By Steven Dubner
March 29, 2012
Right now, business billing and payment transactions are still largely paper-driven. Given that online alternatives are overtaking their paper-based counterparts in many other activities - including business and personal communications, media consumption, personal banking, trip planning, etc. - the resistance to paperless billing is counterintuitive. This is particularly true considering the benefits electronic billing delivers to billers, bill recipients and the environment.
For all these reasons, the time to go green in billing is long past due. We launched Billtrust 11 years ago to transform billing operations for our clients to make their operations stronger and more profitable. With that goal in mind, one of our key focuses is to drive migration to electronic billing. In fact, we have a team devoted to that purpose and a formal program for migrating customers to e-billing presentment and payment channels. Since our founding, we’ve tripled the number of bills we send electronically to exceed 40 percent.
A Win for Billers
Electronic billing adoption is a win for businesses. PUMA North America found this out firsthand when the company converted approximately 30 percent of their customers to electronic billing in less than a year with our help.
The migration of a significant portion of their customer base to paperless billing saves PUMA approximately 35 cents per transaction. It also results in faster bill payment, and PUMA has realized a 10-day reduction in DSO (days sales outstanding). PUMA’s experience indicates how e-billing is a win for billers in a financial sense. Importantly, e-billing also furthers PUMA’s corporate sustainability goals.
A Win for Bill Recipients
To achieve green objectives through e-billing, the process not only has to be a win for billers; bill recipients must also see it as a benefit. This is achievable through a user-friendly, Web-enabled portal that helps clients’ customers manage the billing process.
“E-biilling is a significant improvement in customer service,” noted Brian Good, senior manager of Credit and Accounts Receivable at PUMA. “Customers who go green can check out their bills online and don’t have to contact PUMA or wait for mail delivery. It’s a definite win for the customers.”
A Win for the Environment
When companies shift billing operations to a paperless strategy, they not only improve efficiency and reduce costs, they significantly reduce their environmental footprint. Even bills printed on recycled paper strain natural resources and eventually clog already overburdened landfills.
Going green is about corporate responsibility, a duty companies are taking more seriously with each year. Paperless billing can play a major role in meeting corporate sustainability goals and achieving a win for the environment.
Tips for Going Green
Scoring wins for billers, bill recipients and the environment starts by migrating current paper billing to a paper-free process. Here are a few tips for getting started:
Offer customers choices. One size definitely does not fit all in billing. Companies that offer a variety of channels, including Web, mobile and email, will secure higher e-adoption rates.
Designate a champion. As with any other change in business, having a central point of contact dedicated to leading the charge within the organization delivers results.
Communicate the win to customers. Customers have a variety of motivations, including a desire for greater efficiency and convenience and concern for the environment. A strategy that communicates all of these values will appeal to a broader audience.
Set and communicate goals. As the saying goes, “what gets measured gets done.” Companies that identify objectives and communicate status regularly will be more motivated to achieve their green goals.
Provide incentives. When seeking behavioral changes, carrots are often more effective than sticks. Companies that provide incentives for paperless billing can achieve much higher participation rates.
Before driving a green billing initiative, companies should also evaluate their options by taking a look at available billing outsourcing partners and selecting one that has a proven track record as well as the resources to make the effort a success.
Smaller companies can go green by exploring platforms that allow them to receive and pay invoices from multiple vendors online. Until recently, there was a scarcity of “one-stop sites” for this type of function designed for small businesses. Billtrust recently launched such a service, Invoice Central, which is an open-source portal offered to small businesses at no charge.
The benefits of going green in billing are clear: Companies win by reducing billing costs, resource commitments and turnaround times. Their customers win by saving time and gaining access to online tracking resources. And the environment wins when paper, delivery and landfill requirements are reduced. That’s why it’s time to go green in billing: It’s past due!
Steven Dubner, is senior director of eBilling at Billtrust. For more about Billtrust and e-billing, visit www.billtrust.com.