Let me guess – if you had a dollar for every time someone referenced ‘Amazon-like’ experience in a company meeting, you’d be rich. As those responsible for delivering the portal experience, it’s not an easy task to continually align expectations (both customer and internal) with the reality of what you’ve been given to work with (legacy system overload). And with the blurring of consumer and business experiences, the task of defining what’s needed for your business portal becomes even harder.
The way we buy and engage with services as consumers has completely changed, largely in part due to e-commerce giants like Amazon (now accounting for more than 50% of US e-commerce). And while there are some stark differences between our consumer versus professional needs, we can’t discount the fact that Amazon has successfully managed to alter the buying and consumption behaviors of millions of adopted users. After all, isn’t that the ultimate goal of any digital experience?
So what specific lessons can we learn from Amazon in regards to delivering a ‘gold star’ digital experience that ultimately shifts customer behavior?
As you move through Amazon’s buying and fulfillment process, it’s clear to see a lot of thought has gone into the user flows. After searching and adding an item to your cart, the ‘proceed to checkout’ directs you to the payment process. Your stored payment methods and shipping addresses appear, with the user-defined defaults automatically selected. And if you’ve selected multiple items, you can easily apply different payment and shipping methods.
This idea of knowing what customers need to do in order to complete a purchase, or any common task, is step one for CSPs. Then comes defining the specific capabilities required to complete a customer task, such as paying an invoice, viewing a report, or buying a new device. Then lastly, determining if they exist in a digital state today, and if so, are they capable of being integrated into a single workflow or are they deployed across different platforms/portals that hinder integration.
Although Amazon is recognized for their thought leadership around new technologies, such as AI and machine learning, their broad success is linked to their continued focus on convenience and personalization. Prime (no pun intended) examples of these are the Buy Now (one-click purchase), Dash Buttons (instant reorder) and Amazon Household (multi-user permissions) features.
It’s not ground breaking changes that make the difference – it’s knowing what customers are doing and finding ways to continually make those tasks easier. For business customers, time savings is the most noted benefit for changing the way they engage with their CSPs. If you can find a way to deliver efficiency for your business customers, they will gladly give up their offline, manual practices.
All of the above has enabled Amazon to operate in a model which leads to very few customer inquiries or disputes. It’s easy to use. It’s easy to know the actions you’ve taken. It’s easy to trust your actions will lead to the expected results.
And most importantly, it eliminates the need to drive to the store, find a parking spot, search on shelves, drive to another store, do a price check, package and ship a gift, enter shipping codes to track, argue about return policies…you get the point.
When your portal experience can successfully eliminate your business customers’ pain points around managing their telecom costs and assets, the idea of 100% self-serve shifts from utopia to reality.
Are you providing your business customers with an integrated portal experience? Or are you providing a portal with integrated navigation?
If you’re unsure of how to answer the question above, here’s your task. Log in to your business customer portal and complete these five tasks:
So, how many times did you leave the task at hand to click into another area of the portal (or another portal entirely) in order to complete the task? How many times did you right click to copy information? Or jot down information to manually enter elsewhere? If you lost count, you’re not alone.
Today’s CSP business portals are lacking a key concept that completely changes the way your customers engage with you – an integrated experience.
This goes beyond SSO and a consistent look and feel across navigational tabs. This is integrating the user tasks and workflows across the entire digital experience of buying, managing, and paying for services and devices.
This starts with having deep knowledge of your business customers – not just who they are but what they do. It’s understanding their day-to-day operations and how your portal experience aligns to a company’s processes and policies. It’s knowing the most common tasks, associated workflows, and actions they need to take and when. And it’s understanding how those behaviors vary based on segment, role, consumption levels, etc.
Imagine if your customers could seamlessly complete the five tasks above with zero interruption.
They’re guided to the next step of the process, while staying in the context of the task at hand. No more swivel chairs between separate buy, manage and pay processes or portals. Just one, integrated portal experience that allows them to complete the required tasks in a fragment of the time.
This is how you deliver an experience that adds value for your business customers. And in turn, adds value for your company.
When was the last time your company’s business billing program had zero initiatives? For most, the answer is never. Due to the ever-fluctuating products, pricing, customers, processes, etc., billing programs – and their respective systems – are always evolving. This is a must to support customer growth, product innovation, and operational excellence. But on the flip side, how does this endless cycle of change impact the customer billing experience?
Well, for some, not much at all. For others, the impacts are significant – a rise in billing inquiries, late payments, dissatisfied customers, and ultimately, churn.
So what’s the variance between the two? The digital experience (or lack thereof).
The digital channel offers a unique opportunity to combat traditional challenges associated with billing changes. The idea is fairly simple: provide your business customers with a single portal to access all bills and associated data across all accounts and products.
What this means for your customers is they have a consistent view of their bills and usage data, regardless if you add new products or source the data from a different system. What this means for your company is your customers have no direct exposure to your in flux billing systems.
To put it into perspective, let’s take a look at the three categories of change and the direct impacts they have on your customer billing experience:
1. Billing System Replacement: A complete system re-haul typically comes with a new customer experience, either via a paper bill and/or a digital bill. While efforts are made to align the new with the old, we have yet to see an identical structuring and display of billing data in this scenario. Ironically, most companies go into a replacement with the mentality of eliminating the ‘bad’ from the legacy system. But that is often overruled for the ‘ease’ of mimicking what’s already in place.
As old replaces the new, customers must learn the variances and how they impact their established validation and payment processes. These long-term projects are also a common culprit of ‘putting the digital experience on hold’ until the new system is in place.
2. Billing System Addition: Many companies have multiple billing systems in place – and are continuing to add due to acquisition activities or product-specific requirements. Given the focus on digital, many billing vendors now include a ‘complementary’ portal experience as part of the system they provide.
Here’s the problem – those ‘complementary’ experiences are system specific. Meaning if customers do business with you across multiple product lines, they have to log in to multiple portals to access their bills, reports, and payments.
3. Billing System Alteration: Some billing systems have been in place for 20 or 30 years and still have sufficient capacity and capabilities to handle today’s advanced services. But that doesn’t mean they are static. The launch of new products and bundles, revised data requirements, redefining of segments, etc. are all examples of changes that have an impact on the resulting experience.
As the existing bill is altered, customers have a heightened need to validate charges and pricing. If offline validation (using a paper or static PDF bill) is the only option, this can be a time intensive and frustrating process for the customer.
Change is never easy – especially when it involves thousands of customers and billions in revenues. But using the digital channel as your ‘constant’ billing experience provides your business customers with consistency that is welcomed and trusted.
So whether you’re taking on a full billing system replacement, supplementing your existing infrastructure, or altering your systems in place, educate yourself on the value an overarching digital experience can deliver – both in the short and long-term.
You have 6 billing systems and 42 bill cycles? No problem!
One thing we continually hear from the market is the need to provide an integrated billing experience. Some of the most advanced companies, in terms of products and services, are still operating in silos when it comes to the invoicing and payments of their business customers. Why? Because migrating to a single billing system is hard…and expensive…and time intensive.
And to be frank, sometimes unrealistic. We have countless examples of companies launching these big bang consolidation initiatives – which can cost upwards of $500M – with little to show at the end (if the project ever reaches an end state).
The alternative or parallel approach is to look at billing integration from an experience versus a system perspective. At the end of the day, your customers don’t care what’s happening with your back-end infrastructure as long as they’re receiving accurate and timely bills. And with a direct tie between low customer satisfaction ratings and poor billing experiences, it’s imperative that you give your customers and internal teams what they need to operate efficiently – now, not in years.
So how do you bring together 6 billing systems and 42 bill cycles into an integrated digital billing experience?
1. Start by defining the ideal digital billing experience – and then work backwards.
What do your customers need from you in order to accelerate the bill payment process? What digital tools make it easier for them to access, analyze, allocate, pay, and reconcile your invoices?
Don’t get bogged down in trying to translate what you have today into what customers need. Trust me – you have all of the right data. You just need to provide your customers with a better way to act on it.
2. Next, use a billing ‘mediator’ to bring together your billing and customer experts.
Each system, process and segment comes with its own team of experts, objectives, resulting bill outputs, and most likely, some legacy hang ups. It’s imperative to have someone overseeing the data integration and guiding all teams towards the same end goal.
Although a digital integration is far less invasive than a physical merging of systems, it still requires an extensive review of the varying data elements. For example, while one system may use a 3 tiered billing structure, another may use 5 tiers. Or while one may refer to monthly charges as ‘monthly charges’, another may use the term ‘recurring charges’. Although these nuances seem minute, it’s this amalgamation that ultimately results in a consistent and easy experience for the customer.
3. Caution – be prepared for the system and process rabbit holes.
I can’t tell you how many times we’ve heard ‘I didn’t know we had a specific reporting system for that’ or ‘I didn’t realize there was a specific process for that’.
Billing is complex and its reach extends far beyond the actual billing systems. As you begin translating all of the varying systems and processes – to ultimately create a unified ‘language’ for your customers and internal operations – you’re bound to uncover some unknowns. Document, document, document and keep your eyes on the prize of ‘what is best for the customer’.
4. And remember, perfection is the ultimate staler – start with a baseline and build.
If you were your own customer, would you rather have access to 75% of your bills online now or 0% while you wait for 100%? Yes, business customers are fed up with the hoops and ladders they have to go through to pay your invoices today but believe it or not, they also understand the complexity you’re trying to simplify.
It would be ideal to have all systems integrated and available on day one but sometimes that’s just not feasible. Prioritize the big wins (which systems host the majority of data for majority of business base), communicate the evolving experience, and get customers on board with your digital journey.
Ready to see the art of what’s possible? Contact us today to see a live demo of this integrated and interactive billing experience.
What’s the ultimate goal of any billing experience? To get paid fast.
Evaluate your current billing experience and then ask, does the experience provide tools that make it easy for our business customers to pay?
That’s the secret to getting paid fast.
The question applies to both on and offline payments. Although a large enterprise customer may not opt in for online or automatic payments, they can simplify review and approval with a good billing experience.
In benchmarking best practices, Globys has identified the following features for making payments easier:
1. Customer-defined consolidation
Digital invoicing allows customers to consolidate any or all invoices, across multiple accounts, into a single invoice for payment. This requires a unique approach to how invoice data is mapped, loaded and stored – essentially allowing customers to bring together invoices of their choice on demand. This feature allows customers to align supplier invoices with their accounting and payment structures in just a few clicks.
2. Custom reporting and account categorizations
Self-service reporting and hierarchy management allow customers to match charge and usage data to their specific payment structures and policies. This requires a flexible reporting structure, as well as a depth and breadth of invoice data. Once these custom views and categorizations are created, customers can quickly validate charges as new invoices arrive – across all invoices and accounts or a subset.
3. Direct integration with customers’ systems
Whether a custom data feed or an automated transfer of invoices, these integration features allow suppliers to adapt their outputs to their customers’ payment processes, not vice versa. This direct integration provides an easy way for customers to input the suppliers’ digital invoicing data into their established systems and processes.
4. Online disputes and status alerts
This feature allows customers to raise disputes from within the context of a bill, at either the invoice or specific charge level. As the dispute resolution process ensues, customers are provided with in-app or email status updates. The amount of the dispute is automatically removed from the total outstanding due, allowing customers to move forward with the remainder of payment while resolution is determined.
5. Multi-pay with automated remittance capture
Multi-pay allows customers to submit a single payment for a group of consolidated invoices, while automatically capturing the required remittance information. This action can be completed online or set up for automatic payment each month. For larger business customers, who tend to pay offline due to more traditional payment policies, this same functionality is applied via a printed remittance slip.
6. Multi-user, permission-based access
The customers’ payment process is far more complex than the final act of submitting payment, with several different roles and workflows involved. A multi-user application allows your customers to provide the right level of visibility and permissions to different roles throughout the organization. This includes access to specific accounts and services, self-service user management, and permissions for reporting and payment tasks.
Online billing experiences are often promoted for their convenience factor – making it easy to access monthly invoices on demand. But an experience that is truly digital provides more value than just an easy way to view a static replica of the paper bill. Check out the Globys Suite to see how we make it easy for your customers to pay.
Did you know customers are measuring how much it costs to do business with you? It’s called Cost per Invoice (CPI). Accounts payable (AP) uses the metric to determine how well they are performing. It’s calculated by taking the total monthly expense incurred by AP and dividing by the number of invoices. This metric can also be computed against a subset of invoices to determine cost variances from one group to another. In other words, your customers’ AP can see how much your invoices cost to process.
A high CPI is a sign of inefficiencies within an AP Department including overly manual invoicing steps or a significant number of disputes to resolve.
So how expensive is it to do business with you? Here’s the math. The CPI for business customers to process a consumption-based invoice ranges from $4 to $26. These ranges are a bit higher than other CPI benchmarks due to the complexity in receiving and reviewing usage and fee data. Research also shows consumption-based billers, such as telecommunications and utilities, are lagging behind with e-invoicing solutions. This means business customers are using offline methods to re-key invoice data from paper bills into their AP systems.
For small business customers, who are likely receiving one to ten fairly straight forward invoices per month, the total monthly cost is $40 or less. But for enterprise customers, the costs can be staggering. It’s not uncommon for these large corporate or commercial accounts to receive upwards of 500 invoices from a single provider (think invoicing per site or service). This brings the total monthly cost of invoice processing to more than $10,000!
So no, you’re not charging your customers a $10k monthly fee, but yes it costs them that much to process your invoices. Just how much it costs depends on the billing experience you provide. Do you give them the tools to quickly and efficiently validate and pay? Or do you make them do it offline with Excel?
And it doesn’t just cost your customer. It costs you too.
It’s no secret that billing and disputes remains one of the top call drivers among all business segments. Every call they make and every day they wait is increasing their CPI and your support costs.
Research shows it can take up to 12 days to process an invoice. This isn’t due to lack of effort. It’s the manual steps required to align your invoice with their processing and payment structures. And every day that passes, your DSO increases.
And what about the impact to customer satisfaction? The billing experience ranks as the top reason for customer dissatisfaction and ultimately, the search for another provider.
Businesses large and small are investing in Accounts Payable technologies to remove the manual invoice processing that is costing them time and money. But internal enhancements can only improve CPI by so much. They’re depending on you, their service provider, to provide them with the billing experience required to transition to a state of automation.
See how suppliers are using Globys Invoicing & Payments to provide a billing experience that simplifies the invoice process for their business customers.
Want loyal customers who pay on time? Here’s some food for thought. Out of all business segments, mid-market customers are the greatest adopters of online multi-pay, a payment process where multiple invoices are grouped into a single payment. In fact, Globys Research shows mid-market customers also have the highest adoption rate of multi-user access, pre-defined invoice reports, and automated budget validation.
Why is this worth noting? Well…
The mid-market segment represents companies earning an annual revenue between $100 million and $3 billion. Sitting in between smaller companies and billion-dollar giants, these companies account for a third of revenues in both the U.S. and European economies. For most suppliers, they represent a sizeable amount of revenues (and support costs).
Understanding the unique workflows and dynamics within a mid-market’s operations is key to providing the optimal digital billing and payment experience. The features called out above are directly aligned to how mid-market customers prefer to pay, the visibility required throughout multiple roles, and the validation required to meet internal control standards. The resulting benefits for them means you get paid faster.
While there are some similarities between customer segments, it’s important to note that mid-market customers are not the ‘in between’ of SMB and Enterprise. Mid-market customers possess a unique set of characteristics that impact the way your invoices are processed and paid. For example:
Mid-market customers offer a prime opportunity for a win-win scenario. When suppliers understand and guide their mid-market customers to the most efficient billing and payment experience, they also reap the benefits by accelerating cash flow, lowering costs and building stronger customer relationships.