Good customer experience is not only essential to retaining existing customers, it also plays a key role in spurring growth by bolstering customer loyalty and generating positive word of mouth.
So you might say that a reputation for excellent customer experience can be a strong marketing tool for your business.
An effective, well-organized billing process is the backbone of positive cash flow for a growing business. But did you know it’s also an important part of delivering that great customer experience?
When your customers receive invoices that are confusing, unexpected, or contain errors, it can lead to dissatisfaction, disputes, and even churn.
Here's how optimizing your billing process can enable your subscription business to deliver your best customer experiences.
1. Automate the subscription billing process
A lack of time and team members can result in a frenetic environment where the most pressing matters are dealt with first. This is especially true for growing subscription businesses.
While billing is certainly a high priority for most—after all, no business is likely to last long without cash flow— it may be pushed aside in the heat of the moment to deal with other issues. The result can be late or even forgotten invoices that impede your company’s ability to generate revenue.
Billing late, or forgetting to bill entirely, is bad from a customer experience standpoint as well. It makes your business look unorganized and unprofessional.
An automated subscription billing system has the capacity to generate and send invoices, and seamlessly process payments all on a recurring basis. This can go a long way to solving this problem.
By removing the risk that billing will be sent late or not at all due to the crush of business, such a system helps ensure your customers are consistently billed on time.
2. Get the billing details right
In addition to billing late, if your customers notice mistakes such as incorrect charges, misspelled words, or even confusing line items on their invoices, it makes your business look sloppy or, worse, incompetent. This can reduce the chances that customers will increase—or even continue—the business they do with you.
When it comes to invoicing, you need to sweat the small stuff and make sure all the information is accurate.
For instance, in some cases, the individual who signs up for a subscription service may not be the person responsible for signing off on invoices. It’s important for your subscription billing software to have the ability to add in a separate contact for sending invoices.
An even worse mistake is sending a bill to the wrong customer entirely. Such a blunder can cause customers to worry about your business’s ability to keep their private data secure. In many cases, errors like this are the result of a manual billing process.
When human effort is required to fill in the details of invoices on a repeated basis, mistakes are bound to creep into the process. A modern recurring billing system can simplify the task of translating customer information accurately to your invoices.
These systems also track the details of customer subscriptions regarding billing frequency, upgrades, add-ons, promos, etc., and in real time.
As a result, billing automation can help boost your customer experience by eliminating the errors which often accompany manual billing processes. And the best customer service is all about consistency and attention to detail.
3. Pay attention to invoice design
While getting the details right on your invoices is an essential component of good customer experience, invoice design is also important because it helps your company project a professional image.
If your invoices look like they were hastily or sloppily put together, it creates a negative impression of your company. While it may not cause your customers to refuse to pay, it could negatively impact their willingness to do business with you down the road.
When designing your invoice, a key point is to make your logo easy to spot. This helps establish branding and lets your customers know who the invoice is from. It also gives your invoices a professional appearance, boosting your reputation and level of trust with clients.
Choosing white-label billing software enables you to upload your logo and apply your brand's voice and tone to your invoices.
Of course, besides branding, your invoices should be formatted properly and designed in a way that makes them easy for your customers to read. Invoices should also be consistent in style with your other customer-facing material.
4. Say goodbye to paper and manual billing
If you’re manually sending out invoices or are using a legacy billing system that requires you to print and mail invoices, it’s high time you moved to a system that enables you to leave inefficiencies behind.
Recurring billing software simplifies the invoicing process and eliminates errors that can slip into invoices when manual billing is being performed.
The time and money your business can save by automating, combined with the improved accuracy these systems enable, can help your business grow by freeing up resources.
Automating the billing process also provides you with a precise recordkeeping tool that allows you to securely store invoices in the cloud, and easily access them as needed.
Using this type of billing system benefits the customer by ensuring they receive accurate invoices on time, making it easier for them to track expenses, pay their bills, and manage their cash flow. Additionally, it enables you to provide them with quick access to historic invoices should they make such a request.
Saying goodbye to paper and manual billing processes helps your business operate more efficiently while consistently providing your customers with a higher quality experience.
5. Explain all the charges
To keep the billing process functioning as smoothly as possible, make sure your invoices clearly describe the goods or services associated with each charge. Issuing invoices that confuse your customers cause a host of problems.
First, if customers don’t understand what they’re being billed for, they’re less likely to pay on time.
Second, the customer service headaches this causes can hurt your ability to retain customers, not to mention your chances of doing more business with them.
Finally, the time it takes to resolve these issues and reassure your customers they’re being billed accurately can be considerable.
To avoid these issues, use language that’s simple and succinct. And label each charge in terminology that describes the goods or services being billed for as clearly as possible.
Your customers will appreciate the clarity.
6. Comply with PCI standards
Because businesses charging on a recurring basis in many cases must obtain and retain customer financial data to perform ongoing billing, they need to comply with Payment Card Industry (PCI) standards.
These standards were established by the PCI Security Standards Council in order to help keep consumers’ financial data safe.
Banks that offer credit cards face significant fines if they—or the companies they do business with—violate these regulations. And businesses that commit violations are typically required to reimburse their bank for any such fees.
Using comprehensive subscription billing software in most cases enables you to rely on the software vendor to ensure the software’s data storage activity complies with PCI standards.
Such a digital transformation initiative frees your business from having to invest the time and effort necessary to ensure compliance and deal with any associated auditing of the process.
Ultimately, this benefits your customers and their experience with your business by giving them peace of mind of knowing their data is protected by policies that adhere to the PCI’s rigorous security standards.
7. Include a payment date
Good customer experience embraces good communication.
If you want to receive your payments on a timely basis, you need to include a payment date on your invoices.
Given that some of your customers are likely to juggle paying their bills based on due dates, you risk having your invoice placed on the bottom of the pile if it doesn’t list a specific pay-by date.
This isn’t to say invoices without dates will never be paid, but if you give your customers a reason to delay paying, some of them are likely to take you up on it.
Even if you’re giving a customer a certain number of days to make a payment—for instance, 15 days from the date of the invoice—you should still identify the specific date by which payment must be received to eliminate any confusion.
By doing so, you can increase the number of on-time payments you receive and avoid the irritating experience of constantly having to pester your customers to pay their bills.
Your customers will appreciate the clear communication, and your business will appreciate the more reliable cash flow.
8. Emphasize politeness
No matter how much a customer enjoys doing business with your company, paying invoices is unlikely to be a highlight of their day.
Making a payment is where the rubber meets the road, so to speak.
It demonstrates in concrete form that a customer appreciates—and is willing to pay for—the goods or services your company provides. To respect this, it’s important to make sure the language you use in your invoices emphasizes how much you appreciate a customer’s business.
If you use language that’s excessively curt or doesn’t include expected words such as “please” or “thank you” where appropriate, it could needlessly offend your customers.
It seems basic but emphasizing politeness by using courteous language lets your customers know how much you appreciate them. This, in turn, makes them more likely to pay their invoices and to want to continue doing business with you.
Your business’s customer experience is vital to cultivating customer loyalty, reducing churn, and continuing to acquire new and expanding business. Adopting automated subscription billing software, in conjunction with the steps described above, can help you maximize the efficacy of your billing process.
Simplify your business process and embrace digital transformation by using a more efficient system for creating, sending, and managing your invoices.
In doing so, you elevate your ability to service your customers and grow your business.