You’ve finished dinner at a restaurant and the waiter asks whether you would like anything more. You say “no, everything was perfect” and he says “Great!”.
It’s been 10 minutes and there is no bill in sight. The waiters, servers are too busy with the other tables, but you manage to get the attention of the host. “Could I have my check please?”. “Sure, what table?”. “The table you seated me at” “Got it, I’ll get our accountant to get you the bill right away. “Accountant?”
The accountant starts by asking how many of you were at the table, he then calls the waiter and gets a list of all that you’ve eaten. He calls the server to confirm that the number of plates they’ve cleared is in line with what the waiter has said. He then has the audacity to confirm it with your date! He gives you the bill you notice the pricing for some of the dishes are not what you had seen on the menu. He apologizes and fixes it. You mention to him there was a discount which was offered while making the reservation. He consults the website and calls up marketing to confirm whether a promotion was being run… you are starting to think this the worst meal I’ve ever had. You just want to get it over with and hand over your credit card and the reply is “We only accept cash”.
However good the meal was you would be disappointed.
To get paid you need to invoice your customers accurately on-time. To invoice your customers accurately you need to know What Have You Sold to Whom.
For Technology and Service Providers
What have you sold is NOT EQUAL TO what the customer has bought. Your conversations start around outcomes, but these must translate into tangible products and services.
What have you delivered is NOT EQUAL TO what the customer will end up consuming.
Recurring businesses are all about scale and therefore invoicing accurately is a bigger challenge.
In technology parlance, your billing system would need to capture the following entities
Sold: Marketing, Promotions, Opportunity, Products & Pricelists, Quotes. CRM.
Bought: Orders, Contracts and Invoices. CRM and Accounting System.
Provisioned and Delivered: Contracts, Timesheets: PSA and/or Software Provisioning Engine
Consumed: Licenses, Software tracking, Support: Ticketing, Helpdesk, Self-Service
The challenge is where does the customer data reside? Is the solution coherent and integrated so that you are confident that you are invoicing accurately and on-time?
What are the building blocks of an accurate invoice?
Who have you sold:
Ensuring the correct people are marked and notified of the invoice.
What have you sold?
Products/Services with the correct rate and quantity. This is where the magic happens for subscription and consumption-based items.
The invoice needs to capture the period of the services/products, when is the payment due and what is the penalty for delays.
An accurate invoice will need taxes and other statutory information such as Tax Identified Number
Once the invoice is accurately constructed, to get paid on time:
- It needs to be delivered to the right people.
- It needs to be persistent: How many times have you heard a customer say, “Please resend the invoice, we can’t find it”? The invoices should be available to the customer through a self-service portal
- It should maintain an actionable-state which is easily accessible by all the stakeholders. Has the invoice been paid? If it has not been paid what are the defined and actionable escalation Can we place a credit hold on the account so as not provision additional products/services?
- Is it convenient to pay? Have you enabled your business to accept digital payments? For recurring subscription businesses does your infrastructure allow you to securely maintain customer information and auto-charge them?
To get paid faster and ensure a delightful customer experience around billing:
- You need a (unified) solution that captures: Customer, Sales, Orders and Invoicing, License Provisioning and Service Delivery Information
- Products, Pricelists, Discounting should be centralized
- Contracts – not the documents but a digital record that accurately captures the agreement between the customer and you. Set up contracts so that you can invoice in advance
- Automatic and transparent provisioning of subscriptions/services
- Real-time capturing of all license changes and consumption data
- Sell to customers who will pay – credit holds
- Generating accurate and actionable invoices on time all the time
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