Accountants, Financial Planners and Service Providers ("service provider") issue accounts for the services/advice they provide. However, as service providers, there may be an internal stigma about talking about fees, requesting payment and taking steps to protect themselves because they are not providing goods or something tangible. This article details some of the avenues available to service providers to better protect themselves.

Documenting the Terms of Engagement

The first line of defence is to ensure the terms or your retainer are agreed by all parties and detail:

  1. What is the Scope of Works;
  2. What are the timeframes;
  3. Who is to do the work;
  4. When will accounts be issued and expected to be paid;
  5. What security you will take to protect payment;
  6. What interest and costs will be charged if payment is not received on-time;
  7. What monies need to be paid upfront (ideally all of it but this may not be commercially acceptable in the market); and
  8. How much it will cost. Ideally breaking up the fees and outlays to be incurred.

Such retainer should be in writing, a customer service agreement ("CSA"), and no work should occur until this phrase is asked and answered in the positive:

"Do you understand the terms of the retainer and shall we continue?"

Your CSA should have standard clauses inserted to ensure wriggle room to accommodate a change in scope of works, unforseen issues and delays, etc�

The next article details the main types of security you can take to better protect yourself.

Summary

In the current economic environment, service providers must be vigilant in relation to their credit control. The first step is to document the rules of engagement by having a CSA.

The CSA is simple to draft, apply and tailor to meet your needs. If you need assistance to draft, review or amend your CSA then please contact our office.