Love and Money Foiled with Restrictive Billing

For me, there are few better ways of defeating my glumness than by doing something that will delight someone I care about. This time, however, the aforesaid age-old antidote did not triumph.

This is the story of the one and only time I will send flowers online.  As an institutional act rich with sentiment, next time I will honor the traditions of romantics by heading to a local flower store.

Fatigued from the long day I grabbed my tablet to pan through some shopping apps. I reviewed the latest deals and purchased a coupon from one app that I could use on a flower site.

First I tried to order online, twice, but when I realized the site would not take commas or exclamation marks in the customizable message card, I started to flinch.

After an embattlement with the online site already engaged, I owned up to the situation that the smile on my best girlfriend’s face was more important that my laziness, so I picked up the phone and called their catchy toll free number. Empathetic to the potential cause of the situation, I mustered my patience and pleasantries.

Truth be told, my career has been in billing systems. So, after being transferred to a live agent and exchanging introductions, I asked the American call center gentleman if the billing system didn’t get at least near real-time data from the promotional site. He let out a half-surprised chuckle at the question and fumbled for a vague answer, professional enough to not let the lid off of his employer’s unfortunate secret.

Upon establishing a nice rapport I assumed this call would be over in thirty seconds (deep breath).

The agent, Garrett, asks me to explain the situation, and I describe that I purchased the promotion through the partner site. After reading off to him the eleven digit alphanumeric code, and the agent then confirming, he puts me on hold. I groan at the cold silence of hold, but he is back on the line pretty fast, “I can deactivate your promo deal and issue you a credit.”

I scream quietly to myself. My five minute high from trolling online to feel the rush of efficiently getting a bargain has been stifled.

After speaking with a colleague, Garrett has a solution for this poorly integrated billing system and the discount code disaster.

My instructions are to complete the order on the site without the promotional code. I narrate my selection of a payment processor and the agent interjects a request for me to stop and please hold again. He comes back on the line, “Okay, you can use that payment processor. Our system was having problems with them earlier today.” Frustrated, I read back the long alphanumeric code my full-payment order confirms.

When he started issuing the forty-dollar credit in increments of a dollar, I sighed – at this point, I felt bad for the guy even beyond my own chagrin.  Accommodatingly, the agent remarked “Thank you Miss Toukatly, you will be sent a new receipt showing the credited amount. Is there anything else I can help you with today?”

There are a few things one could walk away from here but, throughout the experience, the recurring theme I could not ignore was the restrictive billing system.

Billing systems are often the red-headed stepchild operational leadership can unremittingly ignore. There is no joy explaining to a board the need to replace a critical informational system: those half mil deals we all sliced pre-cloud with our Big Four homies to implement, and another Big Four homegirl to audit, was once a feather in their IT/Finance/Business cap.

At some point though, stakeholders realize that the customer service team has to stop managing the chaos and proactively serve the recurring base. Businesses know now what they didn’t know then: we subscribe to a subscription world.

There are a lot of small giants out there, but few smart ones. These brilliant, unrivaled vertical market leaders excel simply because they do best what they do best; and likewise partner with vendors who mirror that model.

I have managed nearly a dozen enterprise grade premise and off-premise billing platforms before joining Aria. A product of the billing world, it was important to take my campaign to the streets.  The Aria Subscription Billing Platform is a comprehensive, cloud-based subscription billing and management system that enables customers to easily “subscribe” to your products and services, generating predictable, recurring revenue for your organization – quarter after quarter. Our company’s SaaS product serves mid-market and Global 2000 companies across the spectrum of vertical markets. Household names such as Disney, EMC, HootSuite, Ingersoll Rand, Pitney Bowes, Taleo/Oracle and VMware have trusted Aria Systems to help customers get to market faster, target new regions and segments better, leverage intelligence about usage and market trends wisely, and boost customer loyalty.[1]  With record amounts of administrative flexibility in Aria’s platform – more robust than any others – companies like this flower distributor could make the ill-fated agent’s job enjoyable and rewarding and, at the same time, have gained a recurring customer. Not to mention I would have lauded, not lamented, the experience.

I sure hope that all the romantics out there are not deterred from sending their special someone flowers after this read. Perhaps send chocolates?

-Mara Toukatly, Aria Systems

Just learning about subscription billing? Download the new Subscription Billing for Dummies book and learn more. Are you concerned about buying the right subscription commerce solution for your company? Consider downloading the Six Key Buying Considerations e-Paper and make an educated decision on the future of your recurring revenue offering.