All businesses have accounts receivable to record and manage transactions with customers that have yet to pay in full. These transactions are made on credit in some fashion, and payment is ultimately expected, if not right away.
However, in some cases, the customer may dispute some aspect of the charge. Accounts receivable dispute resolution is the process that a business undergoes to research and rectify these disputes.
Accounts receivable disputes involve several steps:
The first step is for the business to receive and intake the dispute from a customer
Next, a member of the accounts receivable staff will track, code, and prioritize the dispute
At the next stage, staff will gather all relevant data concerning the dispute and analyze it to determine the root cause
The staff may also need to request additional info from the customer
Once all information is gathered, accounting staff will evaluate the dispute and make a determination
Staff may need to get management approval for the dispute resolution
Finally, the business will communicate the resolution to the customer, and make the appropriate adjustments
Accounts receivable disputes can originate for a number of reasons:
If the pricing of the item invoiced to the customer does not match what was agreed to at the time of purchase, the customer will lodge a dispute
Customers will dispute accounts receivable when either the quantity or the quality of the item does not meet expectations, for example, some goods may be damaged, or the wrong goods may be shipped
If relevant documents are missing or incorrect, the customer will file an administrative dispute
Customers will also dispute an accounts receivable for missing or unaccounted for items
Billing disputes also may arise when an item is double billed or otherwise bill incorrectly
Accounts receivable disputes and their resolution can be a time-consuming process, and they put strain on customer relations.
It is important for businesses to have an effective process for managing disputes.
The process will involve:
Careful review of payment terms and credit policies to minimize pricing and billing disputes
Similarly, a careful review of invoicing, pricing, and delivery of goods before shipping will help avoid administrative and product disputes
Proactive communications with customers before accounts receivable become past due will also help avoid disputes
Finally, accounting automation including data analytics, will help the business more quickly and efficiently process accounts receivable when disputes occur
Once the dispute is researched and analyzed, the business will make a determination if the dispute is valid.
In making the determination, the business has a few options:
Deny the dispute and request full payment from the customer
Approve the dispute for a portion of the payment and request payment for the remainder of the amount
Approve the dispute for the entire amount
Accounts receivable are an integral part of any business operation. Businesses extend credit to customers to build goodwill and trust, and to expand their client base.
Disputes are inevitable but should be well managed to minimize their impact to the business and to the relationship with the client.
If dispute resolution is not reconciled to the satisfaction of the customer, it could harm customer relations and hurt future business.
If accounts receivable need to be charged off because they are not collected, or they are not collected in a timely manner, this hurts the business’s cash flow, which can hamper its ability to meet its ongoing obligations.
Accounts receivable dispute resolution presents its own unique set of challenges:
In a worst-case scenario, a customer may opt to retract or otherwise refrain from making a full payment for the item
The research involved in dispute resolution is time consuming, labor intensive, and costly
Research involves information gathering from different sources, and different departments have to communicate and work in tandem to determine the origin of the dispute
Disputes can put a strain on relations with customers
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