How many bills do you pay in the mail these days? If you’re like most consumers, the answer is “not many”. According to ACI Worldwide’s study titled “How Americans Pay Their Bills”, almost 60 percent of all bills paid in the U.S. are paid online. And almost 75 percent of those bills paid online take place on the biller’s website.
With Americans trending towards online bill pay, your next question should be this one: what kind of online billing interface do I offer to my customers?
If you’re still managing the invoicing process via snail mail, it’s ok - you’re not too late to get started. Here are our tips for moving into the digital age with invoicing:
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel….
Creating an online billing portal for customers might seem overwhelming - if you think you have to build it yourself. But, there are invoicing providers in the marketplace that offer a customer portal as part of their platform, so you don’t have to start from scratch. They are experts in the field, and they know just what types of functions to include based on countless hours of experience.
....but you do need a basic set of requirements.
That being said, there’s no guarantee that all online billing portals have all the functions you want or need. So before you start evaluating invoicing platforms, make a list of all the use cases required for customer interactions. This list probably include everything customers can already do via mail and over the phone, like:
- Paying bills
- Requesting historical invoices and receipts
- Disputing invoices
- Updating payment methods
- And contacting customer service.
And don’t forget those “nice-to-have” features.
Customers need to be able to complete all necessary functions with the online billing portal that they would using the methods you offer now. But what about other “nice-to-have” features that you may not have considered?
Some invoicing platforms offer ways to customize their billing portals with your brand colors and logo, giving you a way to extend your brand into the online invoicing experience. And you may even choose a custom domain and white-labeled email address, so the customer sees your domain as part of the process - not the invoicing provider.
And remember: there’s something in it for your as well, like being notified when someone views an invoice. No more excuses from late-payers about not receiving invoices in the mail. You can see a record of each invoice viewing!
Take a test drive of each online customer portal.
Once you’ve arrived at your “must-have” and “nice-to-have” lists, vet the invoicing platforms you are interested in to see how they stack up. The best way to do that is with test access to each platform. Create a simulated workflow so you can walk through and see how your customer would experience the portal. And if you have a customer or two that would like to share feedback, consider opening up the process to your top contenders to see what they think.
Communicate the transition and make it gradual.
After vetting your top choices and making a decision, let your customers know - slowly. Existing customers are used to getting invoices in the mail from you. Inform them with their next upcoming invoice that online billing will be rolling out soon, in order to provide a more convenient billing experience for them.
As part of your gradual transition, consider a “phase-out” plan for mailed paper invoices. Choose a timeline that works for your business - maybe 3 months, for example. Give customers instructions for how to sign up for online invoicing, and let them know that after 3 months of paper invoices, you’ll discontinue sending them via mail.
You might have a few sticklers who don’t convert and require a phone call to discuss. But with a deadline looming and the ease of online bill pay, most will likely take you up on your offer.
Online billing is a win-win for customers and businesses.
Evaluating invoicing platforms and their billing portals might seem like a big time investment on your part, but it’s totally worth it. Customers will have an easier, faster experience with your business, and you’ll get paid more quickly than you do via snail mail.