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Thread: How do I approach this problem?

  1. #1
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    How do I approach this problem?

    Client: Public School

    Period of SLA : 4 months

    Agreement / Contract: Verbal ( Official contract to be signed next week )

    Contracts get signed 3 months after the trial period has passed, to make sure the client is happy, and I'm happy.

    A verbal agreement was made that payment gets done on the last day of the month.

    First month was fine. Second month, payment was made on the 1st, 3rd month, the 1st.

    Fourth month: Not yet

    The lady who pays the accounts at the school is a faculty member. All payments get done by her via EFT. Unfortunately there has been a death in the family and she hasn't paid me yet. It's the 2nd today.

    I mailed her, and she said, "Death in the family etc etc, will try and pay you today"

    1pm comes, no payment. So I mail back asking her to send proof of payment so I can forward it to my accounts dept.

    3 minutes later the secretary calls me, informing me that this lady is very upset now because I mailed her asking for payment after she told me she'll try & pay me today. I was then told that she'll now try & do it over the weekend.

    Verbal agreement was for the 30th. When they call me for IT support, I drop everything & help them as they are my biggest client.

    Am I wrong in thinking the following:

    Business & personal issues are two separate things. I honestly feel bad that there's a death in the family, but on the other hand, I have a business to run, and I also have people I need to pay.

    I delivered a service according to the T & C's of the agreement, so I expect to be paid on the agreed time every month.

    There's no one else who can make payments when this woman is absent. So what happenes when she goes on leave, or she is sick, or something happens to her? What then?

    I'm having a meeting with the principle and her next week. I'm going to suggest debit orders.

    PLEASE can the business guru's help me with how to convey to this lady in the most professional way possible......."U need to pay me on time regardless of your personal issues or what happens in your life".

    I'm really scared they going to turn around & say, "You know Andrew, if you're going to be so anal about payments, then we rather going to go with someone else".

    This is my biggest fear.

    Please could someone help me as I'm honestly chain smoking here of fear of losing the client due to this little episode.

  2. #2
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    the only way to get people to pay on time is to make them feel it in the pocket...so you offer incentive to pay on time...and it must be done before hand...ie if you pay on the 30 th then the fee is X but if you pay later then the fee is X and you have to be strict...i found getting a person to call the customer on a daily or weekly bassis and the day after payment is not made not a week later...i personally make sure i pay the people who keep calling to ge tthem off my back...

    i also have some customers who i have had for more 15 years and they are the worse payers...so they pay the most...the call out fee is not negotiable and their rate is higher than all my other customers.

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    Perform Computers (02-Sep-11)

  4. #3
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    The thing is, I have two options here:

    1) Keep quiet and accept late payments every month due to bla bla bla reason

    or

    2) Take a stand for myself & my company, and inform them that there's an agreeemnt & they not keeping their part. The risk... Losing the client.

    To be honest, I'd rather take a stand than be a pushover.

    Still need my question answered on the "how to inform this lady in a professional manner in the upcoming meeting".

  5. #4
    Moderator IanF's Avatar
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    Maybe there is a problem, I would cut some slack and wait a week before approaching her again. Death affects everyone differently so respect that. Then next month just mention in passing that payments will be made on the agreed day.
    Only stress when you can change the outcome!

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    Perform Computers (02-Sep-11)

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    Gold Member daveob's Avatar
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    If the reason is a genuine one ( and it sounds like it is ) you would be viewed as "unreasonable" kicking up a storm about it.

    I know that doesn't solve your problems, but you do sometimes need to be a little flexible.

    I would go with something like :

    Hi Mrs Jones. I am so sorry to hear about your loss and do hope that you'll remember all the special times that you shared with someone so close.
    I must also apologise if I offended you in any way when I contacted you looking for the payment as we had agreed would be done. I'm sure that under normal circumstances, something like this would never happen.

    Unfortunately, as a small and dedicated team, we also have our suppliers to pay (web hosting, staff costs, etc) and make commitments based on what we are due to receive in. This does mean that we would need to review how we will be paid for our services. For example, if you're off sick or away on vacation, would we again be left in the same situation ?

    We feel that there are 2 possibilities that should suit all of us and also would reduce the amount of admin on both sides : option 1 would be that we invoice you for a 6 month period (in advance) so that fewer payments are required, or option 2 is that we debit you monthly using our automated debit order facility. Which would you prefer and I will get the paperwork done for you asap.

    So in summary : suck it up, apologise, fix it, learn the lesson, move on and adjust the system to not get stuck like this again.
    Watching the ships passing by.

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    Perform Computers (02-Sep-11)

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    Thank you so much. PERFECT replies.

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    Client did the EFT at 16:26 on Friday.

    Let's just hope she isn't still pissed at me come this week when I go there.

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    Site Caretaker Dave A's Avatar
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    Just say "thanks very much - truly appreciated" with a genuine smile
    The trouble with opportunity is it normally comes dressed up as work.

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    Perform Computers (03-Sep-11)

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    Diamond Member Blurock's Avatar
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    Business owners often do not think about their value chain. A good supplier who does not rip you off, gives good service, provides solutions etc. is invaluable. Once the supplier goes out of business, you will have to replace him. How long does it take to build up a new working relationship? How long does it take for your supplier to understand your needs to be able to come up with the right solutions? How many new suppliers will you try out before you find the right one?

    The client is a public school, not an individual. Have empathy with the individual's loss, but this should not influence the fact that the business (the school) should still carry on and meet its commitments on time.

    Make an appointment with management and ask them to rate your service. If they are happy with the service, they will not want to lose you as supplier. Specially if the previous supplier was not up to scratch. Explain to them that you want to continue to give them good service, but that you may risk going out of business if they do not pay you on time. (Be careful how you communicate this as you do not want to create the impression that you operate on a shoestring).

    Once they understand where you come from, the client may be more punctual with payment.

    There are some corporate institutions out there who will hang you out to dry (and I can name a few), but normally the problem is addressed when bought under the attention of management. Do keep good relations with the person issuing the cheque as well.
    Excellence is not a skill; its an attitude...

  14. #10
    Diamond Member adrianh's Avatar
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    I am far more pragmatic about such things. I sometimes need to hold out on my suppliers and my clients sometimes need to hold out on me. There are months where I simply can't pay a supplier or the bank and it is what it is. All I can do is to speak to them and make a deal. There are times when the customers are strapped for cash and I have to let it slide for a while. Business is give and take.

    My advice is this, build up a cash reserve so that you are not so dependent on punctual payments. Stuff happens in other peoples lives and we need to build safeguards against that without interfering in the general flow of business. There is nothing worse than a supplier hounding one for cash all the time. Pushing too hard may alienate you...(What happens with me is this, when people push and push I reach a point where I just think stuff you - I will drag this out just to annoy you - especially if there isn't a considerable amount of money involved)
    How easily someone is offended is directly proportional to how stupid they are.
    ~GS Elevator

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