Many service providers and small businesses have been moving away from doorknobs and paper slips to online invoicing systems. Not only do many of these systems automate invoicing and reminders, they also notch up the professional image of the service provider. While this level of automation works great for medium and large businesses, as a service provider playing solo, you need to be mindful of the perils of extreme automation on your relationship with your customers. The difference comes from the fact that in addition to the professionalism and quality of service, your business rides on your personal relationship with your customers.
For instance, say you are a yard care provider and one of your customers has some outstanding dues. You bump into this customer during a service visit and the customer apologetically tells you that the check in the mail. That night your super efficient invoicing system sends out an automatic 30 day overdue reminder to this customer. This reminder would not serve any purpose other than notching down your personal relationship with this customer. Instead of sending a reminder, another thing you could have done is added the overdue balance in next month’s invoice. Along the same lines, what would you do if there are five overdue invoices to the same customer; would you send five separate reminders, or compile them and send a single one. These are small things that have a potential to inflict big dents.
Unlike large corporations, solo service providers carry a human face to themselves, and this aspect has got to be reflected in all the communications between service providers and customers, including the invoices and reminders. If your invoicing system is making you myopically manage your invoices while jeopardizing your customer relationship, it is time to change the way you are using it, or to look for some other system. The efficiencies of extreme automation can be hurtful too. Make sure that your invoicing system helps you take a holistic perspective towards your relationship with your customers.