Much is made about the efficiencies that can be wrung out of a transaction in its early and middle stages, such as contactless payments, e-wallets and tokenization. And certainly technology has done, can do and will do much to reduce costs and friction at the point of sale and beyond.
But what of the very end stages of a transaction where a bill is presented for payment? That could be deemed the “last mile” in the consumer experience, and according to “Achieving Billing Wellness: The Strategic Value of Billing Best Practices,” a recent white paper from Billtrust, the bill presentment and payment steps represent an “overlooked and underleveraged opportunity to drive business efficiency” and boost cash flow and even improve (or end) the customer relationship.
But a billing system needs to be up to date, and ready for the 21st century, says Billtrust, with an emphasis on technology to bring what the firm terms “Billing Wellness” that can keep an enterprise ahead of its competition. The white paper focuses on companies that have seen strategic benefits unlocked from their own billing systems transformations.
Key questions need to be asked, according to Billtrust. And among those questions are: Are invoices well-designed? Do they help reduce time to payment? Can days in fact be shaved from the cash cycle? How would that impact working capital? Is there a growing population of customers receiving invoices through the Web and paying them electronically?
For those companies that undertook comprehensive updates to their billing systems, the white paper notes, cash flow remained among the most tangible benefits. The key initiatives here range from bill design to electronic payments to the acceptance of electronic payments.
Electronic billing has helped bring speed to cash payments. Especially among B2B and B2C, according to Billtrust, paper invoices no longer are sufficient for optimal payment turnaround. The modern billing system must embrace email, fax and online platforms in order to be truly efficient, and bring bill delivery times to customers down to zero.
In order to improve Billing Wellness, the paper continues, systems should have the same Web-based archival and retrieval systems in place to benefit customers and also call-center personnel to locate, view and even print any invoice. Customers, in effect, should be able to research and examine their own invoices with the help of a Web-based system. Those types of easy-to-use systems have the advantage of solidifying customer relationships – and loyalty – because they help reduce costs to those users and also have the added benefit of a “green” practice that is beneficial to the environment.
A true 21st billing system, the research shows, should also allow for targeted messages attached to bills, which can make communications a customized, two-way street. That could include the name of an analyst tied to each account, for example, with contact information included on each bill, so that the customer can benefit from personalized service. E-signatures also give the convenience and security of proof of delivery.
To view the white paper, click here.