In most organizations that send out invoices to their customers, there is a constant battle being fought for control of that invoice. This battle normally involves multiple parties all vying for supremacy. The combatants include the Finance team, the Marketing team and the Customer Care team.
The Finance team will claim the invoice as theirs simply because the invoice is the primary tool of revenue collection of any organization and therefore they are the logical owners. The Marketing team will claim that the invoice is probably the one piece of communication that your customer is likely to read so while you have their attention you had better make the most out of it. And the Customer Care team will claim ownership as they view the invoice as a means of explaining to the customer how they use your products and services.
The fact of the matter is that they all have something to offer in this area and smart organizations realize that it is only when these three parties work together that you get a really great invoice as it requires inputs from all three areas.
A good invoice is built upon four key elements:
- Clear customer communication
- Clear financial charges
- Clear charge descriptions and details
- Clear payment instruction
If these elements are all in place then the invoice will be easily understood, will get the organization’s message across, will not be questioned, and will be paid on time. All these things will make Finance, Marketing and Customer Care teams happy.
The Ultimate Battle
While the three parties outlined above may believe they are the rightful owners of the invoice, the fact is that for the majority of organizations there is another group that exercises complete control over the invoice. This group controls the invoice by virtue of the fact that they control access to the invoice templates, access to the tools and access to the environments. This group is the IT team. And while the other groups may think the invoice is theirs, the IT team maintains the real control as they advise the other teams as to what can be changed, when it can be changed and who can change it.
The reason the invoice is controlled by IT varies but normally it’s because of one or more of the following reasons:
- The billing system is controlled by IT
- It runs on IT controlled servers so of course it is controlled by IT
- The billing and invoicing solution is too complex and can only be maintained by IT personnel
- Who else could be trusted to control it?
The first thing to realize is that the IT department is there for a reason and not to try to make life difficult for their business partners. They have learned from experience that a lack of processes and procedures leads to chaos. Letting unskilled people loose on a system can end in tears at best and outages at worst.
So most organizations have processes to follow to ensure that the IT systems (including billing & invoicing) are always available and always working correctly. Changes have to be agreed upon, implemented, tested, approved and deployed. If anything then goes wrong they can track what the likely cause of the issue was and rectify the situation. They are the gatekeepers that ensure your bills get to your customers.
And so, once the business teams have fought amongst themselves over ownership of the invoice they soon realize that the real battle will be between the (newly united) business team and their old enemy the IT team for ultimate control.
Is there an alternative to this age-old struggle
Today, most organizations are looking for ways of reducing their reliance on IT for maintaining their customer invoices. They want to be able to respond to customer and market needs quickly without being encumbered by lengthy IT release schedules. They want to be able to update marketing content and amend invoice templates as needed without incurring excessive project costs. How can this be achieved?
The first step is to look at your business and determine what your invoicing strategy will be. Will you send one invoice out to all customers or will you have separate invoice designs for different market segments? Will your B2C invoices differ from your B2B invoices? Will you offer different invoice sections depending on customer preference or activity? Once you have decided upon your invoicing strategy your invoice templates need to be designed to meet the needs of that strategy. Therefore it is important to think about the design of your invoice, merely listing charges owed and sending it out is a missed opportunity.
There are many things to consider when designing a good invoice but care should be given to ensure that everything is clearly communicated and there is effective white space management. A good invoice requires clear and concise information about the customer it is being issued to, the products and services being charged, the financial amounts (line items, total, taxes, etc.) and the payment amounts, methods and dates. It also needs to inform customers of products and offers that may be of interest to them.
An essential component is a flexible billing and invoicing solution that enables good invoice design with simple, intuitive templating capability coupled with extensive data sources directly from the billing system.
How can LogiSense help?
Rather than picking sides between business and IT, LogiSense believes that the two parties can live happily and peacefully if each just accommodates the other a bit. That’s where our solution comes into play by meeting the needs of the business team’s easy invoice creation and quick amendments and the IT team’s control and stability.
The LogiSense Billing Platform helps an organization’s business teams to create invoice templates in any design they wish with access to all the billing data they might require and the ability to utilize event-driven conditional actions. All they need is Microsoft Word installed and they are ready to create.
Once the business teams have defined their templates they just upload them to the LogiSense Billing Platform and run some test customers through and verify the invoices look and act as expected. Once the business is happy they just need to upload the templates to the production environment and that’s it all done.
The business team can control the look, feel and content of the invoices and make changes quickly while the IT team can still control the integrity of the production billing environment and ensure all systems remain accessible and online.
There you have it, LogiSense bringing peace in the battle for the bill.