7 conversations that show your billing is out of control

When your inbox and task list are bottomless pits

This post was originally posted on our blog.

Billing seems straightforward enough in the early days: just send an invoice and wait for payment, right? But when you throw in multiple products, complex or usage-based pricing, a large customer base, and multiple payment methods, it can quickly turn in a nightmare. If some of the conversation below sound familiar, it’s time to face it: your billing is out of control.

1) Queries get ignored for days

Why are there 200 emails in the billing inbox? Yes, I know, it’s month’s end but some of these emails are two weeks old. There’s a customer who’s complaining about getting chasers but we haven’t even answered their questions about the invoice’s line items. Here’s another saying they’re holding payments because we overcharged them. Yes, we need to send invoices today to be on time — but if they are wrong in the first place, we won’t get paid. Ok, let’s work late tonight to get this pile of queries down.

2) No one knows if a query is being solved or not and by whom

Hey, just saw this email, has someone replied to the customer? Has anyone called them? So,
what did the customer say? Oh, it wasn’t the right person, we’re waiting on some more information. Did you make a note of it? Ok, just forward it to me. Oh, they just emailed. Apparently it’s solved. Did someone else related to this account call them? Did we assign this query to someone? No? Or did we involve the Account Manager? Wait, I’ll email her. Oh yes, she called the client for something else and solved it on the spot, but she forgot to tell us about it. She wasn’t aware that there were unpaid invoices. All good!

3) There is no visibility on the number, reason and resolution time of billing queries

We get 100 queries a day. Is that just emails to the billing address or also direct emails and calls? Ah, so it’s more like 200. Let’s see if we can make sense of this number. Do we have a report on what those queries are? Do we categorise them? No? Ok, well do we know our average resolution time? Anything from 5 minutes to a couple of hours? That’s a pretty wide range… Can we quickly see which accounts these queries relate to? No? Well, I’ll look at them individually and try to make some sense of it.

4) Your client support can’t address billing queries

Why did Support forward this? Can’t they access our accounting app? Ok, but it’s just a clarification question from this customer. Don’t they understand the invoices we send? Well, it comes straight out of the database, haven’t we done some training on what it all means or written a PDF to clarify terms? No… Can we at least send them some billing data to their help desk, so they can answer some of these account queries? Ok, I’ll get it on the development roadmap.

5) Billing queries are dealt by age, not by importance of the account or by amount held up

Good, I see we got the pile down to 50 queries. That said, there are several large accounts that are still unanswered. Shouldn’t we have started there? And there are five emails on that ongoing dispute that’s holding up a £100,00 payment? How do we prioritise those? Ok, just colour code them red in the inbox when you recognise the name of the client and let’s start with those — that should do for the moment.

6) Every query takes forever to resolve

Clients need us to update their address. Ok, let’s update it on the Customer Billing portal. That’s not linked to our ERP? Alright, I’ll update it there too. Oh and the client mentioned they wanted to change the name on the invoice, apparently we’re not using the proper trading name. Do we have a field for that in the ERP? What, it also needs to be in the database? OK, I get it — the invoice won’t be generated correctly if there’s a mismatch. I’ll ping our engineers. They say the database can’t keep two names for the same customer. Let’s just erase the name the Sales team use and fill in their trading name. We can make a note of that in case Sales ask about this account.

7) Your clients are confused

I just came off the phone with this customer I was supposed to chase. They said they’ve sent a couple of emails with a set of questions. Apparently, they replied directly to the invoice email. Where does that get stored? It’s not an inbox that’s monitored? Ah ok, can you get access and forward it to me? I’ll tell them to email me directly in the future. Oh wait, it seems that this is a pricing problem, that’s not our team. I’ll forward them to our Pricing department. Case closed, I guess, let’s just ping Pricing in a week to check it’s all good!

Sounds familiar? Queries are the tip of the iceberg and can be addressed in three ways:

  • Identify and fix the underlying process that is malfunctioning
  • Streamline the billing query process to decrease response time
  • Let your customer retrieve and update billing details themselves

Feel overwhelmed by the volume of billing requests your team receives? Get in touch at operandi.co!