Resolving invoice disputes is like dancing on thin ice. One wrong move and you can lose the payment forever.
Disputed invoices can make a big hole in pockets. So, you should always try to stay away from invoice disputes for good financial health.
Don’t take our word for it?
Here’s the data that might help you to believe. Invoice disputes are the primary reason for 61% of late payments.
So, don’t you want to know how to resolve an invoice dispute? Continue reading this blog!
Table of Content
What is an Invoice Dispute?
An invoice dispute is an issue that arises when a customer disagrees with the invoice sent to him/her. In other words, a disputed invoice is an invoice with discrepancies between the statements in the invoice and the actual products/services delivered.
A customer disputes the invoice for a lot of reasons, and thus, it can happen to anyone, even to a successful business. And the best strategy to avoid an invoice dispute is by staying vigilant.
So, let’s know more about the most common reasons for invoice disputes in a small-scale organization.
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What are the Major Reasons for Invoice Disputes?
No matter how experienced a driver you are, you need to keep your eyes open while driving.
Similarly, while invoicing, no matter how long you have been in this line of work, you have to be watchful of a few causes of invoice disputes.
And to stay away from those mistakes, let’s shed some light on those causes.
When handling multiple purchase orders and sales receipts, it is quite common to mix up and make accounting errors, especially in recurring bills.
Believe it or not, silly invoicing mistakes like calculation errors, wrong invoice date, wrong purchase order, or fat-finger errors are more common than you think for any accounting system.
Disagreement in Pricing
If there is a discrepancy between the price in the quotation and the invoice, the invoice will not be processed smoothly. These differences might be due to a change in rates, the scope of the service, or any hidden charges not mentioned in the agreement.
If the customer is not notified about the same priorly, the invoice will likely be disputed.
Dissatisfaction With Quality
Another primary reason for an invoice dispute is dissatisfaction with quality. If a vendor does not deliver the promised quality, customers may hold the transaction and not agree to pay the accounts payable.
If the product sold is faulty or the service provider does not deliver services up to the mark, customers would not be willing to pay the agreed amount, and this causes an invoice dispute.
Sometimes, the product or service the vendor provides is a part of a larger manufacturing chain. Therefore, if the vendor delays the delivery, the entire manufacturing process gets affected. In such cases, the delivery has to be made within a closed time limit. After which it does not make any sense.
For example, delivering a Christmas tree on the 1st of January is too late. The customer might not want it anymore, so why would they pay the invoice?
And when these causes result in an invoice dispute, it can cause company damages in various aspects.
So, let’s know how an invoice dispute affects your small-scale enterprise.
How Does an Invoice Dispute Affect Your Small Business?
The first and foremost effect of a disputed invoice on the company is the late payment. Invoice disputes delay the transaction until the issue is resolved. This disturbs the entire cash flow of the company.
Negative Cash Flow
Accounts received are an asset, but even a huge figure in accounts does not mean anything when paying your employees and vendors. It makes credit management a tougher job than it should be.
The negative cash flow affects the business’s overall performance and can even bring it to a halt.
Profit Margin Erosion
The accounts receivable by customers is the biggest channel for revenue generation for small businesses and freelancers. If that pipeline gets clogged up, it takes a toll on the profit margin.
The cut in the profit margin makes managing working capital hard.
Last but not least, an invoice dispute dents your brand image, and the customer most probably would not like to work with you in the future. So, an invoice dispute may cost you a customer.
Moreover, if the customer wants, they can sue the firm for the difference in the amount quoted and stated in the invoice, late delivery, and unsatisfying quality.
Aren’t these scary?
Well, these are the only direct blows that invoice disputes give your corporation. It would take a whole other blog to discuss all the direct and indirect ways it could harm your business.
But, we think you got the point, right?
Well, relax! It’s not the time to hit the panic button.
We are here with simple 5 steps to resolve the invoice disputes for your business.
So, let’s get right in.
5 Methods to Troubleshoot an Invoice Dispute
When we say it is quite common to have an invoice dispute, most businesses have been through it at some point in time. And if tackled wisely, it can be resolved smoothly without having to face any consequences.
Want to know how?
Follow the below 5 simple procedures to get your invoice out of the dispute.
Inquire and Investigate
The first and foremost thing to be done whenever you face a disputed invoice is to inquire and investigate. You would want to talk to the customers and know their concerns and why they are disagreeing with processing the accounts payable.
Once you know the reason, investigate the issue. First, investigate internally and find out the error in the invoice.Now, the error you find must be either of the two types:
- The error you made
- The customer is mistaken
If the error is from your side, convey the customer and make sure you edit the invoice and remove the error immediately.
And if it is the latter, it leads to the next step.
Assist the Customer with Resolving their Mistake
Errors are natural, and they happen. Therefore, when you find the customer’s mistake is the reason for the dispute, you would not want to corner them straight away.
Remember that mistakes can happen to anyone, and be gentle when letting them know their mistake. Then, contact the customer and guide them to resolve the error and process the accounts payable.
This approach not only gets you paid but elevates customer satisfaction too.
Find a Middle Ground
Imagine an invoice is under dispute. The customer does not agree to pay the amount, and your business needs the cash flow in. So, what would you do?
Mind that you have both the customer relationships and the business to protect. This calls for finding a middle ground. You have to calculate and think about how much this customer and the amount mean to your business. How much you can compromise for this deal.
Now, think from the customer’s point of view. This can only be done when you have listened to the customer thoroughly. This will bring you to a solution that benefits both parties.
Moreover, it’s good that you have come up with a brilliant solution but don’t push it on the customer. Instead, offer the solution more as an option. This cooperation and flexibility might help you improve customer loyalty.
Escalate the Issue
There are times that you can not come up with a solution that both parties agree to. In such cases, you need to take the hard step and risk losing the customer. If you think the disputed invoice needs more attention, don’t hesitate to escalate the issue.
Remind the customer about the payment terms and notify them about your legal rights.
You might want to involve the third-party collection services for further proceedings for chasing payments.
Take it to the Court
If still, you are not able to resolve the disputed invoice, it’s time to dial your lawyer.
Although you can file a lawsuit without hiring a lawyer, it is not recommended. The lawyer will charge you his/her legal fees but make sure that all the legal steps are strictly followed so that your case is not rejected based on a technicality.
Before using the customer, ensure you go through the contract thoroughly and check for the supporting document.
And mail a written notice to the customer to notify them that they have passed the due date (X) many calendar days ago. And allow them the time limit mentioned in the contract to fix the mistake.
While filing the lawsuit, get the billing model right so that you don’t end up paying more than the accounts receivable.
How to Dodge an Invoice Dispute?
Use Invoicing App
Using an invoicing app like InvoiceOwl is the easiest way to avoid invoice disputes. InvoiceOwl eliminates the room for silly mistakes such as calculation mistakes, wrong invoice date, discrepancies in the line item description, and sending invoices to the wrong billing address.
Moreover, it helps with electronic invoicing too.
Keep in Touch with the Client
Staying in constant touch with the clients over phone calls helps clients with any issue regarding the invoice, and you can resolve the issue before clients dispute an invoice.
Sign a Contract
Handshakes do not work anymore. Instead, send a quotation and sign a contract stating all the client requirements, such as quality expectations, delivery time, and quoted price. This contract also should include the terms and conditions for the payments, such as payment methods, currency, and due date to which the customer agreed.
The contract also should mention the provisions if invoicing disputes arise. This will make you eligible to take legal action.
Maintain Supporting Documents
Maintaining supporting documents helps you avoid invoice discrepancies. Refer purchase orders, quotations, credit notes, and other supporting documentation to create and send invoices with accuracy and precision.
How long does a customer have to dispute an invoice?
It highly depends on the parties involved. The period under which the customer has to dispute an invoice and the period under which the customer has to process the payment after resolving the dispute depends on the agreement made at the start of the collaboration. This collaboration is stated in a contract that has to be signed. And it differs from deal to deal.
What is a disputed invoice?
A disputed invoice is an invoice that a customer refuses to process due to discrepancies in the invoice.
How do I dispute an invoice?
When you find any discrepancies in invoices, here are the steps to follow to dispute invoices.
- Check your purchase order
- Match it with the quotation
- Send the dispute letter
- Request correction
- Provide content information
Do I have to pay a disputed invoice?
It depends on the nature of the discrepancy. If it is an honest mistake such as a calculation error, or a misplaced decimal in the disputed amount, which can be corrected immediately, you need to pay the undisputed amount. But, if the dispute is over the quality or delivery of the service/product, you might get a concession or a no-pay offer.
What is the difference between disputed invoices and unpaid invoices?
A disputed invoice is due to faulty invoices or dissatisfactory relation between the vendor and the customer. Whereas unpaid invoices are the invoices yet to be paid by the customer. The tactics for handling unpaid invoices and disputed invoices are entirely different.
Create Professional Invoices Online Easily and Keep On Top of Your Finances
InvoiceOwl is a feature-rich invoicing app that helps small businesses, freelancers and contractors to create invoices on-the-go and get paid quicker!
As a freelancer, you should never neglect disputed invoices. However, this could be an even worse mistake than the one in the disputed invoice.
We hope you have learned how to tackle the disputed invoices and avoid them in the first place. If you want to automate your entire invoice creation process, use the InvoiceOwl app and create modern invoices instantly.
We, at InvoiceOwl, have a range of invoice templates for different businesses to use. These templates have made it easier to create invoices in real-time and save huge time.