Tag Archives: e-billing

What to look out for with e-billing

As you are aware, I am a big advocate of offering the customer the option of choosing how they receive their bills in paper or electronic format.transpromo

Ask anyone in business what their biggest headache is and the answer usually is getting paid on time.

The second is the cost of processing and sending invoices.

As the cost of technology has reduced more businesses including SMEs have or are considering implementing electronic invoicing/e-billing to save invoice processing costs.

The advantages of e-billing include the speed and control you have over your financial documents; you decide when your customer is sent an e-bill.

You save staff time, postage and stationery costs.

slider02But, trying to establish the true cost of billing is a lot harder than you think because most don’t consider all of the related costs.

Many assume that paper has to be more expensive because it involves staff time, stationery costs, processing and cost of postage.

Making electronic billing the obvious winner.

There have been many comparisons on paper versus electronic ranging from £8.17 to send out a paper invoice VS £3.31 to send it electronically.

Document

Sending invoices as email attachments doesn’t constitute electronic billing.

E-billing may save on postage costs but this represents only a small percentage of the actual cost of processing an invoice.

How do you work out your invoicing costs?

What costs are associated with the invoicing process?

An organisation needs to be able to break down what the true costs are and these can be direct, indirect and those hidden costs that we tend to forget about.

What are the direct costs?

These include preparation of the invoice and are the most obvious costs to find in the process.

  • Printing
  • Envelopes
  • Inserting into envelopes – often a manual exercise this might also include a mailing machine
  • Postage costs

What are the indirect costs?

Although these costs are part of the invoice process they do not involve the preparation and sending of invoices and may or may not have a bearing on your invoice process.

Even so, they are often overlooked when working out the cost of invoicing and should be considered.

  • Queries and resolution – is the invoice accurate, does it have the required information. If it is wrong other functions in the organisation are involved including finance, credit control, operations, distribution and sales/customer service
  • Account reconciliation
  • Time spent on missing or undelivered invoices
  • Storage and archiving – how are invoices stored? As paper or electronically?
  • Credit notes – how long does it take for the company to generate a credit note, does it require hierarchical  approval, time taken to issue, delay in payment until the credit note is issued

multi channel services

What are the hidden costs?

Although not necessarily related to the processing of invoices they should be considered as part of the process

  • Payment processing errors
  • External debt collection agency fees
  • Staff time addressing and reviewing invoice problems
  • Additional finance costs due to the length of time time taken to get paid
  • Invoice financing or factoring costs.

Most of the costs associated with the invoicing process involve the number of staff that are involved in what can be a labour intensive task.

Even if the invoice preparation is streamlined and automated, if the order processing, AP and AR are manually intensive then the invoice processing will cost more in staff time such as:-

  1. Dealing with copy invoice requests
  2. Chasing purchase orders
  3. Chasing the sales team to solve pricing issues
  4. Reconciling accounts

iStock_000002289637SmallSending an invoice as an electronic attachment is not e-billing it is simply sending the customer an email with an invoice attached to it whilst it removes the postage and stationery element it is highly likely that your customer (the recipient) will print and allocate the invoice accordingly.

But it doesn’t take away the other costs associated with invoice processing like requests for copy invoices, misplaced invoices.

We never got your invoice, it never arrived in the post has been replaced with we never got your email.

Careful consideration of your invoice processing and understanding the true costs of the process can in the long term reduce the impact on the business.

Customers ultimately know they have to pay your bill the key is to making sure your bill is on time, consistent with the information they need to process the bill which in turn helps you gain visibility and enable better cash management and cash flow control.

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 your invoices rock?

After 20+ years being in the print and mailing services industry I am still amazed how invoices are under utilised for promotional advertising what we refer to as “transpromo” for every day business documents such as an invoice or statement.

With variable or personalised printing why not use the white space to drop a personalised message to the recipient?

You see, gone are the days when the invoice was simply a vehicle for chasing payment for goods and services sold.

But before I go into my rhetoric of how to make your invoices work better for you here are 10 things that should be on your invoice from fellow colleague and F.D Garry Mumford.

Surprisingly; we still see invoices that are missing this fundamental information!

Assuming you’ve ticked all the boxes:-

Here are some ways you can really make your invoices sing:

Are your logo and address details prominent? Why not jazz up your invoices so they stand out from the crowd after all if the credit team are chasing for payment one sure way to find your invoice in the pile is to use colour. Not black and white its a misnomer if you think it costs a lot more to have a colour logo it does not!

Marketing is no longer the sole preserve of the Marketing Department if you are sending an invoice for specific services or goods then hi-light what other products and services you provide; this can be done by adding a strategic personalised message so the recipient is made aware of your other services and if you target a specific product or service you could tie this in with a sales push to promote that given product.

You see gone are the days that an invoice is purely a vehicle used just for collecting money it is so much more than that!

I go into more detail here on ways to make your invoices rock more!

White space management – I am sighing here now because I see 3 lines of transactions and then a big white space – use it, say something even if it’s just to say A big Thank You for the business but mean it and don’t leave it on every invoice run because it then becomes valueless!

I just sent my first invoice to a new client of ours and made a point of asking our accounts team to drop in a”Thank You for choosing Digital Print Management as your payroll provider on your next copier paper order we will give you 5 reams free”; guess what, we took a call from the customer to say how much they appreciated us doing that, we got an order for copier paper. So, it does work!

Judicious use of colour – OK so I’ve covered this earlier BUT I’m also talking about hi-lighting areas of personalised text in colour to draw attention to this relevant bit of information. Research has shown that colour has tremendous power to add impact to communications boosting recall and influence. Pantone® and the the internationally recognised Pantone Color Institute® indicate that consumers are up to 78% more likely to remember a word, phrase printed in colour than in black and white!

When colour is combined with the written word it impacts readers with greater recall, recognition and attention – full colour variable/personalised documents enhanced customer loyalty and retention generating 34% faster response rates; a 48% increase in repeat orders and 32% increase in overall revenues!

Who said invoicing wasn’t a science?

Reverse of invoice – Not just for Terms and Conditions as these should have already been stated prior to the supply of goods and services. This part of the invoice is a great way to show how your customer can get in contact with you; or how to pay you by showing the methods of payment you accept as an organisation.

Of course you can optimise the benefits of multi-channel distribution by combining the benefits of e-billing and paper based solutions.

If you want to stop feeling like this:-

 

Then why not give Digital Print Management a call we provide free no obligation print audits which include looking at your document flow and invoice processes.

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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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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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