Making the Billing Experience Pay for B2B Customers


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In a 2009 white paper, Siegal + Gale dubbed billing one of the unheralded touchpoints: “repetitive and important to customers but not as visible or prominent as advertisements or the retail experience.”

More recently, our Most Engaged Customers* study found that the billing touchpoint created the most problems and angst for B2B customers. Based on a survey of decision makers, influencers, and day-to-day contacts, 38% reported experiencing a problem in the payment process (chart).

Source: PeopleMetrics

The highly functional nature of the billing touchpoint makes it seem less important than other “flashier” customer interactions, and it becomes difficult to gain interest internally in improving this process. However, it is crucially important to clients and an area in which they are continually being let down. This reveals a massive problem area and also presents a big opportunity for B2B firms interested in differentiating on experience.

Examining the Problem

The touchpoint where your client pays for products or services you offered presents a valuable “moment of truth.” Nobody enjoys the feeling of parting with their money, and by easing this discomfort, companies have an often overlooked opportunity to demonstrate that they are truly focused on every aspect of the customer experience—not just the touchpoints that will lure them into purchase.

In The Problem with B2B Payments Carly Coye Benson lists common excuses for why the B2B payment process can’t be fixed, including: “It’s too complicated” and “banks are dragging their feet.” In 2005, DestinationCRM listed billing as one of six most overlooked customer touchpoints. The author concludes the article with a story about a telecommunications company who couldn’t merge invoices for a B2B client, so the client simply found a provider who could.

Finding a Solution

There are many technology-based solutions for improving billing and invoicing. But before investing money in a solution, it is important to think through how this particular touchpoint fits in with your overall customer experience.

  1. Show consistency with other touchpoints

    In the B2B space, we found that consistency (defined as “excellent service regardless of who is delivering it”) is the number one driver of client engagement. If your sales team is friendly and genuine and goes above and beyond for your prospects, when this prospect turns into a client and calls with a question about the invoice, are they being met with the same experience? Are the people representing your brand at this touchpoint Brand Ambassadors or brand detractors?

    The goal should not be to deliver “occasionally great customer service” but to create consistently great customer experiences. Inconsistencies at this touchpoint will communicate to your clients that you care about winning their business, not making their lives easier.

  2. Build trust

    The role of trust in the client experience is significant. In our study we found that only 10% of Actively Disengaged clients trust that their supplier will make it right if something goes wrong vs. 99% of Fully Engaged clients. “Fair and Transparent Billing Practices” plays a large role in building trust. Organizations that make their fee structures complicated give the impression that they are trying to intentionally deceive the client. In addition, firms that aggressively track scope creep and charge for each change often end up eroding valuable client relationships.

    In a Tech Republic blog post business analyst Ken Hardin recommends always keeping the lines of communication open with your client in regards to billing. “Meet with your main client contact and let him know in advance that their requests are going to push you into extra billable hours, and give them a credible range of additional hours they can expect.” Organizations that are transparent about their fee structure send the message that they value the relationship and, as such, build two-way commitment to maintaining a strong relationship over the long-haul.

  3. Demonstrate customer-centricity

    The Plain Writing Act of 2010 was signed into law on October 13, 2010. This federal law required that federal executive agencies write in a way that can be easily understood. While your clients cannot legally force you to use language they understand, this is an opportunity to demonstrate customer centricity by writing an easy to understand invoice. An invoice written in the words used by your client will show that you understand their business versus codes and shorthand that only your accounts department understands.

  4. Sell your brand

    In an article advising graphic designers on how to write good invoices, Smashing Magazine says, “The invoice is your last contact with your client, and it should share the attention to detail, branding and style of your other elements.” While your clients may not expect a visually engaging invoice, they do expect that it matches the rest of your brand. For example, our MEC study found that accounting firm clients actually experience more problems with billing and invoicing than other B2B clients (43% vs. 38% overall). In an industry that relies on details and precision, getting this touchpoint right is imperative to building trust.

Your clients cannot choose to opt out of your billing and invoicing touchpoint. Extending extra effort to make this typically uncomfortable interaction simple and error-free is an opportunity for any B2B company to differentiate itself as one that doesn’t just talk about the customer experience, but one that is genuinely concerned with making the lives of their clients easier.

* Data on Most Common Problem Areas can be found in industry specific reports available for Telecommunications and Accounting, contact [email protected] if you would like to receive a copy

Janessa Lantz
In the role of Marketing Manager, Janessa works closely with the researchers and executive team to develop PeopleMetrics content and thought leadership. She is a key author on the PeopleMetrics blog and the voice behind @PeopleMetrics.


  1. Good info, Jenessa. I’ve heard clients say “We know our customers don’t care for some aspects of our billing, but our correlation analyses tell us that it won’t pay off for us to make changes there.” Maybe not if those changes are exceedingly disruptive to the company. But more likely than not, many improvements might be made without making much of a dent in the company’s bottom line.

    On the upside, the bigger picture is that passion for your brand among customers is largely dependent on the “customer value quotient”: the fewer hassles/bummers they experience in the denominator, the greater the impact of the pluses they experience in the numerator. That’s a viewpoint we too often overlook, and one that your article points out as a trust-builder and customer relationship strengthener.

    Here’s the link for my article about Customer Value Quotients:


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