Is A PDF Bill Enough? 4 Things Your SMB Customers Want You to Know

The small business (SMB) segment representsa substantial portion of the business market. For many suppliers, SMB customersrepresent 80% of the total business customer base. On the flip side, that same80% comprises only 20% of total business revenues. A lot of customers to serveand support – without a lot of upside or revenue to reinvest.

So what do you do when you have an upsidedown revenue-to-customer ratio (20/80)? You find the most efficient way tocollect that 20% – and to keep it coming in.


But it’s notjust about finding efficiencies within your organizational walls. It’s ensuringyour billing and payment experience, specifically for your SMB customers, istailored to accelerate their invoice payment process. And yes, ensuring theycan do so with as little (or zero) support from you as possible.

Now for thegood stuff. How can this impact your SMB profits? Well, imagine if you couldreduce your billing inquiries by 30%. That’s exactly what our client TELUS wasable to accomplish – not to mention the resulting impact on customersatisfaction (see TELUS Customer Spotlight).

Here are four soundbites we continuallyhear from SMBs regarding their internal payment processes – and what they wanttheir suppliers to take into account when it comes to the invoices and datayou’re providing:

1. Timing of payment is everything – not toolate, not too early

The saying ‘it takes money to make money’rings loud and true among SMBs. Whether just starting out or a few years in,the alignment of cash flow is of utmost importance. Although your stated duedate is taken into consideration, the timing of payment is heavily influencedby other incoming and outgoing payments.

On-time payments and maintaining goodvendor relationships are particularly important for this segment. Growth andfunding is highly dependent on good credit ratings and consistent services,i.e. no business interruptions.

2. Wide range of business models = wide rangeof skillsets

The SMB segment represents a variety ofbusinesses, ranging from a local service vendor to a retail chain with multipleshops and 40 employees. This variability also carries over into who isresponsible for managing the financial tasks of the business. Some owners takeon this responsibility themselves, while others assign the task to internalroles, such as an Office Manager or Accountant, or outsource to a Bookkeeper.

These varying business models and rolesmake it difficult to determine a single ‘experience’ that will work for allprocesses. For those owners juggling multiple roles, notifications andreminders are key. For those with an outsourced Bookkeeper, it’s ensuring boththe business and the Bookkeeper have access to the same information – asquickly and painless as possible.

3. Complex processes exist, just scaled downwith less resources

Although thenumber of employees and revenues may be smaller than their Enterprisecounterparts, the workflow in reviewing and paying bills is actually quitesimilar (see 20-step Enterprise process) – minus the high-tech systems and dedicated AccountsPayable roles.

As bills are received, either via paper ordigital format, they are forwarded to the appropriate contact who then managesthe review, validation, approval, payment, and filing of the invoice.Specifically for SMBs, this remains a highly manual and paper-based process,largely due to the inability to easily gather required data points and to shareinformation beyond the original receiver of the invoice.

4. Ready to go digital…but need a motivator

Is a PDF bill enough? In short, no.Although the static PDF or image view of the bill is helping SMBs to transitionto an online experience, it’s not really aiding in any efficiencies for the SMB– or for the supplier.

Disputes, inquiries and payments continueto be the top call drivers from SMB customers. Why? A PDF bill offers zerointeractivity. Customers can’t dig deeper to find the data requiredself-resolve questions. Customers can’t pay directly from the bill. Andcustomers can’t personalize the view based on their specific business needs.It’s basically a redo of the paper bill (which by the way a large portion stillrely on even when PDF is available).


Wondering if your SMB customers are satisfied with thebilling and payment experience you’re providing? Have a look at the callvolumes coming in from this segment, specifically around billing inquiries anddisputes. Run your paperless adoption counts across this segment to see if yoursemi-digital experience is being used in parallel or as a true replacement tothe costly paper bills. And lastly, look at your churn rates among this group.These are all good indicators that you’re tracking to keep – or not keep – your20% SMB revenue stream flowing.


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