Let’s face it, business is almost completely conducted online. It simplifies every stage of the marketing mix, accounting, PR, sales and anything else that is fundamental to keeping a business running like a well-oiled profit machine. As an inbound marketer here at VoIP Innovations, the benefit of conducting all of my work online is so much better than having to deal with any other lagging methods of marketing. What’s really insane is that if it weren’t for this thing we call the World Wide Web, I wouldn’t be employed, even crazier:Inbound wouldn’t exist. It’s almost unimaginable thinking of how my duties would carry over to a non-cyber platform. It’s almost unimaginable, and near impossible. So let’s think for a moment, are there business practices stuck in the past that we still implement today? Would those practices be more efficient if conducted online? Would your bottom line increase if they were? I’m sure we can come up with a few methods that are surely lagging behind in today's world of automation.
I’m going to narrow this down to one common business practice because it’s so crucial to clients and businesses alike, especially if you're an ITSP. This practice would be automated billing.
Let’s dive right in and break down the top 10 things to look for in a billing system for your VoIP business.
1. Automated Billing
Automated billing is necessary for every business. End of story. It automates the lengthy process of billing individual customers, making sure the customers have paid, and sending out any additional invoices. Sure its been done by mail for years, but has it ever been efficient?
In the wholesale world you are managing and selling thousands of DIDs. The only way to manage the payments invoiced to your customers and received from your customers is to have an automated pre-written set of emails or other alerts to remind customers of their due payments prompting them to your collection service. Could you imagine billing out thousands of bills via mail? It would take forever!
Even worse, new postal service mail delivery standards are being lowered. This means that payments and collections would be slowing down. VoIP Innovations has its own automated hosted billing system in BackOffice to make your collections easy.
2. Automated Collection Service
Automated collection services obviously are the end result of the automated billing system. To make the collection client-centric, offer multiple merchant services to collect payment. Set up multiple payment gateways that allow the use of a Visa, MasterCard or Amex.
Link your gateway to a merchant account. Once the payment is sent, the money needs to go somewhere. Merchant accounts are a type of bank account that allows businesses to accept money from payment cards. If you want to accept credit cards online, you will need a merchant account.
Once the gateway is established, utilize an ACH service (Automated Clearing House) which enables you to electronically collect payments from your customers for either single-entry or recurring payments by directly debiting your customer's checking or saving account. Offer the power of choice to your end user. Options make the billing systems more attractive to prospects and less intimidating for customers who are making the switch to automated billing. VoIP Innovations' BackOffice gives you and your client the choices and flexibility.
You always, always, always want to keep your customers in the loop when it comes to billing. Using alerts keeps them one step ahead of the game, and your company two steps ahead of that.
Remember that billing, just like marketing, should be customer-centric. The last thing you want is your customer upset with not being able to use a Visa card or not being timely with your billing alert patterns. Make their preferred procedure your top priority. Clients often have specific preferences around invoicing and payment procedures; vendors who don’t follow the rules quickly fall out of favor. Common sense as it may sound, your billing processes should never sacrifice the health of your client relationships. Alerting your clients regarding future payments, suspensions or expired credit cards will tremendously help both parties.
4. Monitor Sales
Consolidation is the key word here. In outdated billing systems, you have to send payments, collect payments, account for payments, send invoices if payments are unpaid, and somehow try to juggle all of that to measure revenue. With an automated billing system, everything you did before (or at least tried to do) is consolidated. Simply sift through and pull up accounts with a few clicks, measure your revenue and set goals, see what services are being sold the most or what packages you need to improve on. Monitoring your sales will provide many advantages and make your analytics much more clear.
To handle a growing amount of work in a capable manner your billing system needs to be scalable. And let me tell you, implementing an automated billing/collection system carries that ability. Its ability to accommodate growth (which is every organization's goal, large or small) will allow for the influx of DIDs sold, as well as the billing attached to it. Automation is key when handling accounts, but even more efficient when analyzing hundreds or even thousands of accounts. Getting lost in translation will be in the past, your automated billing will provide crystal clear comprehension of where your company stands financially, with goals, and with the bottom line…all while allowing you to scale up.
Let's face it, with business comes the occasional problem. The same holds true for ITSPs. When looking into a VoIP billing system, make sure you have the ability to solve back-end and end user problems alike. When a customer complaint or issue comes about, give them the ease to submit a ticket that will have your support department contacting them with a solution as soon as possible or any other technical support. Customer convenience happens to be another advantage through the VoIP Innovations' BackOffice, resulting in your work behind the scenes to be smooth sailing.
Your company lives and dies by reporting. Without monitoring accounts receivable, call data reports, and payment; your business wouldn't be doing very well to say the least. Our BackOffice Titanium III platform consolidates all of your data into manageable lists. Easily track late payments and prevent further usage, send alerts if there are any credit card issues including expiration and declination, and see where the money is, and where it needs to be located. Having a billing system that does all of this will keep you way ahead of the crowd.
8. Financial History
It's now easier than ever to manage your financial history, if you have the right billing system that is. You should be able to simply scroll through your logged invoices, send them out again, track daily transaction and even go back through your payment history in order to settle a claim. The power of having all of this data at your fingertips is something worth talking about. No one wants to be sifting through actual papers to find an old invoice!
Be on the look out for a VoIP billing system that has the integrations you need. Have your merchant services, payment gateways, and switch equipment consolidated, and the ability to choose which you'd like to integrate. Plug in your CDRs (call data records) for an even more in depth look of usage to provide you with an over all look of active DIDs. The availability of integration only results in cohesiveness.
10. Account Flexibility
You want to offer the best packages and pricing that works for you and your customer. So why settle with a billing system that takes that flexibility away from you? You also want to offer that flexibility to your customer when making payments. Would they like a recurring payment plan that bills them automatically once a month, quarterly, or annually? Also, change the aesthetics of your invoices. You should have the ability to promote your brand and your company's overall "feel" with custom invoices. Lastly, taxation flexibility becomes a breeze when managing taxing across your merchant services and gateways.
Before you execute an auto-bill feature, ask your clients for permission to do so, along with specific instructions; they may ask to be part of the process so keep them involved! Also be prompt with alerts and notifications including the date you bill services to a credit card, or if they are running low on a DID budget etc.
Always give customers a reason to cooperate with your newly acquired automated billing service as well. Measure the success of auto-billing with customers that have jumped on board, and also measure the success it has brought your company. Share this information with a prospective customer; it might get them to make the switch. If all else fails, maybe even let them use a 30-day trial or a free demo. Once they’ve experienced how seamless the process can be, they should be convinced and auto-billing will be the “new normal”.
To take an inside look at VoIP Innovations' BackOffice Titanium III, click the button to view our demo!