B2B payments company eNett International, which specializes in the travel industry, wants players in the space to ramp up their use of virtual cards — and not just for the sake of more streamlined back-office functionality.
The firm recently released a report on how paying B2B suppliers with virtual cards is critical to enhancing the corporate customer experience, much like electronic payments have done in the B2C travel world. According to analysts, virtual cards are critical to providing a better experience for clients, yet today, enhanced electronic B2B payment capabilities are few and far between.
“One-click payments, contactless services and direct mobile billing have revolutionized payments in many B2C industries, but B2B payments in the travel sector are often still handled manually,” eNett said in its announcement of the report.
With research conducted by Smith + Co, eNett identified a positive correlation between the use of virtual card numbers, customer satisfaction and improved financial performance of a travel firm. According to the data, a mere 5 percent increase in customer loyalty can yield an 85 percent increase in profits. While boosted customer experience, or CX, can result from greater choice for customers — like offering a broader array of destinations by travel service providers — it can also result from both front- and back-office payments.
“Consumers are demanding ever more exotic destinations, and as the range of countries offered by agencies grows, so does the number of currencies,” eNett CEO and Managing Director Anthony Hynes told PYMNTS in a previous interview. “Travelers are becoming more adventurous; this means travel companies are doing business in new markets with a wider range of previously unknown suppliers.”
Sophisticated payments technology is critical in supporting that demand. Expanding customer choice for things like travel destinations means expanding the supplier base — which means more cross-border payments in more currencies. Manual payment processes cannot handle added volume like this, eNett noted.
“Technology such as Virtual Account Numbers (VANs) can be used to automate [B2B payments], speeding up customer-to-intermediary payments to enhance the customer experience of online checkouts,” the company stated. “Automating the payments process also enables employees to take on higher value, more motivating activity with customers.”
According to eNett’s report, the number of European travel companies that accept payments in at least 10 different currencies has doubled in the past three years, from 6 percent to 12 percent. For those businesses that depend solely on their bank to handle cross-border payments needs, the cost could be 3 percent more compared to using alternative services, the report found.
And while the corporate customer may not directly see the more complicated back-office supplier payment practices, they are impacted by these functions, eNett said.
“The travel sector is a good example of a market where a fusion of digital processes and human touch points can be either positive and harmonious, or problematic,” eNett concluded. “This applies to users’ experience of websites and apps, but also the the effectiveness of back-office operations.”
“Critical but time-consuming tasks like payment reconciliation can impact employee motivation and reduce the time available for more interesting and higher-value activities, such as spending time with customers,” it added.
According to eNett’s Hynes, the data offers clear conclusions about the link between virtual B2B payments on the backend and customer satisfaction on the frontend.
“In the fast-moving, competitive travel industry, customer experience is an important differentiator for brands and has a direct impact on the bottom line,” he explained in a statement. “Leveraging innovative payment solutions like eNett Virtual Account Numbers can power an increase in the number of listings and suppliers, driving customer experience and advocacy. Employees throughout the organization are freed up from manual tasks, enabling them to spend more time talking to customers and delivering the best possible customer service.”