Drive Better Customer Service with Interactive Invoicing: Companies That Improve Their Efficiency and Effectiveness through E-Business Techniques Can Significantly Increase Cost Savings, Productivity, and Customer Satisfaction

By Divine, Kevin | Strategic Finance, February 2006 | Go to article overview

Drive Better Customer Service with Interactive Invoicing: Companies That Improve Their Efficiency and Effectiveness through E-Business Techniques Can Significantly Increase Cost Savings, Productivity, and Customer Satisfaction


Divine, Kevin, Strategic Finance


The challenge for today's leading companies beyond growth and profitability is to improve productivity and customer service. Now, more than ever, successful companies are finding ways to achieve that objective and extend their foothold in the marketplace, building loyal customers by turning to new technology and evolving as an e-business.

The term "e-business" in the past five years has grown past its original roots as a term only for electronic commerce. E-business today refers to the use of the Internet (and more specifically the Web) for interacting with customers, partners, and suppliers with the goals of reducing time and effort and improving visibility and efficiency in all business transactions.

The challenges that businesses face today are daunting. With increased scrutiny on controllership, heightened concerns over security, and ever-demanding stockholder pressure on top-line, as well as bottom-line, growth--how can any business deal with so much complexity? And while it's dealing with these issues, how can it increase productivity and improve customer satisfaction and loyalty?

Unlike start-up businesses, existing businesses come with a lot of old technology "baggage" (meaning a legacy system and often multiple systems that don't talk to each other). A September 2005 survey by Forrester Research, "Financial Management Applications: Expanding Beyond the Accounting Hub," found that most large companies have more than a dozen financial systems in their operation. Cracking the "code" on this situation can be a make-or-break proposition. In fact, some companies teeter on the brink of going under if they fail to find solutions that help them get, and stay, on track.

Usually business plans focus on moving key business metrics like revenue, expenses, Days' Sales Outstanding (DSO), write-offs, and so on, but these measurements all have variable components that are driven by business activity: transactions with customers.

If companies can isolate the transactions that drive their business and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of those transactions with their customers, then significant improvements (cost savings, productivity, and, yes, even customer satisfaction) can be demonstrated month after month, year after year. The lowly invoice represents one common transaction for all businesses. We've all got invoices, but we often fail to look at them as a core business process and transaction that drives most other "after-the-sale" interaction (dissatisfaction and cost) with customers.

The types of after-the-sale transactions can come into companies across any number of functional areas, such as order processing, call center operations, billing, sales, or collections, just to name a few. Inquiries from customers ranging from general questions on invoices to disputed charges to how credits are applied to the customers' accounts are the real drivers of cost. These inquiries bring work and rework into business processes.

THE OPPORTUNITY

Recognize your invoice as the "root cause" for most of your after-the-sale interaction with customers, outside-of-service calls, and product support. You can take your business's tired old invoice and turn it into an interactive invoice that enables productivity and improves customer experience--and ultimately drives growth. This is the opportunity that your business can take advantage of by evolving into an e-business.

Stop, stop, stop, you're thinking. The Internet bubble burst several years ago, right? Wrong. Most dot-com start-ups failed, but many existing brick-and-mortar companies picked up on the advantages of digital interactions with their existing customer bases (which were already established and extensive). These existing companies listened to their customers and provided interactive business-to-business content (for example, electronic invoices and electronic payments, such as Electronic Invoice Presentment and Payment (EIPP)). …

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