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Why you’re afraid to mail that invoice (Revised & Expanded!)

If this part scares you, you’re doing it wrong.

If you’re in the service business, you likely have occasion to do work, then bill a customer.

Ever had that “I hope they don’t complain about this bill” feeling? TOO LATE. You’ve already failed the customer. When you can confidently (even happily) put your invoice in the mail, you’ll know you’re at the height of your game.

Some companies become aware of (and are often surprised by) a customer’s dissatisfaction by them not paying their bill. This costs time and emotional energy. It usually requires multiple statements, calling, only to find they were holding up payment because they weren’t pleased. This creates stress for everyone: customer, business owner, finance manager – and it’s all after the fact. Extreme cases involve deciding if it’s worth parting ways with the customer over a single invoice.

One of our favorite things to say to a client after they’ve profusely thanked us is “and I look forward to sending you my invoice! ” – it’s not being flip or rude. It’s recognizing that customers LOVE to pay for great service. And they’ll not only pay a reasonable amount, they’ll pay an even HIGHER amount if they can be assured of great service.

The only catch? You have to absolutely and completely know that you’ve given them great service. The invoice should never be a time for any one of these surprises:

  • being charged for something

  • what a particular line item costs

  • what was and wasn’t included

  • issue was never resolved in the mind of the customer

How do you avoid having one of these surprises? Just ask the customer. Before, during and after the service.

Before is easy:

“here’s what you can expect in terms of fees and timing”“this is what it will likely cost” (anything more specific is a recipe for trouble)

During is easy:

“We’re ahead of schedule”“At this rate, this should take around $ ___ to complete”

“That’s going to create an overage, do you still want to proceed?”

And after is easy:

“Before I send out this invoice, were you pleased with the work?”“I’m glad we were able to keep this in budget, are you happy with the outcome?”“Any feedback before we send you the invoice?”

The payment process should be devoid of emotion. You should be pleased enough with your service that you can drop in a comment card, or a referral card. If you’re hesitating before sealing the envelope, stop. Talk with the customer, make sure there are no surprises when they open the mail.

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