I got surprised by a unique payment collections challenge today.

Every week, I write an article to share my learning or discovery during my startup journey. Here is the link to my reasons for penning these articles for myself and for many others like me.

The week started with a frustrating incident.

As a consultant or an entrepreneur, you would heave a sigh of relief with every fulfilled payment from your customers.

When we embarked on this startup journey, we let go of the well-oiled money machine that used to churn every month without fail. But now, things are much different in this startup world. The money machine moves very slowly along with some long and unpleasant pauses now and then.

All the comparison of money machines is done purposefully to share the importance and urgency of account receivables for entrepreneurs.

“Entrepreneurs believe that profit is what matters most in a new enterprise. But profit is secondary. Cash flow matters most. “ — Peter Drucker

I had completed a short consulting assignment a few weeks back and was looking forward to getting the payment credited to my business account.

As we all know by now, nothing comes easily to an entrepreneur. The hardships of payments from customers for your service or product are among the most challenging lessons you have to learn.

I have heard or read about different scenarios where customer payments can get stuck. But I got surprised by a unique payment collection issue today.

First, let me rewind by a few years to talk about some hard-earned payments from my earlier consultancy work.

Customer delays payment due to unsatisfactory or incomplete delivery

This happens a lot with freelancers.

After completing all the work, the client does not release the payments justifying one or other reasons for nonpayment. Either, the delivery is not as per the client’s expectations, or some unfinished work is left to complete.

In my case, it was a fixed price contract. After finishing all the milestones with regular review and rework, the customer delayed payment for two months. She made me do a few iterations of rework.

I kept on following up on payments every week. I had almost lost my hope of getting these payments released, but I received the full amount one fine day along with a positive testimonial.

Customer delays payment due to large invoice amounts disturbing their project budget.

In the second case, it was an hourly contract consultancy assignment.

I sent the payment invoice to the customer at the end of the month. I felt amused and surprised when he commented that the total number of hours was way beyond the budgeted hours.

Interestingly, the budgeted hours came into existence only after seeing my payment invoice. For the past month, he had bombarded me with numerous urgent tasks. But this payment invoice made him see the huge gap between actual and planned hours.

After some ranting and self-criticism, he released the payment.

Your bank delays payment due to ?? (I am still waiting for a response from the bank for the reasons)

The third instance is the latest one which is the cause of my frustration today.

This time everything worked smoothly. The client sent the invoice copy within two days of completing my assignment. In my excitement to receive this quick payment, I had already calculated my new bank balance in my mind.

“Social media notifications are good. Payment notifications are great”

After a week, I checked my bank account, but the payment was not credited. After the second week also, the situation did not change.

I reached out to the customer to check if the payment was released from their end or not. They responded that the payment was already processed two weeks back, and their bank had flagged no issue.

Fast-forward to today, the long ordeal started by following up with the bank for the payment.

Unfortunately, the relationship manager who used to call me every other day to open a bank account in his bank turned out to be a useless person today. Last week, he mentioned he would check this issue with the bank and revert. But to date, he has neither reverted nor picked up my calls later.

I called the customer care number. I observed a pattern in the next few minutes. First, they would put me on hold to check my details in their system. Then, after about 5 minutes, they will tell me to call a different department, as they were not the right person to resolve that query.

Also, they could not directly transfer my call to the concerned department. As a result, I had to disconnect and call the customer care number again, choose a different option in their IVR system, and enter the account verification details every time.

Finally, after 30 minutes and with five different customer care representatives, I was again put on hold for another minute. This time, the only difference was that the call got disconnected by itself after a minute.

I had already wasted my precious 30 minutes. I did not have any energy and patience to make another call to customer care. So instead, I wrote an angry email.

The response I got back was hilarious. At least the bank officials are consistent in their efforts of lousy customer service. I had used a different email id than my registered email id with that bank by mistake. In the reply, they shared my registered email id and asked me to resend the email from that account. Only then will they be able to assist me.

If they could identify my registered email id, why can’t they look into my issue rather than waste more time on these formalities? Anyways, I obliged and resent the email from the registered email account. I am still waiting for the next response from the bank.

I have told myself to pursue this matter again tomorrow with a refreshed mind. At least now I am prepared for the hold time by customer care executives.

This is a one-off incident, which I have never experienced before. Hopefully, it does not repeat a second time.

I still can’t believe this, though — Work completed by the consultant (on time); payments released by the customer (on time); payment not credited by a bank (wasted time).

Hopefully, tomorrow will be better, and this payment issue will get sorted!

Wishing you a great week, and I hope your payments flow smoothly from your customers to your bank account.

The next article will be published at weekly intervals. If you like my article please give me a follow 😇 or simply send me some claps and feedback.

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A budding entrepreneur journalling her in-progress startup journey. Expertise in Products, projects & Process management in the IT domain.

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Anju Aggarwal

Anju Aggarwal

A budding entrepreneur journalling her in-progress startup journey. Expertise in Products, projects & Process management in the IT domain.