With more consumers embracing self-service, the opportunities for personal customer interaction are dwindling. Online interactions must be self-explanatory and designed to deliver maximum customer satisfaction. Customers who are frustrated with a user interface or dissatisfied with an online transaction, including billing, stop being customers.

Billing is the one regular interaction you have with customers, so ensuring the billing experience is positive is crucial. With the rise in subscription and pay-as-you-go services, customers are looking for more self-service interaction, which means service terms and tiers, and billing processes must be buttoned up. Billing needs to be a frictionless extension of self-service, especially since it is an extension of your brand.

The Return on Customer Experience

When it comes to billing or any other aspect of customer interaction, don’t discount the importance of the customer experience:

  • 86% of consumers say they would abandon a trusted brand after two bad experiences.
  • U.S. businesses lose 74% of customers due to poor call center experience.
  • 61% of consumers will pay 5% more for a good customer experience.
  • 65% of customers will become long-term consumers if they experience a consistently positive customer experience.
  • Overall, unplanned customer churn costs U.S. businesses $35.3 billion annually.

Engaging customers by offering consistent, predictable services promotes customer loyalty. One of the factors driving subscription services is consumer demand for a compatible product or service at a predictable cost. Self-service portals promote loyalty by giving customers control over their accounts and engagement. As long as customer expectations are met or, better yet, exceeded, you can expect to retain current customers and maintain predictable revenue.

Your monthly invoice is your monthly touchpoint with customers. Contrary to what many marketers believe, good customer service isn’t sending follow-up emails to ensure the customer got your last email. Good customer service is about ensuring customers are satisfied with the value of their purchase, i.e., they don’t feel they have been overcharged, and the support behind it. Good customer service also ensures that every customer interaction is positive.

No one likes to receive invoices, but getting bills is even more unpleasant when they are hard to decipher or inaccurate. An invoice closes the loop on the contract with your customer – that commitment to exemplary customer service. To maximize customer satisfaction and ensure an ongoing contract, invoices must be considered part of customer interaction, delivering the best possible customer experience.

Making the Most of the Customer Billing Experience

You can take several steps to uplevel your invoicing game to make it part of customer engagement:

Use an automated, hosted billing system – Many businesses still rely on spreadsheets and manual billing processes. However, manual processes are not scalable and are subject to human error. The more customers you acquire, the harder it is to close the books each month, and you will soon find you can’t hire enough people to manage manual billing. Automation is the only way to go.

Automated billing automatically matches customer records to customer contracts, ensuring invoices are accurate and sent on time. Using an automated billing system also makes it easier to accept digital transactions, either with a credit card or bank transfer via a web portal or using a third-party payment system such as PayPal or Google Wallet. And using cloud-based billing means you have a scalable platform that can grow with your business. It’s also easier to integrate a hosted billing solution with other business systems like CRM, and it can generate more detailed data for in-depth analytics.

Be consistent – Customers like consistency. Customers want assurance that you are taking care of their account. They should expect to see the same bill every month using the same layout and billing details. Changing the billing format or throwing in unexpected line items creates frustration. Automation is of value here since it ensures consistency.

Timeliness is part of consistency. Invoices should be sent simultaneously monthly so customers know when to expect a bill. This process helps them with personal budgeting and reassures them that your business provides reliable service.

Establish clearly defined payment terms – Standard collection terms must be crystal clear. Invoices should have a due date, even if they are payable upon receipt, and the consequences for non-payment must also be clear. Most customers will have a fixed payment timeline, after which you may want to impose fees or penalties. You can consider offering more flexible payment terms if you have loyal customers with an established payment record.

Offer self-service – Customers will opt for self-service wherever possible. More than 80% of consumers say they want a self-service option when dealing with vendors. Billing is one area where customers don’t want to deal with a service representative. Making a simple payment through a payment portal should be easy and painless.

As part of self-service, customers also should be able to review their accounts, including previous payments, terms, and details about the customer agreement. They also need to be able to change their personal information, including address, account information, and payment methodology.

Treat customers like people, not accounts – Your billing system should enrich your business relationship with your customer. If a customer is late with a payment, send a gentle reminder, not a demand notice. If there is a problem processing a payment, give the customer the benefit of the doubt, assume there is an error, and be prepared to resubmit the payment for processing. The customer relationship should be collaborative.

Billing may be your only regular contact with customers, so it pays to make it a positive experience. Using a billing platform like Gotransverse gives you control of the customer experience, ensuring consistency and accuracy. To better understand how Gotranverse can improve your customer billing experience, tour the Gotransverse platform or call us to schedule a personalized demonstration.