Thursday, 4 September 2014

Bad account management

I can't say who the customer is, which is a shame as I am sure people would appreciate the irony (and before anyone tells me off, I use "irony" in the wrong way, ironically, as a funny co-incidence).

But we have a customer that thinks that we should call them if we have not had payment within 7 working days in order to check that they got the invoice. Not doing so is "bad account management". This is on an account on 30 days terms.

Well, I am sorry, but we have thousands of accounts on 30 day terms, paid on time, but not within 7 workings days. No way am I hiring a team of people to call and check the invoice arrived for every one of them every month.

This is especially daft when we have read receipts for the invoices in question, so we know they were received and read on the mail client. No need to call!

Anyway, long story short, they were most unhappy and complaining of bad account management (i.e. us not calling) because they had some statutory late payment penalties.

Turns out that we were wrong! They had not paid late. This is pretty rare for us, but we worked out how it happened. They had simply not paid several earlier invoices and we allocated payments in order of due date. The solution, apart from an apology, and a credit of the wrong charges, was to manually allocate the payments to invoices as they had requested. This meant crediting £120 in statutory late payment charges.

Of course, I am sorry when this happens, even if caused by the actions of the customer (paying later invoices and not earlier ones). We don't do this to wind people up and we are very keen to do things right (in the services and in the invoicing). We hate making any mistakes.

Now, having done that, we know exactly which earlier invoices were not paid, and the statutory late payment penalties now due add up to £190, not £120. So it is just as well they pointed out our error so we could correct it, as otherwise we would have under charged what was due

Some times I love it when an accounts department in a big bureaucratic organisation gets stroppy, especially when they end up owing more as a result.

Anyway, at least this means we can concentrate on providing quality service and not wasting time on silly accounting issues.

Some will think I am harsh, but if you knew who this was if would be funny. Needless to say, we have also asked if they need to review the credit terms to fit the way they work, and to set up a consolidated bill each month instead of ad-hoc bills as new services are installed and so on - we are actually trying to be helpful under all of this, really.

P.S. Customers will normally get the first penalties credited anyway and we work with them to solve whatever caused any misunderstanding or late payment in the first place and make sure it does not happen again. The objective it to ensure people pay on time, not to make money from penalties.


  1. Why are the words "Bloody Terrible" or "Bad Telecomunications" or Busted Trash" coming to mind?

  2. Why are the words "Bravo Tango" coming to mind?

  3. Yeah we have had this too... we've had someone complain that although they were not our customer, and the party that was purchasing the services had decided to not pay anymore, and had disappeared to the other side of the world (literally), that I would then somehow be liable for finding who the potential end user was (ignoring that even the domain name was registered to our customer (even before they moved it to us)) and contacting them and offering them billing.

    Apparently in a previous year they'd even been the ones to remit payment to us (does anyone care *who* is on a cheque or where a BACS comes from??), surely if a payment arrives to be remitted against a specified invoice, you pay it in and allocate it, regardless of what name is on the payment - it's not exactly unusual for customers to pay via different names for all kinds of legit reasons.

    We got the usual thing that we should call them if a domain is expiring. Same thing, it's just not feasible to individually call people for something as low margin as a domain name when you have potentially hundreds in a month due to expire/renew right?

    Of course you explain that they're responsible for understanding the expiry and so on, and making sure they're expecting to renew and check, and point out that in the same way we are responsible for renewals and payments to our suppliers and they don't chase us either... no, not valid!

    Much the same as "right, but I pay my suppliers on time, so that your broadband isn't cut off. I'm sure if I said the reason you had no internet access for the last week was because of "staff holiday" and so we forgot to pay our bills, it'd cut no mustard with you...

    Grr! and more Grr!