A friend of mine loves to tell a story about the day his mobile provider saved him $40. He had just finished an hour-long call to a project team in India when his phone rang. It was customer service from his mobile provider, letting him know that the cost of the call was $47 and that he could reduce that cost by enrolling retroactively in an international calling plan for a few dollars per month. The total cost of the new service and the call was seven dollars and change. My friend saved 40 bucks, and his provider got a customer for life.
In today’s markets, the customer experience is often more important than the product you sell. Gartner says that almost 9 in 10 marketers expect that by the end of this year, the customer experience will be their primary differentiator—more so than the actual products and services they sell. In the customer age, your billing system as a key component in the overall customer experience can help boost customer retention in three important ways.
Personalize the customer experience
Your customers have been spoiled by Amazon and Facebook. They’re looking for you to provide that same streamlined and ‘personalized for you’ experience—an experience that starts with your customer portal or app. Sure, your customers can order on the app, but can they also manage account preferences, monitor usage, connect with customer service, manage ongoing payments, and find new offers, all in real-time?
Supporting this type of customer experience requires a direct link to your billing system which must provide several key capabilities:
- Tight integration through robust APIs that can deliver a single customer view of account info, status and usage levels to mobile apps, CRM, ecommerce portals, and customer service
- Real-time or near real-time usage processing so customers can view current usage levels
- A dynamic product catalog that empowers you to create and target new bundles and pricing plans that deliver personalized services to different target markets
Help customers save time and money
Everyone likes saving money. And nobody likes dealing with billing issues. Getting the invoice right is critical to maintaining customer loyalty, but providing a memorable (in a good way) customer experience requires more than that. In my friend’s example, his provider saved him money retroactively by monitoring events on his account and generating notifications (triggers) when certain conditions were met.
A billing system designed to help you make your customers’ lives easier provides:
- Event monitoring and data-rich notifications that can be used to trigger any number of actions and activities in your environment
- Clear and accurate bills and statements that can be easily delivered through a customer’s desired channel (paper, online, in-app, text, etc.)
- High availability with easy maintenance and redundant failover to avoid service outages
By the way, it shouldn’t be lost on anyone that the recent AWS outage was a result of trying to perform maintenance on their billing platform. How that will affect long-term customer retention is anyone’s guess. Better if you never need to find out.
Reduce involuntary churn
It’s bad enough when a customer chooses to drop your service. But how much of your customer churn is a result of weak technology rather than customers making a conscious choice to leave? In today’s markets, where the customer mindset is, “I want what I want, the way I want, when I want, and I want it now, 24/7,” something as simple as a declined credit card transaction that results in a temporary interruption of service could result in the permanent loss of a customer. And it’s often preventable.
There can be lots of reasons for payment failure, including reissuing lost or expired cards or exceeding a credit limit. What happens in your environment when a payment fails? Your billing and payment processing should provide three important capabilities to reduce the potential damages:
- Automatic retry that allows you to retry transactions multiple times to ensure failure was not the result of timeouts or network issues
- Account updater services with payment processors that automatically retrieve new card numbers when a card is reissued or replaced
- Payment wallets that allow users to provide secondary payment methods – if the first method fails, automatically try the next
The cost of acquiring a new customer can be orders of magnitude higher than retaining an existing customer. Your goal then is to provide a customer experience that is so good that the customer wants to stay with you. In a world where customer experience often trumps product, your billing system can be a critical element in building brand loyalty and delivering ‘customers for life’.
Are you vetting billing system vendors? Don’t forget to ask them these 5 questions!