It happens to us all, usually every month. Whether it comes to your mailbox or inbox, you’ll still end up getting it. A bill. Usually more than one, depending on the utilities you use, how many credit cards you have, etc. Think about how long you look over these statements. Some folks go over every line of every bill every time, and good for them. The average customer, however, spends less than five minutes looking over their statements. Sometimes, they only look to see how much they owe and that’s it. With that in mind, what kind of statements do your organization’s invoices make?
In theory, every invoice makes at least one of the following five statements. Regardless of the type, each invoice provides information and, if this is the only means of communication your company has with its customers, it’s worth taking a moment to see what pitfalls your organization might be facing.
Statement No. 1: You owe us
Let’s start with the obvious one first. A majority of the invoices your organization sends out falls into this category. Take a moment and once again think about the bills you receive. Do you enjoy giving your hard-earned money to another company for services rendered? As you shake your head, understand your organization’s customers don’t enjoy paying bills either. No one likes to owe someone else money.
Alas, whether we want to or not, we all have bills to pay. If you’re providing customers with something they’d rather not get in the first place, wouldn’t it be better to at least provide some sort of value? With the right customer communications management (CCM) platform, your organization can provide a lot of value in each individual invoice to combat the “sting” your customers might feel.
A streamlined document composition process for invoices will allow for consistent branding with vibrant designs to ensure you don’t bore them to death — that’s customer retention. Think of it as boredom insurance. On top of that, your company can create dynamic templates, which can pull information about each individual customer and provide recommended services, coupons or vouchers, or even other discounts based on any established criteria provided.
Sure, getting a bill in the mail is no one’s favorite thing, but if your organization can provide its customers with value that’s catered to them exclusively, it goes a long way when it comes to creating an amazing customer experience (CX)1.
Statement No. 2: We owe you
There are certain things every successful businessperson should understand — treat customers like you’d like to be treated, never dig in your heals and maintain the philosophy of “this is the way we’ve always done it” and, just as important, never underestimate the value or amount of work done by your IT department. If you don’t believe that last one, you’ve never had a server go down or, at the very least, never had issues with a printer.
The point here is your organization’s IT department is usually running at full steam making sure everything is working as it should. Many companies, however, run document production solely in the IT department. This means the IT department is not only maintaining all of the technology within your organization, they’re also responsible for juggling CRMs2, ECMs3, BPMs4 — who knows what else — in order to get a few sheets of paper in front of the customer’s eyes.
Do you see where this could lead to a problem?
Having so many legacy — or antiquated — solutions in place to communicate with your customers will always lead to trouble. Any time that many platforms are pulling customer information from each other, information that is added manually by your employees many different times, the chances of your customers receiving the wrong information greatly increases. It also leads to confusion, and your customers fail to understand exactly what it is you’re trying to tell them.
Your organization means well, and through a Herculean effort by the IT department, you’re putting in a great deal of work. Unfortunately, it’s clumsy, problematic, and completely unnecessary. Your customers don’t see all of this effort; they only see what you present them. For customers to believe you, you need the right effort: invest in systems that automate data aggregation, document composition, and document distribution altogether.
Statement No. 3: We know you
There are many things a company can do that will cause it to lose its customers’ trust — accidentally, or intentionally, sending out an inappropriate message on social media5, dragging a customer off your airplane6, having people arrested in your restaurant even though they did nothing wrong7, etc. These, of course, are at the top of the spectrum when it comes to losing customers’ trust. Even though these things do happen, they’re not an everyday occurrence. Several rungs down the spectrum ladder is something that happens far too often, something companies can easily avoid but still have problems doing so.
Mistakes happen, we all know it. Trying to find perfection in anything is a fool’s errand. For any organization, it comes down to minimizing the number of mistakes, learning from them, and using that information to prevent future mistakes. That becomes a lot more difficult if your organization is using antiquated communications solutions.
Right now, at this very moment, companies all over the world are sending out information to the wrong customers or incorrect information to the right customers. If the organizations are fortunate, the mistakes are minor — a misspelled name, an incorrect charge on the invoice, etc. The less fortunate mistakes involve things such as sending sensitive data to the wrong customer, which would be a nightmare for insurance companies and any organization that works in the healthcare sector. HIPAA fines are not cheap8.
If your company chooses the right CCM solution, these issues become few and far between. For example, with Ecrion Engage, your organization not only receives a CCM solution that offers interactive documents so you can see instantly how customers interact with them, it also has a “Review and Approval” option, so nothing gets sent out without being reviewed first. In this way, if something possibly finds it way outside of the company, you can go back and see every touchpoint of that document to figure out exactly how it happened.
All of this helps optimize the overall customer experience, and saves you money (and heartache) in the end.
Statement No. 4: We have what you need
Your customers are YOUR customers. That might sound like an oversimplification, but the reality is your organization should know its customers better than its customers think it does. It’s not as confusing as it might sound.
Again, for the sake of argument, let’s say your organization has a superb CCM solution. This solo piece of software can aggregate data about each individual customer — what they spend their money on, their habits, when they spend and when they don’t, etc. Since your company has this CCM solution in place, you know all of these things, which means a bill becomes a great opportunity to up-sell or cross-sell.
If the invoices pushed out by your organization are effective in maintaining a customer relationship, they’re probably appealing enough to advance it. With full creative control over the variable text in a document composition solution, you can display ads targeted to certain individuals based on their specific policies (all within the bounds of regulatory compliance, naturally) and whatever other data you’ve gathered for them.
For example, let’s say your organization deals in telecommunications. Your company provides mobile services — talk, text, data, and you sell the latest and greatest smartphones. Your CCM solution has templates for invoices, and you can create one that registers when a customer reaches a certain amount of data usage per month. Once they hit that threshold — or if they hit it multiple months in a row — the template kicks in and adds a box in the customer’s next bill saying, “Since you average using this much data monthly, did you know you could upgrade to this next data level for just a few dollars more a month?”
Think about that for each of your customers. You have what your customers need and you’re increasing revenue without having to lift a finger.
Statement No. 5: We’re No. 1
Do you ever stop to think about how your organization’s invoices look? A bill’s a bill, right? Slap the logo on the page, add the numbers, and make sure “Amount Due” is clear. That wasn’t hard at all.
Look at your invoice again. Do you honestly feel as though, when you see it, you understand it? Do you feel as though this invoice represents the best of your company? If it’s anything like the description above, it’s not.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to you that most customers want to be able to understand what it is you’re sending them. Again, an oversimplification. However, confusing invoices can cost your company customers. For example, 73 percent of home insurance customers choose their providers based on how easy their information is to understand9.
This all begins with agreeable presentation. Everything about your communications — layout, text, images, and colors — will impact the ease with which a customer consumes billing information and whatever other offers you deliver alongside.
Ecrion’s No. 1 Statement: Make Every Customer Count
Think about how your invoices and billing statements impact customers. With the right statement, you could increase business and create customer loyalty. The right statement, of course, comes from the right CCM solution.
At Ecrion, our mission is to make sure companies just like yours succeed in the customer communications space. If your company provides a great customer experience by being able to effectively communicate, your customers are more like to stay with your company and recommend your services to their family and friends. All it takes is the right software.
Now is a great time to contact us here at Ecrion to learn how we can help your company succeed. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org; give us a call at 1-866-418-3838; or simply fill out our contact form. We look forward to helping you on the path to better customer communications.