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How To Choose The Right Billing Software For Your Small Business
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By J. Bender

If you own or manage a small business, you know how much time can be spent chasing down paper invoices, purchase orders and sales reports. It can be a real nightmare! That is where billing software comes in. It allows you to record all your customers, sales, invoices, inventory, suppliers (and more) in a PC-based system that is easy to use.

Deciding that you need to invest in good quality billing software is not hard. The tricky part can be choosing the right software package for your requirements. There are dozens of systems on the market claiming to be the holy grail of all your business problems, but choosing the wrong one can cost you valuable time and money.

Here's a simple checklist of 11 things to look for when purchasing billing software for your small business:

1) Customer records: This is the core element of any billing system. What sort of information do you need to record about your customers? There's the obvious things like address, phone, fax, mobile, email and web address. But what about marketing-related information like "how did the customer find out about your business?", and "standard discounts" for key clients.

2) Multiple contacts & Communication history: If many of your clients are businesses with multiple contacts, can you record individual contact details for each person? Word of mouth is the most powerful form of advertising, and statistics show that one of the most important factors in customer satisfaction is good customer service. Have you thought about keeping a log of all communication with your customers? It can be extremely helpful for improving internal communication within your business, and results in a more personalised service for your clients.

3) Multiple shipments: Obviously your billing software will need to create sales orders - that's a gimme. But do you need to record employee-related information, like who the "salesperson" was? What about flexible dispatch options, like multiple shipments per sales order?

4) Search facility: There's no point recording all this really useful information if there's no easy way to get to it. Check that the search facility is flexible and easy to use. What criteria can you search by? Here are a couple useful fields you may want to use: customer phone number, customer address, order date, dispatch date and dispatch consignment number.

5) Tax & regional support: Are you able to change the tax rates on an order line basis? What about currency formatting? If you and your clients are in Europe, then there's no point using billing software that can only handle US dollars.

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Josh Bender is a database developer and software engineer.
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