customer service. Read through call logs and search through customer support tickets to see if there’s a problem that needs to be addressed before sending a late notice.
The Personal Approach Is Always Best
Financial conversations always feel awkward, especially if you’ve developed a personal relationship with your customers. When you’ve met in person or had extensive phone conversations over a period of time, making that call to ask for payment can be uncomfortable. For that reason, it can be tempting to rely on automated systems and collections notices that do the heavy lifting for you.
However, as difficult as it may feel, one of the best things you can do to smooth over the situation is send a friendly, personal email asking about the non-payment. Ask if there is some issue that needs to be addressed and offer to remedy the situation or discount the customer’s amount due if there is a problem with his service. If the customer simply doesn’t have the finances to pay at this time, offer to set up installments to make it easier.
Even service-focused businesses can’t avoid the occasional deadbeat customer. However, the vast majority of your customers will pay their bills on time, as long as they feel they’re getting something in exchange for that money. If you focus on remaining accessible and answering any concerns your customers have, you’ll at least be able to avoid some of those late payers.