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Billing Automation6 min read

How to streamline subscription billing with automated systems

Rethinking subscription billing

Beyond recurring invoice automation

It seems like a counterintuitive thing to say that a good subscription billing solution is about more than finance. 

Yes, billing is about invoice generation and processing payments, but they result from a whole ecosystem of communication and customer experience. That ecosystem needs to be working well for a payment to not merely happen once but time and again—willingly, accurately and seamlessly. Only then can a subscription business grow.

With that in mind, your billing system has to place customer experience front and center. In this article we explore how to design the perfect billing solution, which will ultimately give you the foundation you need to achieve hyper-growth in your subscription business.

Effective subscription billing goes beyond transactions, integrating seamless customer experiences and system compliance to support sustainable growth.


Revenue growth strategies

Connected administration to prevent revenue loss

There are two elements to growing revenue in a subscription business—generating repeat revenue and preventing revenue loss. There's no point in building the client base and having payments coming in if it's lost through disconnected administration processes and poor customer experiences.

Part of a customer centric experience is making sure payments are managed well and are successfully collected. Issues could arise when the subscription billing platform prioritizes manual processes over automated ones, while insufficient features lead to lost revenue through issues including failed payments and involuntary customer churn. For example, if payment details are outdated and the customer isn’t notified, automatically excluding them from continuing their subscription. It also causes a poor customer experience which leads to dissent and bad reviews, discouraging other customers from trusting you.

Businesses need a robust billing solution that is designed to overcome the challenges of recurring revenue-based businesses, and proactively support a great customer experience.

Key features to look for include

  • A reliable payment gateway with strong fraud prevention measures
  • A seamless user experience for the billing admins and end customers
  • Chargeback and dunning management to handle failed and declined payments or recover lost revenue
  • Smart retry features to monitor activities, let customers know about declined payments through automatic reminders, and automate as well as keep track of all subsequent actions

Simplifying complexity

Create a simple user experience in a complex system

The requirements of a subscription billing system necessitate complexity in its rules and architecture if it's going to meet the needs of the business as it grows, adding more customers, partners, features and products. However, the key is to make the same system simple for all users. In short, the complexity needs to be hidden—this is the mindset of a business that considers the user experience and not just the billing and payment function.

Achieving that simple user experience, both for your customers and your team means that the system you have in place needs to be purpose created for the task at hand, as well as those in the future. Systems designed simply for subscription billing automation often require complicated workarounds that take up time, money and have a negative impact on the customer experience. They also lead you to design your business around problems instead of great solutions.

Key features to look for include

  • A holistic approach that extends to the processes before and after billing.
  • A configuration-based system design.
  • Advanced automation for customer segments and complex if/then business scenarios.
  • A complete view of your customer account's billing and payments activities.

Ensuring international compliance

A billing solution that makes compliance and localization easy

Controlling costs and financial errors is an important part of growing your subscription business and boosting revenue. The digital nature of many subscription businesses means that they often grow internationally, which means having to navigate financial, tax and legal compliance in different regions. 

The regulatory environment around subscription billing can be complex, differing across jurisdictions and changing constantly in everything from General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) to the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). Therefore, it's essential to stay on top of this from the start and in real time, otherwise it can lead to data breaches, compliance violations, financial losses and damage to your company's reputation if it falls foul of the law and your customers do not feel safe. 

You cannot stay on top of that manually from one day to the next—it will lead to errors and if you're processing large volumes of payments the cost of doing it manually will be disproportionate as well as leading to inaccuracies. You need a billing system that you can depend upon to do it for you, making it easy for your team and your customers.

Key features to look for include

  • Fully-customizable invoice templates
  • Multi-currency, -entity, and locale settings
  • An automated solution that ensures compliance with pricing and billing regulations.
  • Manageable account hierarchies
  • Seamlessly automated tax calculations in multiple global territories, easily incorporating up-to-date rates and regulations

Subscription management

Don't think 'billing' think 'management'

Where a lot of businesses run into difficulties is thinking of billing as a siloed entity away from the rest of the subscription management process. Thinking about billing as part of the whole subscription process is essential for supporting hypergrowth because it enables you to consider the intricacies of the relationships between you, your customer and their experience. 

On an immediate note, the connectivity within the system means that there's a seamless flow between customer subscription activities such as upgrade, downgrade, pause, resume, and cancelation, and the bill they receive, without manual input. In the longer term, this connected system equips your business to grow and evolve in a competitive space.

Not only does that help you to create a seamless experience for customers today, which encourages them to retain their subscription and recommend you to others, but it also means that you have the ability to keep learning and understanding individuals as well as your target market. No market stands still in the modern world—continuous improvement and refinement is essential. All of this will also help you and your team to save time and money on otherwise cumbersome administrative processes.

Key features to look for include

  • Gives customers autonomy over their subscription with customer self-service
  • A seamless experience for internal business users to make subscription contract changes
  • Enables flexible and configurable subscription options (pricing tiers, billing frequencies and subscription terms)
  • Automated processes for workflows, approvals and notifications
  • Comprehensive subscription lifecycle tracking 

How keylight can help

Solving traditional billing roadblocks with seamless integrations

No man is an island, and indeed no business is either. There are lots of things that need to be integrated into subscription billing, such as customer purchase journey, CPQ, payment gateways, CRM, accounting, reporting and ERP. That means bringing together different systems, some of which will be external and will have their own interfaces, data formats, and protocols. 

This can be a real challenge for subscription platforms to handle without a modern technical foundation, leading to complicated workarounds that are error-prone and undermine the user experience. Incompatible platforms will inevitably become a barrier to business growth, both preventing scalability and damaging the customer relationships you have built to date. However, a solution that makes the integration of platforms and business processes seamless can proactively help drive business growth.

keylight's platform is built with one eye on the future, based on six principles that proactively help you scale your business, create an excellent customer experience and achieve commercial success. 

keylight Insights

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