Over the past decade, consumer behavior has undergone a radical transformation. Customers today generally enjoy frictionless shopping experiences, whether they shop on an e-commerce site, on Amazon, or in person. It’s safe to say purchasing goods and services has never been easier.
Although front end shopping experiences have been streamlined, the same can’t be said for the customer billing experience.
Not to worry, while this is undoubtedly an area of weakness for businesses in both b2b and b2c, it’s also a massive opportunity for companies to elevate their customer experience. Resulting in lower churn rates, less unhappy customers and less stress on your customer service.
Customer service is often viewed as sending that extra mail to get feedback or adding a discount to loyal customers. This couldn't be further from the truth.
The goal of good customer service is to ensure that customers are satisfied with the value they receive from their purchases as compared to the price they paid. A positive customer experience should be the focus of every communication between the business and its customers.
An invoice sent to the customer closes the loop between a business and its customers by relaying information from marketing channels to sales channels. Invoices and bills are therefore vital components of communication. Many businesses still use archaic invoicing and billing technologies despite the development of advanced business models.
Now if you’re looking to bring your billing and invoicing experience to the 21st century here are some steps you should take.
Many smaller businesses still resort to using handwritten bills instead of electronic ones. To the proprietors of these businesses, it may seem like the cheaper short term, but it may have negative effects on the efficiency of the business long term. When online bills are used instead of handwritten ones, they increase efficiency in the business as a result of reduced costs in the long run.
Gradually with expansion, billing becomes more complex and time-consuming. That is where businesses can resort to end-to-end billing solutions. Many specialized technology providers in this area offer automated solutions for invoice generation, client intimation, and the billing process. The moment a product’s barcode is scanned, an invoice is generated and the intimation is sent to the necessary parties. The leaders in this field of integrated technologies, like PayPal and Zipbooks, not only help with automated invoice generation but also help provide one-click payment solutions to clients. So if the client is using an e-wallet or electronic payment system, the process on both ends, including invoice generation and payment, is expedited.
Cloud computing simply adds an extra layer of analysis to the entire billing process. Generally, invoices and bills are not considered a part of the communication process and, thus, are not analyzed. So when the invoice data gets automatically stored in the cloud after being integrated with a generation to receipt solution provider, it can be a great starting point for studying purchase and payment behaviors in the future.
Consistency should be present in everything – the look of the bill, the format of the bill, and the carrying effect of the bill. The look and format of the bill deals with the typography, the branding, and the contact details provided; when they are uniform, they communicate to the customer that the business handles even the smallest of details with care. Finally, the carrying effect means the terms of payment and other conditions on the bill; they should be clearly written on each bill.
This consistency should be maintained from bill to bill, for each customer, throughout all business processes. Therefore, every single transaction will be traceable and backed by a uniform bill, which will make it easier to find relevant data and documents when needed.
Most businesses have a standard rate at which account receivables are to be collected. But how does a business put special emphasis on key accounts? By providing them with a flexible timeline. To put it into perspective, a business should have a clear policy on the tenure of its account receivables laid out for its customers. These timeline policies should be explained in detail in the bills that customers receive. As a benchmark, 80% of accounts receivable should have a fixed timeline and the remaining 20% should have a flexible timeline. The latter should only be provided to key clients who have been with the business long enough to prove themselves reliable.
When a new business relationship is established, make sure that you have done your due diligence before setting up the payment terms, which may include lump sum payments or extended credit lines. Therefore, every client will have a unique relationship with the business that will be reflected in the payment terms, which are integrated into the automated billing system. Additionally, if a client misses a payment, you can start by sending a polite reminder. At the end of the day, clients are humans and they make mistakes, like accidentally missing a payment, just like everyone else.
Billing is the final step in the entire communication process with the customer. A bill usually shows the service/product provided, along with the quantity, price, and taxes. So it can be used as marketing collateral as well. A bill, though nothing fancy, can still possess essential information. Additionally, a unique way to leverage the bill as marketing collateral is by putting social media buttons within it, if it’s an electronic bill. Or you can put the website address and social media handles on the physical bill.
This allows the bill to provide the necessary closure to the entire communication process with the customer.
While companies are pushing to improve their front end, many forget about maintaining and providing amazing experiences to their customers post purchase. The most obvious of which is billing, which as we stated earlier presents a massive opportunity.
Implementing these small changes can create a massive decrease in customer service burden, and an increase in positive experience for your customers.
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