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A strategic perspective on invoice-to-cash

Should you give your customers greater visibility and control at the risk of exposing your invoicing errors?

Topics: Invoicing

Opening the doors to your hidden (or unknown) billing secrets can be a scary move. But most agree customer visibility is a risk worth taking in order to minimize the long-term impacts of dissatisfaction.

Here’s the way the story typically goes. Your company launches with a standard set of products and services for a few thousand customers, charging and invoicing from a central system. Fast forward a few years: your company grows, adding new business units (both homegrown and acquired), new products, services, rating structures, new customers, new systems, new third party partnerships, new internal players, etc.

To say the invoicing process has become inefficient would be an understatement. And unfortunately, the inefficiencies aren’t limited to your internal teams and processes. They’re now impacting your most valuable asset – your customers.

The varying products, systems and processes have resulted in a cluster of invoices and delivery formats.

Some invoices come with too much detail (hundreds of pages to find the charges with monthly variance) while others lack any detail (a summary of charges with no account descriptors to indicate the responsible party). Some come as summary PDFs via email while the associated detail comes 10 days later via snail mail. Some are delivered directly to the respective offices or entities while others are rolled up to the corporate level. Some offer online payment options while others require a trip to the bank. And the variances go on and on.

So what’s the good news in this sea of billing pain?

Your customers don’t want you to fix your invoicing inconsistencies. They want you to give them direct access to their invoicing data – all of it – so they can control how their data is viewed, organized and shared.

And now we enter the great debate.

If you give your customers greater visibility into their invoicing data, will they find the billing errors that you know exist? Will they see that some of their charges are misaligned to their contractual rates?  Will they see the accounts and services that should have been removed two years ago that have zero charges?  Will they turn off services that have had zero usage over the past year, costing you revenues?  What else is lingering in those systems that may trigger a fire storm?

And the flip side.

If you don’t give your customers greater visibility into their invoicing data, how much time will they spend consolidating and manipulating data?  Will they continue to push back, requiring your internal teams to do the work on their behalf?  Will the call volumes and resolution times continue to increase?  How will the delayed and withholding of payments impact your bottom line? Will the dissatisfaction of the invoicing experience cause resistance for upsell opportunities?  How do you combat questions regarding our less than ideal invoicing experience for new sales?

The complexity of your billing framework is going to continue to increase (did someone say IoT?) and customers will expect (not want) you to provide them with the visibility and tools required to understand the cost and value associated with your services. Although the concern of exposing some ‘huhs?’ is a risk that should be managed under close watch, it’s a common problem that can and should be addressed.