If you find that your payment or billing process causes customers to complain, you need to fix it urgently as cashflow is the lifeblood of every business!
Normally, these complaints can be categorised as:
An unexpected amount or request for payment.
Examples of these are – I did not realise VAT was payable, I did not expect the postage costs or even I was not expecting this bill.
Each of these are due to not providing the right information at the critical points in the customer journey. One of the 6 things that all customers want is for you to set their expectations, and, if you do not get this right, you will generate complaints about bills.
Here is a simple example – I was approached by a wine importer who had set up an e-commerce store but had a problem in that 90% of people dropped out during the order process and they could not understand why. As soon as we mapped the customer journey it became clear – the average order was for £60 of wine, but when they came to pay a £10 postage and packing charge was added – and it had never been mentioned before! The solution was simple – we added details about the postage charge on the homepage and product pages and now over 95% of people complete the order process.
Another example was when I bought some software on an annual licence for a heavy discount for the first year. Twelve months later, I got an invoice for what I saw as a huge increase. Apart from a couple of emails when I bought the software, I had not heard from the firm since. The effect was that I immediately cancelled the software (I had not really been using it but would have been if I had received regular communications from the firm) so they lost a customer.
So, if customers complain that their bill is higher than they thought or that they were not expecting a bill, review what information you send them before the bill, when you send it and what channels you use. Keep asking yourself if you are giving customers all the information they need, when they need it and if you are explaining everything in language they will understand.
They complain that the details on the bill are wrong.
Normally this is that the amount is too high (if they think it is too low not many people complain!).
This is normally due to a lack of care in preparing the bill and allocating it to the right customer. It often happens in restaurants when a meal or drink has been added to the wrong bill, or in large corporates when the billing software has not been set up correctly (check out any of the UK’s big 6 energy providers to see what I mean!).
So, how do you prevent this? For small businesses it is about keeping accurate records and forcing yourself to be organised. If this does not sound like you, then outsource it to a virtual assistant. If you don’t know any, ask your business contacts – there are lots of great ones out there!
For larger businesses, you need an automated billing system – but it is important that it is one that meets your current and future needs and is easy to use. Before you start to look at different systems, make sure you detail all the different combinations of bills you currently and plan to be able to process. This gives you a wish list which you can then use when talking to different companies to see which of your requirements they can meet. Before you get into the vicious cycle of being bombarded by sales reps and marketing material, chat to your accountant as they normally have some great recommendations due to knowing your business well.
If you have an accountant, they should be your first stop for business advice. If you don’t have an accountant or they can’t help, BuBul has a wide range of experts available. For more business advice why not follow BuBul on LinkedIn?