With the recent advancements of technology in the finance space, the global business ecosystem has undergone a significant transformation. Fintech enterprises have been making a significant contribution in the way the companies are doing business, and an excellent example for the same is the evolution of the “order-to-cash” space post technology coming into the picture. Discussing how exactly it has influenced this space is a very broad subject, and hence in this blog, we would be directing your attention to a smaller subset of the whole process: billings and payments.
Traditionally, billing and payments have been carried out in multiple ways. We are (hopefully), well beyond the age of paper invoices being sent through snail-mail, and invoices today are mostly being shared through email or other electronic means. However, as we know, technology is always under a state of evolution. In the current scenario, e-invoicing simply is not enough. What companies should be looking forward to, is a self-service invoicing and payment portal, which digitally empowers your customers to access all the relevant documents, make payments etc., on their own, thus eliminating the need to get on a call with somebody from your team for every little problem that comes up.
With that being said, let us take a look at the key features that such a self-service portal should have, and how it could make lives easy not just for your customers, but also for you:
Presentment of Invoices:
- Instead of having to send out the invoices manually, you can directly upload them on this portal to be accessed by your customers as per their preference
- If a customer needs multiple copies of the invoice, they can download the same from the portal instead of requesting you for the same.
- You will have better visibility into the status of the invoice. Excuses such as invoice wasn’t delivered, or could not be found among the hundreds of the emails received won’t stand anymore.
- Invoice tracking would also become easier. The portal provides you insights regarding whether the invoice was downloaded, opened or any other action from the customer’s end.
- If there has been some error in the invoice, customers can directly communicate it through the system in real-time, instead of waiting till the due-date and then letting you know about the same, which is what happens conventionally.
- The portal would allow customers to make the payment online in their preferred format, be it an ACH payment or through a credit card.
- For cross-border payments, if applicable, the portal can be customized to support other payment options that might come into the picture.
- The customers would also enjoy better visibility by being able to track the status of their payments, and the invoices being cleared.
- Customers would be able to create payment reminders, set recurring payments etc. on the portal itself, as per their preference and requirements
- The portal should comply with all relevant regulations such as the PCI-DSS, thus ensuring that the transaction isn’t just fast and smooth, but also safe.
Dispute Creation and Tracking:
- More often than not, customers tend to take a deduction on an invoice, while waiting till the due-date to do so. The portal would allow them to create a dispute as soon as they receive the invoice, enabling pro-active research and resolution from your end.
- Not only that, the status of a particular dispute, as well as the final decision regarding its validity can also be communicated to the customer through the portal
- Customers can also make a short payment against a particular deduction while providing the reasons that could help in proactive dispute research and validation
Now that we have discussed what exactly a self-service portal is and what it is capable of doing, let us discuss how it can be useful:
- End-to-end automation: The portal would help in automating every aspect of your billing and payment process, thus reducing manual work considerably
- Time and cost optimization: Apart from saving the cost on paper (being environment-friendly too!), you will also save time spent by your resources in addressing and sending the invoices manually while also eliminating delivery and other related costs
- Better customer experience: Companies can improve customer experience by providing them with better visibility and reducing the number of touchpoints for them.
- Customer Empowerment: The “self-service” aspect of the payment portal makes your customers capable of handling their bills and payments on their own, while also reducing the workload on your team to guide them through the whole process.
Self-service customer portals ensure real-time presentment of invoices and payments by your customers through easy access to information for them, while reducing resource dependency within your team. They are an example of one of those rare win-win situations, in which there is something for everybody. It is, therefore, on you as an A/R professional to determine how you can leverage it for improving the way you handle your invoices, payments and customer relationships. Remember that technology keeps evolving, and it is best for us to evolve at the same pace.