Computer repair invoice software
Unless you offer professional computer repair solely on a volunteer basis, your primary goal in exchange for honest service is payment from your customers. Some technicians prefer to operate on the payment on completion basis, and this works just swell for residential customers. However, for technicians who resemble any form of computer repair business, having a solid invoicing/billing system is key to watching over customers who owe money and providing a systemic history of all work performed.
Judging from some of the discussion on the Technibble forums, however, it seems that many newcomers in the business are unsure what techniques should be practiced and which should be avoided. At my computer repair company FireLogic, I am the final person who details and approves most of the invoicing that goes out to clients. Invoicing customers is just as much of an art as it is the ability to tell a logical story on paper for payment and record purposes. To avoid some of the pitfalls many techs stumble with in their first forays into invoicing, here are some of my best pointers:
DO have a good invoicing & billing system.
Most computer technicians prefer to stick to digital invoicing & billing solutions such as Quickbooks, Freshbooks, PC Repair Tracker, or other products. My company happens to use ZOHO Books for its invoicing & accounting needs and it serves us very well. Whatever you happen to choose as your backend, ensure that it matches your needs and fits into your business processes appropriately. Something that feels tacked on and doesn’t suit your requirements will ultimately cause problems, and when a product becomes a burden, its functionality and usefulness suffer in turn. Some techs prefer paper systems for their ease of use. Do your homework and pick something you like but be sure to weigh pros and cons before selecting anything.
DO flesh out invoice details for your customers.
As a computer repair professional, you are providing a service which is sometimes not entirely understood by the customer. Do your best to provide enough detail to justify each line item on an invoice. This history of your service will not only benefit the customer in the short term, but it could help answer questions for them in the future. The more passwords, user names, and related information you beef up on an invoice, the more likely you will not receive follow up calls asking for this information. Save time for yourself and the customer and justify your labor with good detail.
DO give out freebies to your best computer repair customers.
I don’t have to name the reasons for those you consider your best clients. As a business owner, you know exactly why they are so crucial to your success. Fast payment, reasonable requests, consistent usage of your services…. the list goes on. Make these customers feel appreciated and toss them a bone here and there. Throw in some free travel, or discount a half hour if they have given you a set amount of billable time in the last few months. All of the big companies give kickbacks to good customers – you should be doing the same, within reason. You don’t have to sell yourself cheap, but you should be able to pinpoint a rock-solid customer that deserves a freebie once in a while.
DON’T threaten to send invoices to collection too quickly or too frequently.
We all know what happened to the boy who cried wolf too many times without reason in the fairy tales. Don’t be that company which fits this description. The threat of collection on unpaid invoices should be a rarely used tool to wrangle the arm of only the worst offenders in your customer list. What kind of opinion do you hold of the common outlets which use this practice – namely medical offices? Not such a good one, I’d guess.
Don’t let your business get tossed into this category too easily. Use tactics that are proven to resolve payment disputes with much more ease. A simple follow up email or phone call is usually all that is needed for some customers. I recently had a long outstanding bill with a client that was merely unpaid because she had forgotten to forward it to her secretary. I followed up with an email and she got it straightened out in one day. You don’t always have to be the jerk to get paid.
DON’T artificially inflate invoices as a matter of policy.
If you’ve ever seen the movie “The Firm” with Tom Cruise, you know exactly the kind of shady practice I am referring to here. Overbilling by default, and having disgruntled customers pay settled amounts lower than the original inflated total is unfortunately a practice used by some companies. I don’t advise or support it, and believe you should stay far away as well. You may regret the day you are singled out by customers who happen to spread bad word of mouth if they happen to sniff you out. We live and die by word of mouth, so stay honest and bill only what you are owed. Ethics are a discussion for another article, but keep this virtue on your mind as well.
DON’T have unrealistic payment due dates.
This point pertains to business clients primarily. For most offices larger than 6-8 people, payments to vendors are generally cut no more than once or twice a month. Establish reasonable and appropriate payment terms with these customers to avoid confusion for both sides. They will know when you need your check cut, and in turn, you will know exactly when to expect payment. Necessitating business clients to have payment turnaround of a few days when they have 15 or 30 day terms with most other vendors is unrealistic and may cause them to go looking for a new computer repair tech. Whatever you establish as the norm with that client, ensure it gets in writing in some form, whether it be email or a signed document.
DON’T be over-technical in invoice descriptions.
While I stated previously that detail is key to proper records, making the mistake of going “geek commando” on your customers will only leave egg on your face. Some customers may find it insulting that you fluff an invoice with terms that are above their head. Others may simply talk your head off on a phone call to get explanations of what DNS or QoS actually mean.