For 11 years we've been positioning Billtrust's "outsourced billing service" as a solution to all of a vendor's accounts receivable needs - everything from print/mail to email to world class electronic billing and payment. We've had tremendous success thanks to a great team and a real market need. However, we think that maybe we've been going about it the wrong way. We've been focused on solving Vendor Centric Billing problems which I'm starting to thinking is backwards.
One of the blessings and curses of what we sell is that we save companies a lot of money. That's obviously a great way for clients to justify a purchase - if we partner with Billtrust we can cut our billing expense by 20%-40%. Nothing wrong with that. However, there is something far better than a cost saving project, and that's a revenue adding project. Clients like saving money but they really love growing revenue. How can a back office function like billing grow revenue? We call it Customer Centric Billing and we think it's going to be a game changer for us.
There's been a big shift in the past 5 years with consumers and businesses requesting, and often demanding, that the vendors they deal with be more flexible with their billing and payment options. Consumers increasingly want their bills on bank sites and SmartPhones. Medium and large businesses have been increasingly use Accounts Payable portals like OB10 and Ariba to consolidate their inbound invoices. These are just a few examples of what we're seeing.
Vendors often try and deal with problems like billing in ways that benefit themselves. Symptons of Vendor Centric Billing are:
- Trying to drive customers only to your website to review/pay bills
- Encouraging paperless billing to "help the environment" when everybody knows your doing it to save cost
- Ignoring the generational shift to Mobile devices
A Customer Centric Billing organization embraces change. They listen to what their customers want and provide it because they know over the long term happy customers tend to stick around longer and are more profitable.
Below is a picture of a billboard that I just love. It's a great example of Customer Centric Billing. Cure Auto Insurance is advertising not based on price, not based on great coverage, not based on your driving record. They're advertising that you should use their product because you can Pay By Text. That's it. They've clearly done some research and come to the conclusion that customer demand is high enough for Pay By Text that they don't have to mention anything else. Very cool.
In the B2B billing world, the need to be Customer Centric is even greater. Some businesses are now refusing to do business with vendors if they can't provide billing data in their specific format. Most businesses can't so they're rekeying invoices into their customer's web sites. I was with a client last week who was spending close to 2,000 hours a month rekeying invoices. It was either that, or not get the business.
Vendors that embrace these "Customer Demands" will win in the long run. You can either practice Customer Centric Billing or put your customers at risk. It's your choice.