It was about fifteen years ago that I wrote my first business case for deploying a new billing system. It spelled out the business benefits for our IT and Billing Operations teams in vivid detail. But what I didn’t know at the time was how much I’d missed – how deploying the right billing solution can provide benefits that extend far beyond the IT and billing teams.
Billing is not a stand-alone solution. Instead, it sits at the center of a monetization ecosystem that extends from lead generation and opportunity management at the front end to revenue recognition and reporting at the back, with links to many critical business functions. Your billing solution can affect the way you get new products to market, and it provides a critical touchpoint with customers. It touches many areas of your business, including some that you may not have thought about.
More than once in my career, I’ve been in a business owner’s office explaining why they’d have to delay going to market with an innovative new product. That’s an uncomfortable conversation—one you don’t want to be at the wrong end of. Your product team needs the agility and flexibility to test new offers and get to market immediately with new products, bundles, and price plans. The wrong billing system quickly becomes a constraint.
To be a business enabler, a billing solution must allow business teams to make changes to products and pricing on-the-fly, without requiring intervention from IT or the billing vendor. Look for a solution that supports a variety of pricing and bundling options beyond standard subscriptions and usage, and that allows you the flexibility to combine those options together in creative ways without coding.
There’s nothing more frustrating to a customer than dealing with a customer service rep that doesn’t have all the answers at their fingertips. Billing can help in three ways.
First, the right billing solution will reduce the number of customer service calls related to billing errors. Second, when errors happen it’s critical that customer service reps have a single view of the customer including their history and their current activity. Look for a billing solution that connects seamlessly through APIs and/or pre-built connectors to allow CSRs seamless access to current billing data.
Third, to kick it up a notch, find a solution that delivers proactive customer care capabilities, like notifying a customer when they’re approaching their service limits before overage fees kick in or when a credit card is about to expire.
Salespeople should spend as much time as possible selling and as little time as possible on everything else. A billing solution that links seamlessly through APIs and connectors with existing CRM and quoting tools (CPQ) and entitlement solutions means fewer errors, fewer headaches, and more time for your sales team to focus on closing deals.
Security and compliance
In recent years, security and compliance issues have become top-of-mind topics for your C-suite executives. Complying with ever-expanding regulatory regimes adds complexity to nearly every IT deployment, including billing and payments. Doing business globally compounds these problems.
It’s here that I give a plug for SaaS-based billing. One of the many benefits of today’s SaaS solutions is that their business model compels them to solve these problems for you. At a minimum, look for a solution that provides full PCI compliance and allows flexibility in terms of what data is stored locally and where off-site data is held, allowing you to comply with safe harbor requirements across geographic regions.
Looking back—and forward
Thinking back 15 years, I missed a lot in that first billing business case that could have made it even more compelling. In the years since I’ve learned that the value of a good billing solution extends far beyond your billing operations and finance groups. The advent of cloud billing has also helped extend benefits to many other groups. And I’ve learned something else—that the best way to maximize that value is to involve all stakeholders from across the business from the beginning of your project.
Read the 7 Sins of Billing System Deployment whitepaper to make sure your billing system implementation is heavenly.