5 Plumbing Invoice Mistakes (and How to Fix Them)
We’ve spoken to a lot of plumbers over the years, and one thing they all have in common, regardless of business age, size, or specialty, is invoicing headaches.
Invoices are your friend – without them, you couldn’t get paid. Still, without a solid plumbing invoice process, inconsistencies can (and will) creep in, communication breaks down, paperwork gets lost…these are just some of the common issues small plumbing business owners routinely grapple with.
A good plumbing business software solution, for quoting, invoicing and collecting payments can help a lot, but it’s also important for you to master a few small to-dos for each step of the invoicing process, in order to avoid accounting headaches later on.
With that in mind, here are 5 invoicing mistakes plumbers make, and how to fix them.
1. The way you invoice keeps changing
One invoice should look and act like the next. Everything from how information is formatted, to the naming protocols of line items, the inclusion of payment terms and due dates, to your invoice numbering process should be identical from job to job.
It may seem like a small thing, but a consistent approach to how your invoices are prepared and delivered goes a long way towards creating clarity for clients, and ensuring you are paid the way you expect to be.
2. Your quotes and invoices don’t match-up
It’s one thing to provide a winning quote for services. It’s quite another to deliver services—even those that may not have been expected to be necessary—and deliver an invoice that’s in line with the original quote.
Start off by educating your customers on the things you can’t predict (e.g. finding out that in order to replace a toilet you need to also replace 30 feet of rusted pipe). You should also make sure to communicate regularly with your client as the job progresses so there are no surprises to additional expenses.
It’s very important that your quote and invoice resemble one another in terms of line items, formatting etc., to make it easier for your client to understand.
3. Nobody else knows how your system works
Maybe you have a business partner or office admin who handles scheduling, collections and other tasks for your plumbing company. If so, do they know your invoicing system is structured? Can they access client information easily? Are they authorized and empowered to make corrections or additions to invoices?
Take the time to educate your support staff on how your invoicing process works, and ask your third-party bookkeeper for assistance in tying it all into your broader accounting package and you’ll be set up for invoicing success.
4. You’re not explaining how and when you must be paid
From the due.com blog: “How are you determining the terms and conditions of payment for your invoice? Many contractors simply choose a one-size-fits-all approach, opting for something like net-30 terms and accepting two or three main types of payments. However, the more flexibility you have here, the better. Different terms have different advantages and should be used in different situations. Plus, you’ll need to disclose all your terms and payment conditions upfront.”
Take the time to think about your customers and how you can make it easy for them to pay you. For more on this topic, check out how Brian Boase offers his clients multiple payment options to improve customer service.
5. You don’t follow-up after you invoice
A simple follow-up call or email (which can be automated) goes a long way. Following up gives you the opportunity to answer any questions the client has, assess their level of satisfaction, book additional work, and build your referral network. And if there is an issue that could be blocking payment, you find out about it and have an opportunity to address the problem.
Best practice is to send out a follow-up within a day or two of invoicing and double-down with a payment reminder when the due date is near. Honest, open communication is the strongest tool in your box.
A better invoice leads to happier customers
If you want to compete in today’s competitive market, you need to do more than just fix the plumbing issues your customers experience. You need to provide top-tier customer service that meets your customer’s expectations.
On the surface, an invoice is about collecting payment from your clients. But if you can avoid the common mistakes that many plumbing businesses make when invoicing and build a great invoicing process, your company will stand out from the competition.
A good invoicing process will help your plumbing business get paid faster for your hard work and help build your company’s great reputation.