Once a business is up and running, one fundamental aspect of operations that’s easy to take for granted is billing. Often, a system of various processes is put in place and leadership might consider occasional billing mistakes to be part of the “cost of doing business.” However, to keep your business cash flow strong, it’s imperative to regularly check in on your billing processes to ensure they’re as efficient, effective and accurate as possible.
Many billing problems originate from a gradual deterioration in the quality of products or services. You may be giving customers an excuse not to pay their bills if products are showing up late or damaged — or not at all. The same goes for services that aren’t provided in a timely, satisfactory or professional manner.
When it comes to billing processes, common mistakes include invoicing a customer for an incorrect amount or failing to apply promised discounts or special offers. Be sure to listen to customer complaints and track errors so you can identify trends and implement effective solutions.
In addition, regularly verify account information to make sure invoices and statements are accurate and going to the right people. Set clear standards and expectations with customers — both verbally and in writing — about your policies regarding pricing, payment terms, credit and delivery times.
On the flip side, work closely with your managers and supervisors to ensure employees are well-trained to enforce billing policies. Staff members should prioritize quick resolutions to billing mistakes and disputes. They should also ask customers to pay any portion of a bill not in question. Once the matter is resolved, the customer should be politely asked to pay off the remainder immediately.
For invoice-based businesses, regularly sending out bills late can negatively impact collections. Familiarize yourself with current industry norms before setting payment schedules.
Traditionally, such schedules tend to be based on 30-, 45- or 60-day cycles. But times may have changed. This is especially true today, now that so much billing is done electronically. What’s more, many companies permit their most important or largest customers to set their own customized payment schedules. If this is the case for you, be sure to adjust your cash flow expectations and projections to recognize these variances.
As mentioned, today’s technology is driving how most businesses handle billing. An automated system can generate invoices when work is complete, flag problem accounts and generate useful financial reports.
If you haven’t already, consider sending invoices electronically and enabling customers to pay online. Doing so can greatly speed up payment. Like any accounting software for small businesses, however, you’ll need to reassess it from time to time to determine whether you need an upgrade.
There are so many aspects to doing business that are unpredictable:
That’s why it’s so important for business owners to be proactive about the things they can control. Our Mundelein accounting firm can help you assess the efficacy of your billing processes and identify ways to improve your business cash flow.