We held our second Workshop in the Running your Business series on 21st November. This series of Workshops focus on different areas of business, with the aim of providing our clients with practical hints and tips that they can take back into their businesses. The first session in September looked at Employees: Assets or Liabilities, with our speaker, Charlotte Gallagher of P3PM HR Consultancy.
The focus of this Workshop was Managing your Customers. We brought together a range of speakers:
Andrew Ford, Director of Castletons Accountants – who recommended that we should take time to consider if we want a prospective customer to actually become a customer, rather than knee-jerking into taking on the customer. If we decide that we would like them as a customer, we should undertake due diligence, to ensure that we protect ourselves. This due diligence could include: looking at their website; checking Companies House; checking the delivery address against their Registered Office; undertaking a credit-check. Andrew provided statistics which suggested that 47% of businesses lost money by not undertaking any form of due diligence; whilst 40% of businesses provided goods or services with no written order.
Catherine Mackenzie, Director of Mackenzie Marketing – took us through the Sales Funnel, but explained that we should focus on developing our customers into Ambassadors. Having shared some Ferrero Rocher with the attendees, Catherine explained that our Ambassadors will spoil us by: continuing to use our services; paying our invoices in a timely fashion; and selling our services to their contacts. To move a customer to an Ambassador, we should: of course be good at what we do and provide a fabulous service; communicate, communicate, communicate with the customers; deliver a bespoke care package for that client; and ensure that we add value to our customers.
Jackie Ford, Director of Castletons Accountants – concentrated on the credit control process, with the back-drop of as a nation we don’t like talking about money, so credit control, ie chasing money can be very uncomfortable. The first stage of this process is ensuring that we invoice our clients – it is surprising the number of businesses who have a disorganised approach to raising sales invoices. Once the sales invoice is raised, we should have a focused approach to credit control, which is documented. This approach should include: know our clients, it makes it much easier to have a real conversation with clients about paying their invoices if we know them and understand how they like to communicate; make notes of any conversations we have clients, and keep any email conversations; diarise any follow-ups and ensure we undertake them; provide a number of payment methods, including credit cards and direct debit.
James Wall, Commercial Partner of Kuits Solicitors – focused on two elements: firstly ensuring that we have the terms and conditions in place at the outset of our relationship with a customers; and secondly what to do when the relationship goes nuclear! Terms and Conditions should include reference to: late payment of debts – the statutory interest, set by the Government, is currently 8% plus the Bank of England’s Base Rate; retention of title, ie. Goods still belong to you until the customer pays for them, even if the goods are in their possession; anti-set off obligation, ie every contract should be treated in isolation; your right to withhold goods or services if there is a non-payment; and finally termination of the contract. James recommended that if the relationship does unfortunately move to nuclear, seek legal advice. Your lawyer should take a pragmatic approach to chasing the debt, ensuring that you get the best result possible.
If you would like to learn more about any of these elements, contact the speakers:
Andrew Ford – firstname.lastname@example.org
Catherine Mackenzie – email@example.com
Jackie Ford – firstname.lastname@example.org
James Wall – email@example.com