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How to Handle Accounts Receivable Disputes: A Step-by-Step Guide

Updated: Apr 3

Navigating through accounts receivable disputes requires not just patience and professionalism, but also a strategic approach to ensure both the financial stability of your business and the preservation of valuable customer relationships. In this article, we will show you the meaning of account receivable disputes and show you the guidelines step by step how to handle these problems.  


Account receivable disputes

What is Account Receivable Disputes?

Accounts Receivable (AR) disputes arise when there is a disagreement between a business and its customer over the amount billed for goods or services provided. These account receivable process can occur for various reasons, including but not limited to:

  • Disagreements in Billing: The customer may question the accuracy of the invoice amount, possibly because of a typo or a misunderstanding of the terms of the contract, or they may have a problem with the quantity or quality of goods or services provided.

  • Quality of Goods or Services: The customer may claim that the goods delivered or services rendered did not meet the agreed-upon standards or expectations, leading to a refusal to pay the invoiced amount.

  • Delivery Issues: Disputes may also arise if the customer claims that the goods were not delivered, were delivered to the wrong location, or were delivered outside of the agreed timeframe.

  • Terms and Conditions: Disagreements over the payment terms, such as due dates, early payment discounts, or late fees, can also lead to AR disputes. 

AR disputes can significantly impact a business's cash flow and financial health, may delay payments and tie up funds that are crucial for operational needs. Handling these disputes efficiently and professionally is essential to maintaining good customer relationships and ensuring the smooth operation of a business's financial processes. 

Here’s a detailed, step-by-step guide below filled with practical tips on managing these disputes effectively.

Step 1: Establish a Clear Communication Channel

Set up a clear set of rules before a disagreement even happens. This should include designated points of contact, a step-by-step resolution process, and standard communication templates. Being ready makes sure that disagreements are handled regularly and quickly when they do happen.

Practical Tip: Create a dispute resolution team within your finance department, even if it’s just one or two people who are trained in conflict resolution and understand the nuances of your billing systems.


Step 2: Review the Disputed Invoice

Upon receiving a notification of a dispute, you should do a thorough investigation. Examine the disputed invoice against your records, checking for any discrepancies in quantities, prices, terms, or services delivered.

Practical Tip: Utilize accounting software that allows for easy tracking and comparison of invoices and services delivered. This software should have features that flag discrepancies automatically, saving time and reducing human error.


Step 3: Propose Solutions

Based on the investigation, propose a fair solution. If the dispute is due to a misunderstanding, clarify the confusion. If your company made an error, acknowledge it, and offer a correction or compensation. If the dispute is unwarranted, provide a detailed explanation and evidence to support your stance.

Practical Tip: Develop a matrix of potential solutions for various types of disputes (for example: billing errors, and service dissatisfaction) including discounts, credits, payment plans, or service adjustments. This allows for quicker resolution proposals that are aligned with company policy.


Step 4: Implement and Document the Agreement

Once an agreement is reached, act on it immediately. If it involves issuing a credit note, adjusting an invoice, or setting up a payment plan, ensure these actions are completed promptly and accurately. Document the resolution agreement and any subsequent communications.

Practical Tip: Use a centralized system to log all dispute resolutions, actions taken, and follow-up dates. This not only helps in maintaining records but also in analyzing dispute patterns over time for process improvement.


Step 5: Follow-Up for Feedback

After the dispute is resolved, follow up with the client to ensure their satisfaction with the outcome. This step is crucial for rebuilding trust and maintaining a positive relationship.

Practical Tip: Send a personalized follow-up email asking for feedback on the resolution process. Include a short, optional survey to gather insights on how your dispute resolution process could be improved.


Step 6: Analyze Disputes for Continuous Improvement

Regularly review disputes and their resolutions to identify any patterns or recurring issues. This analysis can reveal insights into process improvements, training needs, or adjustments in service delivery or billing practices.

Practical Tip: Hold quarterly review meetings with your client dispute management team to discuss findings and implement process improvements. Utilize dispute analytics to inform these discussions.


Leveraging Professional Bookkeeping for Seamless Dispute Management

For construction businesses, where the pace is fast and competition fierce, efficiently managing accounts receivable disputes can significantly impact your client satisfaction. Our specialized bookkeeping services offer not just expertise in dispute resolution but a comprehensive approach to financial management. We ensure your business can focus on growth without being bogged down by financial disputes.

By partnering with CCA, you gain access to professional bookkeepers who are adept at navigating the complexities of accounts receivable disputes. Let us help you transform your dispute resolution process and enhance your financial health.


Client dispute management - Account receivable process

Conclusion

In conclusion, navigating accounts receivable disputes demands a strategic approach and meticulous attention to detail. By implementing the step-by-step guide outlined above, businesses can effectively manage and resolve conflicts with clients, ensuring timely payments and maintaining positive relationships. 


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