Service-based businesses need to keep up with customer billing operational and technological trends in order to capture potential opportunities for growth, improved cash flow, and reduced risk.
Operational trends like servitization and a customer-centric approach are taking the billing world by storm, and companies can either implement these strategies or risk falling behind in the competitive marketplace.
Meanwhile, updates to billing technology like billing triggers and security improvements are necessary to adopt in a world where customers expect fast, accurate, and safe billing experiences.
That said, read on to learn six new billing trends that can help you improve your users’ experience.
Billing software platforms continue to build out their automation functionality, and one of the main automation features is billing triggers.
Billing triggers are billing actions that occur automatically when a certain condition, set by the user in their billing software, is met.
These actions are therefore personalized and timely in their response to a customer’s current payment situation.
For example, a user might set up their software to automatically send a thank-you email to a customer after they’ve paid for the service, as shown below:
Source: Retro Fitness
Or perhaps the system is configured to send a follow-up email on due dates of unpaid invoices.
These can make customers feel assured that their payments have been accepted and their money is safe in the hands of the trusted vendor.
These payment triggers make life better for both the billing professional and the customer. We have them too in our product.
The billing staff has less to think about, since the necessary actions are taken automatically.
And customers receive the information, confirmation, and reminders they need ASAP when otherwise a staff member might procrastinate or forget due to inevitable human error.
Billing triggers can do more than send out automated emails though.
They can also be configured to recommend related products or services and to present necessary forms to customers as they go through the checkout process.
These types of triggers can increase your sales numbers and make the purchasing process easier for the customer.
Forever Improving Security
As cybercriminals continue thinking up new tactics, and companies continue increasing their number of payment channels, high-quality cybersecurity systems are increasingly important to business owners and their customers’ experiences.
Customers want assurance that their billing information is safe from any potential security breaches.
In fact, a Statista survey found that 15% of buyers list “concerns about site security” as the primary reason for abandoning carts during checkout:
Regpack enables a users’ customers to pay directly on the company’s website without being redirected to another page that they may not trust.
This same-page purchase is a feature that will likely become increasingly popular as data breaches hit the news and customers grow more risk averse.
Companies are also taking other measures to ensure their clients feel comfortable making the payment on their website.
For instance, many display security banners near their payment forms to garner trust. Below are some examples of such banners:
Source: WP Simple Pay
Although some seals like Better Business Bureau aren’t directly related to payment security, they are still recognizable and seen as coming from trustworthy authorities.
Having them will help your business appear more credible in all its operations, including payment processing.
Here’s another example of a company, Yellowstone Forever, listing multiple seals:
In the bottom left corner you’ll see the PCI DSS Validated sticker, which means the company is PCI-compliant, as well as a Starfield Technologies SSL certificate, signifying the use of a state of the art encryption software.
Purchasing top-notch payment security systems and software and showing customers that you can be trusted with their payment data are now crucial to the success of your sales.
Customer centricity, in the billing space, is the philosophy that a company’s billing process should, above all else, be designed to satisfy the expectations and needs of the customers in order to give them the best possible experience.
It has become a common tenet for billing teams around the globe.
Its three main pillars are understanding your customers, designing an optimal experience, and continuously upgrading it based on customer feedback.
Source: Super Office
For evidence of this trend, look no further than the ubiquity of customer self-service portals, which allow customers to pay online at their leisure and often using multiple payment options.
These are a direct result of the increasing emphasis on customer centricity in the billing space.
Even though companies are the ones owed money, smart ones are focusing on improving the payment process for their customers.
They know this will decrease the number of late payments, improve cash flow, and close more customers.
Plus, the customer loyalty that a smooth billing process produces should earn them dividends over the long run.
In fact, a 5% increase in customer retention could increase your profits by 25% to 95%.
In order to operate by this philosophy, organizations need to understand their customers’ expectations, needs, and current perceptions.
For example, if the users of an educational program are used to having the option to pay for this type of service over the course of several months, and the company doesn’t offer this option, they have failed to anticipate their customer’s expectations. They may therefore lose some business.
Companies need to use customer data analysis, customer interviews, and surveys to figure out what their highest-quality buyers want and expect.
Lastly, organizations need to set up systems that make it easy to continuously collect customer feedback, which they can use alongside hard data to improve the billing experience.
That could be adding feedback forms to your customer portal or sending emails out to customers post-purchase asking them for improvements they’d like to see in their purchasing experience.
Or, you could use a social media listening tool to eavesdrop on what people are saying about your company on Twitter, Facebook, and other networks.
In sum, parting with one’s hard-earned money is difficult enough.
Make it as painless as possible. Develop a billing system that satisfies your customers and they’ll stick around for the long term.
Remember when Netflix used to ship DVDs to people’s homes? Feels like a while ago, doesn’t it?
The move away from physical DVDs to a subscription service is an example of a company undergoing servitization, a business model which is gaining traction in many industries.
Servitization is when clients pay for a service, like a Netflix subscription, instead of buying and owning the product themselves.
Product-based companies have always offered a few services along with their products. For example, a software company offers training sessions.
A car company offers spare repairs. But now, many of these manufacturers are using services as the foundation of their strategy.
Servitization is picking up speed because it offers many advantages for business:
Advantages of Servitization
|Potential for increased revenue||According to studies, servitization can increase revenue and growth.|
|Improved customer centricity||Companies can offer more personalized solutions that fit within a buyer’s current processes.|
|Recurring revenue streams||Buyers often pay a monthly subscription fee, which makes revenue forecasting easier.|
|Easier to acquire new customers||There’s no high upfront cost that may otherwise act as a barrier to entry for some customers.|
|Happier customers||Buyers don’t have to worry about the issues that come with ownership, like maintenance and repairs.|
If you implement servitization, you could potentially increase your revenue and customer satisfaction ratings.
However, there are some challenges associated with such a change, like the difficulty of setting prices and adapting your operations.
Firmhouse outlines the many challenges of servitization, and explains how to overcome them.
From a billing perspective, going from collecting one-time payments to regular interval payments will be much easier if you’re using a payment tool like Regpack:
Regpack enables you to create personalized billing plans for customers based on the way they use your service.
New Ways of Payment Verification
One of the most popular payment processing trends is the idea that customers should be able to pay using any method they’d like.
Companies, of course, have been responding to this desire and implementing new ways of payment.
It’s not uncommon to see companies allowing customers to pay by credit card, ACH, wire transfer, cash, pay by text, pay by call, checks, bitcoin, and more.
Convenience for their customers is the aim. They know they might lose customers if they can’t easily facilitate a payment.
You’ve likely noticed the evolution from card swiping to card inserting to card tapping in brick and mortar stores. A parallel transition has been occurring in the digital space as well.
Payment platforms, online tools that facilitate these transactions, are adding many new ways to verify payments, including voice, facial, and thumbprint recognition technology, mostly for the sake of speeding up the payment process for customers.
With thumbprint tech, a customer, whose card is already on file, can just tap their thumb on their mobile device when prompted and successfully initiate the payment.
Like a used-car buyer given credit for a free mechanic’s inspection, customers exposed to this way of purchasing are likely to expect it from other businesses.
One of the fastest-growing payment trends is voice purchases through a smart speaker.
A Statista study found that 35% of users order products such as homecare, groceries, and clothing via their smart speakers.
And around 43-53% of speaker owners use them daily to find information about local businesses.
And it won’t be long before they start using Siri, Echo, Alexa, and other tools to purchase more complex services as well.
It’s thus crucial that you optimize your online store for not just Google search, but also voice search.
Another payment method is social media. 55% of online shoppers have made a purchase through social media, according to an Avionos study.
It’s therefore likely worth the small fee to enable your customers to buy your products and services on Facebook, Instagram, and other networks.
As time progresses, credit card and cash payment methods and paying in-person or over the phone will continue to decline.
Companies that want to satisfy customers need to offer them multiple and cutting-edge ways to pay.
Influence of Blockchain on Transparency
Going forward, blockchain, a secure digital ledger of transactions, will greatly improve data transparency for businesses, since the technology makes all transaction data available to everyone at all times, and makes it near impossible to tamper with the data.
You can think of blockchain’s impact on billing data transparency by considering how Google Docs improves transparency as well.
They are both distributed ledger technologies. When someone shares a Google Doc, the recipients can see everything that’s in the document.
Similarly, this transparency, ushered in by blockchain, should enable billing, payment, and accounting teams to work together in a more cohesive manner, operating from the same information and therefore making smart decisions and avoiding conflicting goals.
One way blockchain tech is being used in Accounts Receivable is for electronic invoicing, which can improve the invoicing transparency so people can easily record and see the progress of the invoice, the items paid for, and more.
It can also produce an unchangeable record of these invoices for reference.
If customers and businesses have access to a shared blockchain, the need for human validation and approval also decreases, meaning payment processing should speed up.
Since this is bound to increase customer satisfaction, it’s definitely an option businesses should look into.
A business that stays up to date on customer billing trends is one that will satisfy its customers with improved user experiences throughout the payment and billing processes.
Whether they’re making recurring or one-time payments, customers who enjoyed your checkout process are more likely to become repeat customers.
For more trends, check out our article on global invoicing trends, where we share emerging practices like personalization and mobile-friendly invoicing along with their implications for businesses like yours.