Guest Post: How a Billing System Can Improve Customer Retention

Today’s guest post comes from Elaine Bennett, a digital marketing specialist focused on helping Australian startups and small businesses grow. :

Attracting new customers and expanding your customer base is critical for your business growth. However, customer retention is even more important. Statistics show that the cost of acquiring a new customer can be five times higher than the cost of retaining your existing customers. Given these digits, it’s not surprising that a good customer experience is expected to become even more important than your products or prices by 2020.

In this customer-centered era, your billing system can become a key factor in boosting the overall customer experience and building stronger relationships with them. Let’s see how to use it to increase customer retention rates.

Building Highly Personalized Customer Experiences

Today, personalization dominates every segment of your customer interactions, including your invoice management. People are used to highly customized services, tailored just for them. For example, some of your customers prefer to make payments using different credit cards, while others would go with a bank direct debit. And, before they book your services, they will first check whether you offer their desired payment method.

Precisely because of that, you need to make sure payment options are highly flexible and adapted to your customers’ needs. This is where automated payment processing shines. Namely, the implementation of a direct debit system allows you to manage recurring direct debit payments across multiple sites, helping your customers carry out transactions using multiple payment options and currencies. By providing a plethora of ways to pay, your target customers will be more likely to sign up for a repeat purchase.

Greater Security Builds Trust

The rise of online payments provides cyber criminals with easier access to customer information. And, your customers are aware of that. Precisely because of that, they choose those companies that can guarantee that their personal information will stay safe during the transaction.

Therefore, to get your target customers to choose you over your competitors and come back to you again, you need to meet the highest payment security standards. Of course, this is an extremely time-consuming and costly process, as it requires strong servers and hiring in-house tech support.

However, with the help of automated billing software, you can reduce your operational costs significantly. No matter if they’re used as a standalone platform or they’re integrated into your existing business software, these platforms are cloud-based and comply with PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard). By investing in them, you will make sure that your customers’ sensitive data, billing, and payment processing are out of hackers’ reach and handled at the highest level of security.

Don’t Let Failed Payments Hurt Customer Relationships

Studies show that more than 64% of small businesses face the issue of failed and late invoices. For any business owner, handling this major problem is inevitable. It includes sending multiple dunning emails and reminders that are not pleasant to their customers’ ears, too. Therefore, it’s a great challenge to get your customers to pay you and, at the same time, maintain strong relationships with them.

This is why you need to automate your rebilling efforts. A reliable payment platform will first try to rebill your customers automatically and collect the payment again. Most importantly, it will notify your customers of any failed payments and empower them to resolve the problem as fast as possible.

Real-Time Information Boosts your Customer Retention

To keep your customers satisfied, you need to tailor your billing system to their needs. And, to do so, you need to monitor your business health and performance, track your customers’ behaviors and understand what their major problems are when carrying out transactions. Of course, tracking your major KPIs and creating regular reports manually would eat up loads of your time.  

So, instead of handling a myriad of digits and using complicated Excel spreadsheets and formulas, you can invest in an automated billing platform and generate your financial reports effortlessly. Most of these platforms have in-built reporting tools that you can customize and adapt according to your needs.

With these reports, you will have a full insight into the distribution of billings, a comprehensive customer list, a list of invalid customer information, transaction details, and so forth. By tracking your financial health, you will be able to make better-informed decisions in the future and tailor your business operations to your customers’ needs and expectations. Above all, you will be able to identify the major problems in your billing system and prevent these from hurting your customer relationships.

Over to You

To win your customers over and turn them into your brand advocates, you need to focus on building strong relationships outside your products. And, this is where a solid recurring billing system comes as a blessing from the skies. It will help you interact with your customers more effectively, help them complete the desired actions faster, and tailor your invoicing and rebilling strategies to their needs and expectations. Above all, you will be able to make data-oriented decisions that would boost people’s experiences with your business.

How do you use your billing system to retain customers?

Guest Post: 11 Signs It’s Time to Expand Your Business

As a successful entrepreneur, CEO, or business manager, you know that taking your business to the next level in its development is not much different from launching it. The same considerations and dedication are essential for an expansion to be successful.

Depending on the size of your business, expansion can be as simple as hiring your first employee. Growing your business depends on a wide range of circumstances. Economic forecasts, market considerations, and the business cycle all play a role. Other factors in play include the availability of reliable shipping and transportation, labor markets, and access to raw materials.

Determining the best time to expand can be tricky, but if you know the signs to look for, the decision becomes much easier.

  1. The Customers Demand Expansion

Repeat customers are an indication of ongoing demand for your products or services, as well as satisfaction with what you offer. Loyal customers will request expansion, whether it is a store closer to where they live, an online site or even a local warehouse for faster shipping.

Consider all options before following through on customers’ requests for expansion. Your budget has to be able to sustain opening another facility, adding a line or hiring more employees.

  • The Business Is Busy

Management and staff may find they are too busy too much of the time. If people feel as if they’re spread too thin, then you have more business than you can handle. If the company is not a seasonal phenomenon but year-round, then expansion is in order. Managers who consistently wonder if they can complete their work are managers of a business which must grow.

Expansion is not just increasing the number of employees or shifts—although both of those decisions can pay off. Expansion is finding the next level for the business.

In considering the right number of employees, consider the “Rule of 150.” Businesses and anthropological research find that when the size of a firm exceeds 150 personnel, it changes in culture and quality. Below that number, the structure is much less hierarchical and far more flexible. Above 150, the structure becomes slower and less reactive.

Gore-Tex famously builds a new factory when the staff at one reaches the 150-person level. 150 people is about the maximum number a leader can stand on a chair and address directly before “speak louder” calls begin.

  • The Business is Out of Room

Physical expansion is indicated when there’s no room left in the workplace to function efficiently. People can tell when space is cramped, even before accidents caused by limited space occur.

Poor staff morale is an indicator as is lower production. Meeting clients away from the office because no room exists is another sure sign of needing more space. Clutter and mess are another — everything should have a place and be in its place.

Try reorganizing before relocating or using flexible work hours if possible so employees can share workspaces. 

  • The Team is Solid, Capable, and Ready

Expansion requires people who have bought into the business. They are personally invested in the success of the business and want it to get to the next level — they see that as a way of increasing opportunities for themselves.

With a talented team in place, your company can consider expanding. Talented employees may end up relocating to branch off and create their own remote team, adding further value to the business. Some may decide to take on a new product line. Whatever way your expansion takes place, having people who are part of the team before it takes place — especially if new people are being brought onboard — will make the expansion’s success more likely.

Some employees may be unable to relocate, prefer to work on the floor than be in management or dislike additional responsibility. Don’t assume your team is ready for expansion. Canvas them for feedback.  

  • The Market Is Growing

Businesses in a growing market will face the demand to expand. With more customers, businesses find that current operations are strained. They may even be turning away customers.

Study the market conditions carefully, and make sure this strain is not a temporary or seasonal issue. See what competitors are doing, especially if some customers have transferred their business to them.

  • Developing New Lines of Business

Enterprises develop new lines of business frequently. Many of those new lines are variations on existing ones or are logical extensions of them. For example, a retail men’s clothing store may add accessories, jewelry, and drink glassware into its offerings. A logistic supply company known for cartons and drums may add shrink-wrap, tape, and green shipping solutions to their lines.

New lines of business are as much an expansion as building a new factory. They should fit smoothly into your current marketing model—or the model needs to be adapted so that all lines work within it.

Use focus groups to research if a new line will work. You might think it is a great idea, but the market may disagree.

  • You Have the Capital

For a successful business expansion, you need sufficient cash flow to cover unforeseen costs and investments that won’t have a return on investment (ROI) for several months. Adequate revenue or financing to support an expansion is a good indication you are ready to ramp up your business.

But simply being profitable isn’t enough to justify expansion. Create a business forecast as a reliable representation of your company’s potential indicating the best and worst scenarios if you expanded. If the results between both forecasts are narrow, then it’s time to scale up. 

  • You are Meeting and Exceeding Goals 

If you are meeting your milestones ahead of schedule, it might be time for expansion, especially if other factors like the right team, cash flow, and a growing market are in place too.

If you don’t have the money ahead of schedule it isn’t the time to grow even if you have met all your other milestones. 

  • You’ve Done Your Research

Whether it is adding another location, creating an e-commerce site, or expanding into a new market, do your homework first. If you have well-researched plans in place, it is likely time for growth.

Don’t rush into the next stage of development without extensive research. 

  1. You’ve Outgrown the Local Market

If you’ve tapped out the local market, it may be time to consider another location or even an e-commerce site. Expanding into a different vertical will attract new clients and help your business grow.

Make sure you have explored every avenue locally because most people like to support businesses where they live and work. 

  1. Follow Your Gut Instinct

The best entrepreneurs and CEOs have an instinct for good business. Don’t allow success to overshadow that instinct. Always explore your hunches, even when business is a little slow. Successful entrepreneurs can identify market services and products that are not being met, or have an eye for just the right location. Knowing exactly when the iron is hot enough to strike is a trait only the most successful capitalists possess.

You may experience failures from time to time, but trying again is what makes a successful entrepreneur!

Cory Levins is the business development director for AirSea Containers, a family owned and operated company dedicated to the safe transportation of dangerous goods. Cory oversees the development and implementation of ASC’s internal and external marketing program, driving revenue and profits from the Miami, FL headquarters. Linked In:

Guest Post: Marketing Tools and Trends Every Entrepreneur Should Know About

Today’s guest post is from Laura Andrews:

Some fledgling entrepreneurs take marketing for granted, when in fact, it’s the best way to jumpstart your business. Marketing will allow you to put your product out there and let your customers know what you can do for them. Continue Reading

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Guest Post: How Time Tracking Software Can Be Helpful for the Growth of a Start-Up

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