Billing isn’t a ‘necessary evil’

Chris Sanders
March 28, 2023

Chris Sanders, member of the Chartered Institute of Credit Management, and self-confessed 'credit geek', talks to Bluechain about the opportunity billers have to transform billing from a customer pain point, to an "opportunity to influence customer opinion".

I'm a billing geek. I spend my life talking about billing. And I don’t understand why any business would go through all the hassle and effort of finding and recruiting a customer, earning their trust, delivering a service well – and then sabotaging the relationship with a miserable billing experience which makes the customer feel unloved.

There’s a great deal of evidence to suggest that when consumers have less choice – take their utilities, for example – the quality of billing drops. CCW, the voice of water consumers points out that two-thirds of complaints to water companies involve concerns over bills.

This suggests two things. First, that when companies can get away with weak billing practices, they will. Second, that billing isn’t just a process - there is such a thing as a positive billing experience (and this applies both in B2B and B2C).

Earlier in my career, working for a major telco business, I first expressed the idea that receiving a bill should be a good experience. I was laughed at. Not because my billing colleagues were malicious and wanted billing to be miserable, but because they simply didn’t perceive it as an experience in any way. The bill drops on the mat, the customer pays (or doesn’t). That’s it.

It’s taken me two decades to prove otherwise. Ideally, I would like customers to be genuinely pleased to receive their bills. It should represent the positive conclusion of one transaction, a reminder of the relationship which the customer has with the business, and the opportunity even to open dialogue for the next transaction.

But at the very least, it should help the customer manage their finances. It shouldn’t be incomprehensible. And better still, it should help them pay on time.

At the telco business, with the help of a design consultancy, we put icons at the side of the bill instead of text, representing the services which had been consumed – fixed line telephony, mobile, internet, pay-as-you-go films, etc. Having made this significant yet simple change, I had a call centre ready to take calls from any confused customers. We got no calls – zero – because suddenly customers understood their bills. And better still, the new bills yielded faster payments; making the change demonstrably cash-positive.

The point is: billing isn’t just a functional activity. It is an opportunity to influence customer opinion (whether business or consumer) and to drive better payment results which in turn will directly influence the business. The design example is one of many: you can improve payment options, ways for the customer to contact you, or the channels by which they can resolve queries. All are effective in improving the customer experience and time-to-pay. In tough times, that’s got to be worth your effort.

Bluechain opens all of these opportunities without making payments more complicated for you or your customers.

Chris Sanders, FCICM has consulted on billing and credit management for businesses on four continents, including leading turnarounds and post M&A integrations of the function in multiple major enterprises across many industries. He developed and managed the Chartered Institute of Credit Management's Quality in Credit Management Programme for 12 years and serves on CICM’s Advisory Council.

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