I love getting into conflicts with customers, it really gets me pumped up for the rest of the day and excited to take on the rest of the accounts receivable of our clients! ….said no one ever in the accounts receivable field. It’s hard enough to do the job, without running into a client that argues with you, or passively aggressively ignores your phone calls because of the conflict you’ve been having over a payment. Avoiding conflicts altogether would make it a lot easier to complete your work, but sometimes it’s inevitable. So what do you do when a conflict arises?
A conflict could come up with a client for many reasons. Maybe the customer is distraught because they are disputing the amount of the invoice. They could be argumentative over the amount of times you have called, claiming they have never received a payment notice from you. Either way, you have to be prepared to deal with these sorts of issues to be successful in accounts receivable. Below, we cover a few steps to help you overcome conflicts quickly and effectively.
STEP ONE: RECOGNIZE THE CONFLICT
You can never really fix a problem if you don’t acknowledge that it exists. The very first step is to make sure that you note that a conflict is occurring. If you notice that a customer is beginning to ignore your calls, get snippy with you or seems to be argumentative every time you call, you probably have a conflict arising. Once you’ve picked up on this, it’s time to start addressing the issue head on.
STEP TWO: ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR PARTICIPATION IN THE CONFLICT
The number one issue in any conflict is getting the two parties to recognize that they play in active role in the conflict. It’s easy and quick to point fingers at the other party and say it’s their fault. It’s their fault they didn’t pay on time or it’s their fault that they didn’t answer my phone call. However, no matter what really happened, the conflict will never be resolved if you don’t become the bigger person. When talking to the client, use “I” statements instead of “you”, for example “I’m sorry the invoice did not make it to you on time, I will send another” instead of “You did not get the invoice on time so I will have to send another”.
STEP THREE: BE BRIEF
There is no reason to bring up past issues or conflicts when trying to resolve your current situation. Stick to the issue at hand and try to resolve it as quickly as possible so you can get paid. By pointing out all the things the customer has done wrong in the past and nitpicking at them, you’re likely to just aggravate them more and delay payment further.
STEP FOUR: BE CLEAR
Think about how you are talking to the customer. What tone are taking? How loud are you speaking? Can they hear an attitude in your voice? Even though you might be saying one thing, like “I want to get this resolved as quickly as possible so we can both have the best resolution”, your voice may be saying “you are such a pain and I can’t believe I have to work with you”. Make a conscious effort to be helpful and kind in the way you speak with your customers, so your intentions to resolve the conflict and get paid are clear.