Field-service invoicing is a surprisingly hot debate topic in the right circles. Every business is looking for the 'right way' to construct, review, and deliver invoices in a way that works for the team, doesn't break the workflow, and customers actually enjoy. Is it better to deliver invoices in the field or after the team has gone? Is it better to give a paper invoice, email, or get the customer to join your paperwork app? While there are many styles and ways to manage your invoices, there are also a few best practices that work well for any field service business, regardless of your specific service or customer demographic. Let's look at ten tips to improve, streamline, and even realize benefits from your service invoices.
1) Match the Estimate
The first and very important step to making customers happy with your invoices is to match the estimate as closely as possible. Of course, the reason you give an estimate followed by an invoice is because there could be variations based on how a service progresses and the circumstances involved. The best way to deal with this is expectations management. You want to present your estimate in a way that clearly translates to what appears on your invoices.
If there is something that multiplies like hours or supplies, show how that would multiply in the estimate. If there are costs related to circumstance like carrying heavy objects up and down stairs in a home, make this something the customer could have predicted from reading your estimate, even if you had not surveyed the home beforehand. All that matters is that a customer can read the invoice and easily confirm exactly how the service they experienced lines up with your invoice pricing.
2) Itemize Every Charge
To that end, it's important that your invoice clearly itemizes every detail of a service, even if it is a standard package deal. If you brought and installed a new appliance, list the price of the appliance and the price of the installation separately. If you used additional pipe from the truck to install it, itemize the pipe. If you install a complimentary filter, list the filter on the invoice and $0 so the customer understands everything they're getting from your service.
With expectations management and a well-itemized invoice, customers should look over it with the same feeling as they might with a grocery receipt. Acknowledging what they bought. You can turn this simple confirmation into a positive experience by also itemizing every discount and complimentary item.
3) Manager Review at End of Service
Mobile technology has made it possible to deliver invoices to customers through technicians at the end of service. In practice, however, field service businesses have found that careful review of the invoice is necessary to correct everyday mistakes. Invoices start with the work order, details are added by technicians, and then reviewing ensures that everything is correct before the customer sees and pays the invoice. Always include the reviewing phase, ideally with someone back at HQ ready to review so that the process can be completed with only a few additional minutes.
4) Deliver Promptly After Service
Once a manager has reviewed the invoice, it can be delivered to the customer. At this point, an automated email should be sent out and the technician team with the customer can be cleared to show the customer an invoice on the team's mobile device. Then the customer can review the invoice and gets a permanent digital copy for their records.
5) Thank Customers for their Patronage
Of course, invoice delivery isn't your entire scope for optimization. The way your invoice looks, how it is configured, and even your customer's response to invoices can be fine-tuned. The best way to open is by thanking customers for their patronage. Use a larger font and a prominent location in the invoice visual design to deliver your gratitude directly as a customer skims their invoice for the first time.
This immediately creates a positive association and assures the customer that your communication is a friendly message as opposed to as opposed to a demand for cash.
6) Clearly Display Your Brand
The other thing you want to clearly display is your company brand and name. In fact, it's best if every email and communication you have with customers follow a subtle but recognizable unifying design. Consider lightly tinting the background of your invoices with your brand colors and choose a complementary dark shade for the text. This kind of subtle and professional branding would have cost a mint in printer ink in the days of paper invoices but digital invoicing makes this easy and effective.
You also want a good place to feature your logo and/or brand name. Make it clear at first glance who is sending the invoice and what it is for. This not only builds brand recognition but can also help minimize any feelings of surprise. [To be Continued]