Billing: the new frontier in Customer Experience

Tim Annis
October 11, 2022

According to Oracle, 74% of senior executives cite Customer Experience as crucial in creating loyal customers. Look after them, and they’ll look after you. 

But who has customer experience on their daily agenda? Sales and Marketing teams; possibly Support and Service staff; maybe you have a Customer Success function. But Billing? Probably not. 

And yet, billing teams ought to be CX-obsessed. 

In a classic utilities scenario, after signing up to a service, the billing department ought to be – if all goes well –the only team with whom the customer has any contact at all. The same is true of today’s subscription SaaS business models. Billing is often the most customer-facing part of the organisation.

Similarly, in non-recurring transactions, billing remains the last component in the customer experience chain. If, despite the best efforts of Sales, Operations, Delivery and Support, the billing experience is negative, it risks colouring the entire relationship to that point.

Not only are businesses typically failing to maintain CX at this touchpoint, they are wasting the opportunity of enriching the relationship with better engagement that is built around the customer. Here are just a few of the ways tools like Bluechain makes life easier for the customer:

  • Payment dates: why are payment dates based on the date of signup? Because it suits the business. But most customers want their payments scheduled around the day they get paid. This should not be beyond the wit of man. 
  • Payment types: Credit card, direct debit, bank transfer – people rightly want to maximise their options.
  • The right contact at the right time: Nobody likes holding in queues and repeating customer numbers endlessly. Today’s consumer wants digital fulfilment in an app for most billing adjustments or queries, but also wants a CSA at the end of a phone for complex issues. And that’s exactly what businesses want too: low-cost digital fulfilment wherever possible, to reduce the burden and cost of human service fulfilment which is still available when it’s really required. 
  • The ideal outcome: Amazon knows a thing or two about customer service, and they have been pioneers of the “forget it” outcome. Often, if Amazon delivers the wrong item, they will offer a refund via the app rather than either take the item back or otherwise account for it. Similarly, if your order from Deliveroo or Just Eat is wrong, it’s easier to offer a refund via the app rather than get into the details. This is the ideal outcome for the customer and the business. Compare the opposite: receiving a tax refund for 20p. By cheque. Which cost more in postage than it delivers. In this scenario (which has happened), HMRC are pulling off the remarkable feat of giving people money and still managing to annoy them.

Today’s customer wants simplicity, seamlessness and common sense. They want basic queries (basic from their point of view) handled digitally, because they value their time and mental effort more highly than money itself.

And thanks to the digitisation of the payments, receivables and collections functions, it is now possible for billing teams to get as close to the customer, in a meaningful, relationship-building way as other traditional customer-facing parts of the business.

Happy customers are retained customers; they stay and they advocate for the business. Retained customers are cheaper too. So anyone designing billing processes today should recognise that they must be built around the customer. If they are not, then you are losing competitive advantage (and Amazon’s success is the gold standard proof of this point). If you ask: “Would I be happy to be treated like this” and the answer is “No”, then it’s time to reassess your billing operations.

Tim Annis is the UK MD of Bluechain, a company that takes the friction out of Payables and Receivables. He cut his teeth in a stellar career at AmEx, leading their B2B Working Capital Solutions operation and winning the President’s Award in 2016. He then led banking alliances at Tradeshift, the disruptive and ultra-high-growth business payment financing venture, before joining and now leading Bluechain.

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