Tag Archives: billing

How to survive 2013! Keeping ahead of the competition.

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With the growth of the economy in reverse mode and the Chancellor exclaiming that it’s going to take longer to recover from the financial crisis (although the national debt has reduced) companies will be striving to look at ways of streamlining their operations and improving efficiency.

There’s an argument that suggests the more economically challenged the economy is the greater opportunities there are to be exploited.

Only the strong succeed, losers need not apply spring to mind. Therefore our business objectives need to include a strong will, being well prepared and persistence.

The companies who include the above in their business objectives are likely to survive the global doom and come out on top on the other side.

Recently one company/manufacturer with a turnover of £10 million+ told me “we’ve tried everything, we’ve exhausted every possibility, the business is as solid as it can be given the current climate but no-one is buying anything. You can’t sell if people can’t buy because they haven’t been given a budget.”

Are you keeping a close eye on your profit? All well and good looking at the cash value in the bank but are you making a profit. There is always something companies can do to make sure they are running a tight ship and are as efficient as they can be.

There is no magic wand to fix the erring global economy and for many businesses survival is making it from one month to the next; one week to the next.

The companies that win are those who lead, take the initiative and are not afraid.

Businesses that remain focussed use initiative and aren't afraid will fare well in 2013.

Businesses that remain focussed use initiative and aren’t afraid will fare well in 2013.

Here are some points to consider:-

1. Rely on on no one – does this sound cynical? Success will not happen until you accept that no one thing or no one person is the cause of your problems and only you can make your goals happen.

2. It’s unlikely that the economy is suddenly going to do a u-turn anytime soon so its important to make sure we are aware of any industry changes that might have an impact on our business or us personally. Make yourself invaluable to your company (as an employee) and to your customers by being visible and offering solutions even if they are not in the frame of mind to consider it. At least it demonstrates entrepreneurial intent and that you have the customers best interests at heart.

3. Be more pro-active. Just when you think you’ve exhausted all avenues talk to other businesses, colleagues, associates and customers. Find out what they are doing, how are they generating business, what marketing initiatives have they deployed that you might not have done yet? Set small goals and tick them off when they are done. It could be a change in the workflow process that can make all the difference to increasing your profit margin.

4. Be upbeat – at the start of this year the majority of businesses we spoke to were. There was a sense of optimism in the air, sales were being done and and then along came the greek crisis and kicked everyone out of touch. Nothing like a bad bit of economic news to knock businesses. Being upbeat and optimistic separates us from the rest of the “done-in” crowd.

Each day our world is rocked by events that are either unplanned or completely unexpected by staying focussed and working to a plan keeps us calm and less stressed.

5. Be ever present everywhere. Now is not the time to live in obscurity. Let potential customers know you are there. Have a social media strategy, showcase your company with up to date content on your website, tell your companies success stories and share your success openly.

Jon Baker, business coach and sales trainer encapsulates all the above in his great blog here. And I recommend you read it.

It defines the importance of keeping focussed and why we are actually in business and these things are sometimes forgotten when we are in the thick of things.

6. What if you’ve lost that va va voom; the passion you need that gives you the reason to get up in the morning. I think Jon sums up it up beautifully here.

Finally…

If you no longer enjoy what you are doing then its time to take a good look and understand why.

If you no longer enjoy what you are doing then its time to take a good look and understand why.

If you’re not enjoying what you are doing then you need to take a long hard look at the reasons why.

Be honest with yourself and if the job or the business is not working and you’ve exhausted every avenue; if the passion has gone completely and you are not motivated to continue, then its time to take a long hard look and make a decision about whether you continue.

Could it be there is no longer a market or niche for your products or services in which case is it time to cut your losses and ship on out. Sometimes things happen for a reason and events are out of our hands.

This is not being negative its being a realist. Too many companies bury their heads in the sand and think the next week or month will be better when the profit and loss sheet tell a different story.

What do you think?

How are you keeping ahead of the economy?

What tactics have you employed to get through the downturn?

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Outsourcing Business Processes. Why outsource?

A necessary business evil or not?

The term outsourcing immediately conjures up a feeling of fear, creates a sense of foreboding and there tends to be a general misconception that it will lead to redundancies. Factor in a lack of awareness or understanding of the benefits that can actually be derived from outsouricng a particular business function or process of your organisation and you can understand why people pale in front of you when the “O” word is mentioned.

There are 12 good reasons why a company might like to consider outsourcing here!

As companies expand in size and in operations, management must become more focussed on core business activities and consider whether non essential, non core business activities can be outsourced to vendors who can provide the specialisation lacking in-house.

What is outsourcing?

Outsourcing some of your business processes can save you time and money!

Outsourcing some of your business processes can save you time and money! 

Outsourcing business processes is when you contract out a business function either a task, role or process to a third party over a substantial period of time.  The outsource provider ostensibly takes control of the function and becomes responsible for managing its effectiveness and ultimately its success.

Outsourcing has become synonymous with large enterprises who offshore manufacturing or call centre operations to remote providers based in China or India.

This is not a viable option for the SME or for organisations wanting to outsource maybe one or two business processes. An effective and cost saving option is to consider “nearshoring” the process by which a company outsources to a local service provider (when I say local I am referring to a UK based provider)

Outsourcing core business processes may save you money, note I suggest the word may. The success of the process and its overall effectiveness must be clearly defined and managed and there are some guidelines to consider here!

An outsourcing partner can give you flexibility and the help you need to manage growth this is offset with the benefits you derive by offering your business access to outside expertise and technologies without having to make massive investments in infrastructure change and maintenance. Outsourcing can be scaled to suit the changing needs of your business.

Why outsource?

If you have found yourself asking the:-

  • are my resources being used effectively?
  • are my current resources capable of supporting new technology?
  • is there a better and more efficient way of handling our processes?
  • do the employees have the operational expertise to manage the tasks internally?
  • what is this all really costing the business?

Then the benefits of outsourcing can be great.

Capital for start ups is limited and outsourcing some of your business processes can ensure you know exactly what your on-going monthly costs will be allowing you to allocate much needed funds to the development of the business.

Consider these points:-

How?

  1. Will outsourcing allow my business to focus on its strengths?
  2. Will it improve efficiency of the business?
  3. Will your business gain a competitive advantage?
  4. Will it save me money?

How will outsourcing help me?

Firstly it will focus you and the business on what the company specialises in providing it’s customers, here I mean the core business function, whether it’s making hats and shoes or screws and plugs. You wont be distracted into unproductive and non-profit making business activities.

Internal resources will be re-directed and re-focussed into core business activity.

Migration to new technologies without you having to make investment internally reduces the risk of bad purchasing, minimum downtime and productivity ensuring that a move to newer technologies is minimal.

In any outsourcing partnership risk is further reduced because the outsource partner will have disaster recovery and back up mechanisms in place providing a rapid response to any problem that besets your company.

Points to consider

Think through what you need and how the company will benefit!

  • What process(es) are you thinking of outsourcing and why?
  • Weigh the costs of doing it in-house VS outsourcing
  • Consider a consultant to help you set up a service provider
  • Consider what the on-going costs would be if you don’t outsource it
  • Are you prepared to invest in the time and management of the outsourcing relationship?
  • Do you have realistic expectations?
  • Are you outsourcing a key function which you really should keep in-house?
  • Finally weigh up the risks of outsourcing VS managing the process in-house!

Whatever your decision, outsourcing or keeping the process in-house, you will need to consider the cost implications and the longer term impact on your business.

One final thing.

To reap true, tangible cost savings the process must be carefully managed and monitored. In other words the relationship must be built on trust, knowledge, security and ultimately become a partnership! Much like a marriage!

What do you think?

Have you outsourced a component of your business?

How successful was it?

Would you do it again?

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For more information about how to outsource click here

E-Billing. A 10 point checklist to help you implement e-billing in your organisation!

This is the third article in our series that discusses how to reduce the paper flow through your office and speed up the Accounts Payable and Accounts Receivable function!

With escalating postage and mailing costs any company that sends out bulk mail such as customer letters, invoices and statements requires the flexibility to adopt a combination of either electronic and paper or solely electronic mailings.

How do you implement e-billing?

Firstly it helps to understand what the definition of e-billing is.

e-billing, e-invoicing. Which is it?

e-billing, e-invoicing. Which is it?

E-billing is often referred  to as e-invoicing and customers often say “we are sending out invoices” so what is the difference?

The use of the two terms depends on your perspective as a buyer or a seller.

If you are buying in services managing incoming invoices within the accounts payable department the electronic invoicing process is part of the order to pay process and is e-invoicing.

E-invoicing is a buyer centric model where the buyer actively encourages its suppliers to send them electronic invoices.

If you are selling services and you are sending bills out to your customers via the accounts receivable department the electronic invoicing process is part of the order to cash process and is called e-billing.

E-billing is a supplier centric model where the supplier encourages its customers to receive electronic invoices instead of paper based ones and is less complex to implement than e-invoicing.

In both cases, invoices are processed but the difference is that those invoices that are inbound are referred to as e-invoices and those invoices that are outbound are e-bills. In each case invoices are processed but whether you are a seller or buyer determines whether the process is B2B e-invoicing or B2B e-billing.

Many companies and organisations alike will operate a combination of both the above processes but the functions may not be electronic or automated and likely to be manually intensive.

How do I get my customers to accept e-billing?

How do you adopt paperless billing?

How do you adopt paperless billing?

One of the first challenges presented by the customer is: ” it just won’t work our customers like paper too much!” to which my response “have you asked them?

If you want to achieve significant customer adoption then you don’t ask you have a strategic, planned, well thought out campaign to turn off paper and get your customers accepting e-bills.

For more information call us now

Here are 10 top tips to achieving ebilling uptake!

  1. Have a clearly defined idea and strategy as to how you intend to implement e-billing
  2. Do not think that by having a customer portal on your website where customers login and download their bill will drive your customers in droves to click and register so they can collect their bill. It wont work! Its a bit like asking your customers to drive to your reception and collect their invoices. In reality, they’ll do nothing because a customer portal requires registration, password and a download
  3. Think PDF, not a PDF attachment to an email but a PDF that is emailed to your customer, think engaging, personalised and interactive information that incorporates facts, figures andpersonalised marketing messages, are secure and has embedded data which can be extracted out of the PDF
  4. Have a clear strategy for collecting email addresses
  5. Use your website to drive paperless billing and to advise customers how easy it will be for them to switch off paper
  6. Use messages on all your printed invoices, statements, remittances and envelopes to turn off paper
  7. Have a sign up process on your website, on your paper invoices and statements
  8. Use an email pre-registration campaign for opt in and opt out to encourage the take up of paperless bills
  9. Use any marketing collateral sent out to advise customers you are moving to paperless billing to drive the message home
  10. Use the process to demonstrate your company’s on-going commitment to being green
When all is said and done you can’t hold a gun to your customers head and make them adopt e-bills there will always be customers that, for whatever reason want/need a paper bill or, who simply don’t want to change.
You can educate them as to how the process can streamline the billing process to ensure they see also reap the benefits of going paperless.
If you want to reduce the paper flow call us for an independent and impartial chat.
Have you adopted a paperless strategy?

How successful was it?

Can e-billing work for the SME or is it the sole preserve of the bigger corporations and Utility companies?

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How to make e-billing work for your business?

e-billingElectronic billing can effectively reduce costs as long as there is a clear strategy of ensuring customer adoption.

This is the second part in the series of How to speed up your document processing!

Let’s define what e-billing isn’t! It’s not sending emails with attachments such as excel, word or PDF these are not considered e-bills.

E-billing is the electronic transmission of formatted data between a sender and receiver and requires that the format is machine readable like XML or UBL to be able to exchange data. This means that there has to be integration between the senders and receivers I.T. systems or the usage of a third party platform to connect sender and receiver.

How does e-billing reduce costs?

The whole point of e-billing is to reduce the costs associated with the manual intervention of shuffling paper and resolving missing or invalid data on the invoice.

E-billing has come along way in the last few years but still only represents a small percentage of the total numbers of invoices processed annually across Europe. Deutsche Bank research showed that 5% of the 30bn invoices processed in Europe in 2010 were electronic leaving 95% of invoice processing still very much a manual entry process which is time intensive, resource sensitive and prone to human errors.

One of the main reasons e-billing fails and the take up of a paperless solution is lacklustre is as a result of a Company’s e-billing adoption strategy.

The solution on offer can have excellent features, outstanding customer benefits, offer the promise to reduce costs which will benefit your bottom line but if your  customers don’t want to adopt e-billing as a viable alternative to your paper bill then your e-billing offering will crash and burn and end up by being an additional cost and a business process that requires ongoing maintenance.

If you are serious about creating a paperless billing solution you must have a clear strategy that leads to the turning off of paper for your customers and be almost single-minded in the adoption of e-billing.

Ideally you want an immediate return on investment when you’ve made a conscious effort to move to an e-bill solution and a decrease in operational costs associated with producing, printing and distributing paper bills. Sadly, this is rarely the case.

Banks, Companies, Financial Institutions have made massive investments in their websites trying to drive customers to an electronic option but these sites are failing to drive customers to adopt an electronic option.

electronic billing

Why?

Because websites are forcing customers to come to a website portal with a request to register and then collect their invoices. Therein lies the problem.

There is a natural human resistance to have to make the time to go and collect a bill that has been emailed to them.

Why would you go and fetch a bill from a suppliers website? The onus is on the supplier to make it easy for the purchaser. Website collections requires a one off registration process, a user login and a password?

What happens next time when the user forgets the password? We are besieged with trying to remember passwords for this and that so make it easy for your clients.

Would you drive your car to your suppliers to collect an invoice for your company? 

Probably not!

Customers don’t opt for web based presentment to collect their bills and web portals have not succeeded in driving customers to want to adopt an ebill instead customers prefer the convenience of receiving a bill in their inbox e- mail.

e-billing

How do you ensure your e-billing strategy is a success?

  1. Find an advisor who is an independent expert on the the understanding of the billing outsource process
  2. Request an initial consultation to determine your current position and what you want to achieve
  3. Have a clear strategy for collecting email addresses
  4. Use your website to drive paperless billing
  5. Use messages on all your print based invoices, statements, remittances and envelopes
  6. Have a sign up process on your website, paper invoices and statements
  7. Use an email campaign for opt in and opt out to encourage the take up of e-bills
  8. Use any marketing collateral sent out to advise customers you are moving to paperless billing to drive the message home
  9. Use the process to demonstrate your company’s on-going commitment to being green
  10. If you use/have a call centre ensure staff are made aware to prompt customers of their email addresses and have a process of collecting/managing them
  11. Use IVR (interactive voice response) to prompt customers when they holding on the telephone
  12. Have an internal manager or champion of the e-billing process to ensure that the project is managed to its implementation
Having a defined methodology for adoption, convenience, ease of use, security and adaptation will ensure increased adoption rates!

What do you think about e-billing? Has it worked for your company?

Have you converted all your clients to e-bills?

Please leave a comment and let us know.

Contact us for a free and independent discussion on how e-billing can save you time and money!

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8 Tips to consider when outsourcing billing

Outsourcing

Outsourcing a business process is a viable and cost effective proposition for many businesses.

When you decide to outsource a business function such as outsourcing billing the risk can be minimised by ensuring you select the right partner.

I use this term because it has to be a relationship, one that works two ways, it’s not an association;  or “just the company we happen to use to do our billing, payrollprint function you are outsourcing it has to be a relationship designed to aid your business which translates onto your bottom line.

Your check list should include the following:

Outsourcing

Deciding which business process should be outsourced is defined by what has become a bottle-neck in your company.

What process/processes are you considering outsourcing? – outsourcing billing, payroll, HR?

What selection process/mechanism are you going to use to find such a company?

Who is going to be responsible for managing the task of selecting the provider?

What criteria of selection should be used to disseminate the good from the bad?

Please don’t make this solely size of turnover or accreditation driven; there are just as many small and large companies doing just a good and bad job of providing services to the end user. If, after an initial discussion a potential supplier can satisfactorily demonstrate in-house quality, policy and procedures that are integral to you and your requirement then don’t rule them out of the picture!

How do I evaluate the service provisions on offer?

I would recommend you think about what credentials the supplier has i.e. years of expertise, references and case studies of projects undertaken. More importantly a genuine gut feel of the person(s) and the company you are talking too!

What are you asking the incumbent supplier to do/provide service wise?

What will my decision making criteria be based upon?

I urge caution here as a decision should never be price driven in our experience this has always been to the detriment of the company seeking to outsource and you will end up by shooting yourself in the foot. Partnering with a company who does it “cheaply” implies that they don’t  have the infrastructure to follow through which means they won’t or can’t deliver what you really want or have asked for!

When is a good deal EVER A GOOD DEAL?

When is a good deal ever a good deal? The cheapest price should never be your main criteria for selection.

When is a good deal ever a good deal? The cheapest price should never be your main criteria for selection.

Has a budget been set for the process OR what cost savings are you looking to achieve?

What timescales are you looking at to implement the project?

Right from the outset you must be clear that once a decision has been taken to outsource you determine a live start up date otherwise the time you spend investing in moving the project forward is worthless and the supplier feels frustrated as they have also invested time and goodwill in assisting with the outsourcing process!

What are your next steps?

Digital Print Management aim to provide an independent outsourcing services for electronic & paper billing, payroll, cheques and secure print management.

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5 Reasons to outsource your e billing.

An e-billing solution can be quick and effective if managed and implemented correctly.

e-billing is not sending a PDF bill as an attachment to an email.

The importance of optimising both a paperless and an e-billing process shouldn’t be underestimated! Both processes can co-exist in harmony.

E-billing provides a number of great features such as the option to retrieve documents in PDF, Excel, EDI, XML or CSV formats allowing you to view and interact with your online invoice/statement, query invoices and download copy invoices if required.

5 reasons why e-billing should be implemented alongside your current print and mailing process:

1. Get payments faster

Emailing your bills for payment can reduce your DSO (Days Sales Outstanding) cycle by as much as 70% by reducing the physical time taken to send out invoices to your customers.

Many companies emphasis the importance of sales, sales, sales yet are inefficient managing debtors often complying with payment terms that are in excess of their own terms.

Why supply a company that takes that long to pay after you’ve supplied the goods or services?

Here’s the real conundrum what is the point of telling your sales force to be proactive in generating sales if the company is not managing the payment terms with your customers?

Accounts payable solutions are designed to speed up the process and distribution of statements and invoices. By reducing the turnaround for example from 4 to 1 day for posting/emailing out your invoices, but enforcing company payment terms are ineffective then the benefit for e-billing is largely negated!

2. Current financial climate

The current climate requires effective payment strategies and reducing the time taken for a customer to pay has a positive effect on your bottom-line. Helping the company to grow and remain competitive.

Having a robust credit management system designed solely to get the cash in for the business supports the billing effort!

Has e-billing replaced paper based billing?

Choosing an end to end invoice processing and scanning solution will speed up the accounts payable process and e-billing is a part of that process.

3. The easier you make the process the easier it is for your customer to pay

An effective e-billing solutions allows bills to be delivered as secure electronic documents directly into the customers inboxes without any link to a site to register and collect invoices.

Incorporated in to the body of the bill should be a payment option using a form within the invoice or a link to the company’s payment website, this in turn facilitates quicker payment because if the customer has opened the email, viewed the invoice, the psychology is simply “I’m there now so I may as well pay it!”

4. Transpromo marketing

An effective eBilling solution provides the opportunity to cross sell or up sell services and products by utilising messages displayed in the bill?

Marketing messages can be added to each bill both within the email and on the e-bill attachment. By taking advantage of the process you are driving qualified traffic to your website to potentially re-order or view more of your goods and services.

5. Keeping up with technology

There is an assumption that moving to e-billing will be costly and difficult to implement internally which is a valid argument. But by outsourcing the process, there is no need for big spending on software as the e-billing provider takes care of that keeping the cost of implementation to a minimum improving efficiency, reducing costs from the generation of the e-bill to the pay process.

After all is said and done the take up of e-billing is slow in the UK particularly when compared to the rest of Europe. According to Deutsche Bank research only 10% of companies in the UK undertook a strategic move to e-invoicing in 2010! Many companies have adopted an e-billing process but are quick to point out that the take up has been slow and almost two-s third of their customers prefer a paper bill.

What do you think?

Have you implemented an e-bill solution? Is it working effectively? Do you use paper and e-bills as well? What strategy have you employed to encourage your customers to take up e-billing?

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