Thursday, March 10, 2011

Executives view billing as a utility, not a strategic function

Posted by Mark Brousseau

Despite its critical role in revenue collection and corporate cash flow, billing has apparently become such a systematic function that it is no longer viewed as strategic – even by billing executives themselves.

In fact, according to a survey from Billtrust, fully two-thirds (67 percent) of billing related executives view billing as a utility, while only a third of those polled (33 percent) see billing as strategic. And yet, one out of every four respondents (25 percent) is not confident their bills will get paid on time. The survey points to the growing number of businesses who are missing opportunities for cost savings, accelerated cash flow, customer relationship building and even revenue generation in the billing process.

Billtrust surveyed nearly 40 executives associated with the billing function across a spectrum of North American businesses. The lack of recognition of billing’s role in customer relationships was apparent, as nearly two thirds of those polled (64 percent) said that billing either hurts, or has no impact, on customer service. At the same time, 59 percent of respondents believe their current billing process supports the building of customer relationships.

When asked their highest billing priority, 81 percent said accuracy and 19 percent said timeliness. None of the respondents pointed to cost savings as their top priority. The findings document conflicting perceptions on the role of billing and confusion on the best methods and outcomes related to the billing function.

“When it comes to billing, most businesses focus on the basics,” said Flint Lane, CEO of Billtrust. “Many of the organizations we speak with are unaware of the opportunities that exist in the billing process and don’t even know when their billing is unhealthy. We have seen the symptoms so often that we named the syndrome Chronic Billing Disorder.”

“With a more strategic approach to billing, companies can create cost savings, build better customer relationships and drive revenue growth,” said Lane.

The survey also revealed several other interesting findings on various aspects of the billing process:

... the overwhelming majority of those polled (84 percent) say their bills are generally delivered on-time or ahead of schedule, while 16 percent say their bills are generally delivered late.

... nearly a third of those polled (31 percent) do not feel their bills match the quality standards of their brand.

... nearly 1 in 5 billing executives say they don’t believe their current billing processes have a positive impact on cash flow.

What do you think?

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