With countless providers to choose from for any given product or service — and with the unlimited information buyers can access online — businesses that want to attract and retain loyal customers know just how important it is to create a frictionless experience through every step of the process.

When businesses talk about the customer experience, which is equally important in both the SaaS and direct-to-consumer landscapes, they often get hung up on specific elements such as packaging, pricing or positioning of products and services and let the rest fall by the wayside.

But in reality, the customer experience is a process that begins the moment a potential buyer shows interest in a company’s offerings and doesn’t end until the customer has received her purchase and the company has received payment. Innovation X author Adam Richardson captures this idea in a recent article for Harvard Business Review:

“People have been grappling with a definition of customer experience for several years. Sometimes it’s defined as digital experiences and interactions, such as on a website or a smartphone. In other cases, customer experience is focused on retail or customer service, or the speed at which problems are solved in a call center.“To be really successful on a long-term basis, customer experience needs to be seen as all these things, and more. It is the sum-totality of how customers engage with your company and brand, not just in a snapshot in time, but throughout the entire arc of being a customer.”

One of the most overlooked elements of the customer experience is billing. It may seem easy enough to spit out an invoice at the end of a transaction, and that may be the only part the customer sees, but in fact, billing is a critical process that underpins the entire customer journey. Savvy vendors understand that, and they know the importance of an intelligent billing system that is flexible and powerful enough to meet both customer expectations and corporate objectives.

5 Ways Billing Can Make or Break the Customer Experience

1. Pricing

This is perhaps the most obvious function of billing, but a sophisticated, customer-driven system empowers vendors to go beyond a single, static price list and offer a variety of pricing and packaging options designed to meet customers’ expectations and to evolve with their needs.

2. Transparency

Today’s consumers and corporate buyers are accustomed to having limitless information at their fingertips, and they expect the same from the customer experience. Customers require easy-to-follow, thorough pricing options and clear, consistent follow-up notifications regarding the status and setup of their purchase or order.

3. Fulfillment

An intelligent billing system must communicate with the vendor as effectively as it does with the customer, integrating seamlessly with web and e-commerce systems, accurately recording transactions and automatically notifying the appropriate personnel to ensure timely purchase fulfillment.

4. Add-ons and Follow-on Sales

In order to encourage loyalty and ongoing business, intelligent billing systems need to make it easy for customers to keep buying. This could mean recommending add-ons based on products and services that are often purchased in tandem, soliciting relevant follow-on sales or automating renewals for subscription models.

5. Identification of New Opportunities

More than simply adept at handling purchases, intelligent billing systems need to be proactive, analyzing purchase data and customer behavior to reduce churn but also to identify new market opportunities based on purchase and usage data. By empowering product development teams to respond to—and, better yet, predict—customer needs, these systems can expand a vendor’s reach and further enhance the customer experience.

Download our white paper to learn more about key ways billing systems enhance the customer experience.

In today's complicated and evolving business landscape, where the power has shifted from the supplier to the buyer, a billing system that doesn’t include the above capabilities is liable to detract from the customer experience, jeopardizing not only initial sales but invaluable follow-on opportunities as well.

To learn how to ensure your company’s billing system is equipped to meet both customer needs and corporate objectives, contact us at info@gotransverse.com today.

Clare Corriveau is the Director of Marketing at Gotransverse. An award winning marketer, Clare has built her career in SaaS and demand generation. Prior to joining Gotransverse, Clare oversaw North American prospect demand generation at Blackbaud. When she’s not kicking SaaS in marketer-mode, you can find her spending time with her husband and kids, hiking with her pup Pippa and cheering on Michigan State.