How to Handle Incorrect Payments

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Between working in the field and handling administrative responsibilities, the last thing a service business operator wants to do is deal with customers who don’t fulfill their financial obligations.

However, it’s a reality of the job, and you want to secure your cash flow by ensuring the right payment, without harming your strong customer service reputation.

Steps to Eliminate an Outstanding Balance

Most customers that send checks for the wrong amount commit basic accounting errors or they simply misread your invoice. It may also be a case of an automated payment not taking into account an extra service you provided that month, or a customer not paying attention to a change in your service prices.

Whatever the reason, the following steps can help you balance your books.

Decide When You’d Like to Receive Payment

An insufficient payment affects your cashflow, so it’s up to you to decide how long you can wait for the outstanding balance. Here are two options that take into account how often you work with your client.

1. Carry the Remainder

If you service your client on an ongoing basis, you have the option to add the remaining balance a customer owes to the next bill. For example, if you provide lawn care for a homeowner throughout the growing season, you add the unpaid amount to the next month’s lawn care service charge, and clearly state on the next month’s invoice the past due amount.

2. Set a Deadline

If the service you provided for your client was a one-off job, or your next visit is more than a month away, you may decide to set a payment deadline for the near future. Rather than saying you’d like the payment ‘immediately,’ provide a clear due date for the payment so that you know when to follow up with the client if necessary.

Notify The Customer

After you decide when you’d like to receive payment, it’s time to reach out to the customer. Although email is our most frequently used communication medium, you may also need to contact the customer via phone to ensure the customer has received your message.

Make sure you include all of the relevant payment information in your email and then use the telephone call to answer any customer questions.

Resolution Confirmation

After you receive payment, send an email to the customer that thanks him or her for settling the matter. You confirm the payment has brought the customer current with the field service contract, and this is also an opportunity to remind the customer of any changes in the pricing of your field services.


The key to handling this common customer service issue is to communicate with customers using friendly, clear language. Angry or impatient language can turn one of your loyal patrons into a regular customer of a competing business down the street.

After all, people make mistakes, and how you handle these little blips is an integral part of your client’s perception of your customer service.

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