Customer Service: “Sorry, We Can’t Pay Your Invoice”

August 22, 2009
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One of the challenges facing a small business is to maintain a healthy cash flow. Unfortunately, the process of collecting overdue invoices can often turn into a lengthy process; in the instance below, it was even a bit comical.

We had an outstanding invoice from a branch of a major bookstore chain, which had been overdue since February of 1999. They had ?special ordered? a copy of my first book for one of their customers, which we had shipped out immediately to the store.

The invoice was sent out the following week with our terms of 30 days payable. We waited for payment. And waited. And waited some more. After several months, we phoned to check on the payment, and they said they had not yet received the invoice. We sent it out again and checked back with them several weeks later. They assured us that the check was in the mail; however, we never received it.

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Naturally, this invoice wasn?t our top priority. The amount due was only $19.90 and we had more pressing issues to deal with. However, it soon became a ?matter of principle,? and we called the corporate office, sent letters, and generally became a bit more forceful.

Finally, we received an envelope in the mail from the bookstore. Thinking it was our check at last, we opened it only to find a letter. The letter stated that the company had attempted to pay us, but they couldn?t send us the check because they didn?t have our address.

Yes, you read that correctly, the bookstore sent us a letter to tell us that they didn?t have our address. This is similar to a company that pays 33 cents in postage to mail a bill with an amount due of only 15 cents.

In today?s competitive environment, customer loyalty is critical. When your processes allow or even mandate these kinds of mistakes, it can cloud your customers? opinions of your organization.

Look at your processes, particularly those visible to your customers, and make sure that they are not impacting your ability to service your customers. Being competent and well organized can go a long way to establishing long-term relationships with your customers.

Ron Rosenberg helps organizations get more customers than they know what to do with and keep them for life. For a Free Special Report with 44 Proven Customer Service tips, visit www.qualitytalk.com/tips.

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