We’re all human. We strive for perfection. We try to minimize conflict. And inevitably we sometimes fall short.

(And by the way, for any readers that are not human, we’ll spare you the embarrassing CAPTCHA check. Just jack up the “irony” setting on your language-recognition software and follow along as best you can.)

In business, there are seemingly innumerable ways a sale can go awry. Sometimes a delivery doesn’t match an order. Sometimes the data on the invoice is wrong. Sometimes people simply have differing notions of what constitutes true fulfillment (a problem by no means confined to commercial relationships, but we digress).

Such discrepancies can easily give rise to disputes between buyer and seller – and to past-due payments, as days and weeks go by without a resolution.


There are ways to make disputes less common and less costly. You just need to have a responsive dispute-management process in place to resolve disagreements, maintain goodwill, and to get your cash flowing as swiftly as possible.

At a minimum, such a process should incorporate the following good habits:

  • Make sure your team is thoroughly aware of your company’s policies for handling disputes. Establish which issues staff members can resolve on their own, without approvals from higher up the chain. Empowering your staff to handle disputes on the spot will impress your customers and inspire your workforce. It will also bring your cash across the transom much more quickly than if you waited for “company procedures” to run their course.
  • Stop relying on email for dispute tracking. If you’re managing disputes in Outlook or Gmail, you won’t have visibility into what disputes your team might be contending with at any given moment – or what the current status of a dispute might be. Give serious thought to a workflow management system that will help ensure that these and other customer communications don’t get lost in the email shuffle.
  • Establish clear response-time protocols within your team, with clear deadlines for action spelled out in each communication. There will inevitably be disputes that can’t be resolved on the spot, and that will have to work their way through your system. For example, your sales or fulfilment teams may need additional information from other departments. If those departments don’t grasp the urgency of a dispute, the situation could deteriorate further.
  • Review disputes on at least a monthly basis. Make certain that current disputes are on their way to swift resolution. Determine if recently resolved disputes were simply one-offs, or if they reflect a deeper systemic problem that needs to be addressed.
  • Treat your customers as valued partners in your dispute-resolution processes. Make sure they know how to lodge a query or complaint, and whom to contact in the case of a problem.

With these basic steps in place, you and your team will be able to handle disputes before they spin out of control. Your customers, your employees, and your receivables account will all be much happier as a result.

*This is a guest post from our partner, Lockstep Network. Lockstep is on a mission to make the accounting cycle simple, fast, and efficient. Accounting cycle collaboration gives you one place to connect with customers and vendors. Lockstep makes your AR and AP faster. Lockstep is a collaborative application for your accounting department to easily and securely process invoices, approvals, disputes, inquiries, collections, and more.