Review of Invoice-Box: DO NOT USE IT

Posted on: 2012-09-30 in Steaming Barrel   |   Tagged: bookkeeping london bookkeeping online bookkeeping software incoice box invoice scanning outsourced bookkeeping

An outsourced book-keeping service designed to save time and money has done the opposite for @TopLineFounder who is still down 60+ receipts and two months behind on her company’s management accounts.

We interrupt our PR Account Manager’s Handbook series to tell you about our experiences with Invoice-Box. Please share this with any SME owners you know as you could save them months of admin, annoyance and time.

Update: 2 October 2012: Just to clarify, Invoice Box is an independent service and has nothing to do with Quickbooks, Xero or Freshbooks, except that you can integrate your account with these great (at least in the case of Xero, and I'm told in the cases of Freshbooks and Quickbooks) accounting software packages.

What is Invoice-Box?

Invoice Box is a fantastic (yet sadly, not fit for purpose) idea for a service to small businesses. Founded by a small business accountant (Joe Charlesworth), the service is designed to take the admin out of book-keeping. If you’re like me, then you find book-keeping to be a pain in the arse.  You have to take every receipt or invoice you receive and enter in into your accounting system, taking care not to miss any small details. It’s a fiddly business, and you either have to give it to a very competent administrator (it’s pretty time consuming), or you have to outsource it to a professional book-keeper. If you outsource it to a book-keeper, you have to get the invoices to them, and it is usually cost effective to do this once a month. The problem is that if you only do it once a month, then you are not able to run your accounting system in real time, and can only take a snapshot as to the financial health of the business once a month.

This was the issue I was grappling with in May this year, when I came across Invoice-Box online. I was delighted to find the service, which costs around £30 a month and does the following.

  • They send you self-addressed, pre-paid envelopes.
  • You stuff your receipts into the envelopes and post them to Invoice-Box (you can also email them).
  • Within three days they have scanned the receipts, entered them into your Invoice-Box account according to your instructions on categories etc.
  • You log in, check their work, and then click ‘Upload’ and the data is immediately uploaded to your accounting software programme (They integrate with Xero, Quickbooks and Freshbooks), ready to be reconciled at the click of a button.

You can imagine my delight at having found the service. At the time, the company was brand new, and I signed up for an account immediately, knowing that as one of the company’s first customers I would have to endure some of their teething problems as they sorted out all the bugs and glitches in processes.

We got started in May, and there were a few problems (e.g. incorrect data entry, typos) but nothing too major and every time I fed back to them, they addressed them immediately.  I also provided feedback on elements of the service that I thought could be improved (e.g. originally if you emailed them a receipt you had to print it out, write the category on the receipt, scan it and then send it – now you can send the category in the body of the email, which means you can forward email receipts).

What went wrong?

It all went reasonably well, until July, when I noticed some receipts were just disappearing. Because I wasn’t keeping a record of every receipt I sent them (as this would have been as much admin as just entering them into the accounting software myself, and would have negated the need for Invoice-Box) solving these mysteries was taking up a lot of my time.

Then, towards the end of August, it all went wrong, when two batches I sent (24 August and 3 September) fell into the abyss. Two weeks went by, and they hadn’t turned up, so I emailed Invoice-Box, but got no response. A third week went by, and still no sign of our invoices. Five emails, and four phonecalls later, there is still no sign of my invoices. For the first time in two years, we have been unable to do the management accounts for August, as we are down 60+ invoices. September’s management accounts will be affected as well. On top of that, I have spent hours trying to resolve the situation.

The most baffling element of this whole fiasco has been the attitude of Joe, the founder of Invoice-Box. Not once has he apologised, and on our calls he talks to me as though I am being unreasonable.  For example:

  • Two weeks ago I was told that the scanning station was busy because of the end of the French tax year (he didn’t seem to think it reasonable that I should want my invoices uploaded within five weeks of sending them).  He promised to find my invoices.
  • Ten days ago, I asked him to close my account and send me my invoices (by this stage I just wanted my invoices back). He said he would do so, and then I got an email saying they were on their way to him, and would be sent to me the beginning of last week (24 September).
  • On Wednesday (26th), realising this had not happened, I spoke to him again, he said he had my invoices and would post them that day for arrival on Thursday. They have still not arrived. When I asked what the problem was he said ‘I said I would post them to you, what more do you want me to do?’ When I said, I thought you were supposed to upload them to my account within three working days he said ‘that is our target’, clearly not concerned that they had now exceeded their target by over a thousand per cent!

So, I am now down 60+ invoices, management accounts for two months, and my VAT return will be affected as well.

I can only draw one of three conclusions: either something dreadful has happened (such as they have lost a whole lot batch of invoices and Joe is too scared to tell me – he should read my post on how to have a difficult conversation), or they are running a scam and want to use my invoices for something they are not intended for, or the business is simply run by incompetents. Whatever it is, I do not appreciate being lied to.

I am really sorry as to the state of affairs, because when I met Joe I thought he was a genuinely nice person and I believed that the business really did have potential. However, this service has been unacceptably poor, and I am now going to have to contact my solicitor about how I can get my invoices back. I therefore have to advise anyone considering Invoice Box – DON’T DO IT!

What have been your experiences with Invoice-Box?

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About this blog

The B2B PR Blog is a resource for both PR professionals and people working in B2B industries on how to devise and implement successful B2B PR campaigns. The blog was founded by B2B PR specialist Heather Baker, who runs video production and corporate animation agency TopLine Film and digital PR and SEO agency  TopLine Comms. The B2B PR Blog takes contributions from sensible industry folk with something interesting to say.


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