Let customers do the work

Paperless invoices and online payments
Running a business efficiently and productively in good times will be even more beneficial when the economy is slow. The two key words in that sentence are efficiently and productively. The past few years have taught us the importance of doing more with less. Below are few ways to get more work done with less effort.

Paper No More
First, stop mailing out paper invoices. Paper invoices are kind of like VHS tapes. There was a time and a place for them, but there are more efficient ways of delivering your invoices, like email. I know, I’ve heard it before: customers don’t want e-mailed invoices. I am sure some customers fall into that category, but not all of them. Remember, there is an entire generation of iPhone users taking over businesses and they don’t want paper. 

As the possibility of e-mailing invoices is considered, think of all the associated costs with paper invoices: paper, printer ink, envelopes, people to put invoices into the envelope, and postage to mail the invoices. For every thousand invoices sent out each month, a company is likely to be spending a minimum of $500.

Put the Customers to Work
Let the customers do all the work by paying their invoices online. Most major companies encouraging customers to pay their bills online. Why? Because that means the workload is now carried by the customer. They don’t have to receive the check, mark the account number on it, send it to accounts receivable for posting, and then carry the checks to the bank for deposit. The customer service angle is great, because now the customers can pay their bills when it is convenient for them. The smaller the customer, the more they will like this feature, because a smaller customers could go home, eat supper and then sit down and pay the bill online. To make it even easier for them, a link can be put in the e-mail when the invoices are sent. They simply have to click on the link, which will take them directly to the online payment system. 

Keeping Transactions Secure
To accept online payments, there must be a merchant account and the appropriate web software that allows for the payments to be accepted. The merchant account would handle the security issues, such as the liability of handling and storing credit card information.

Note: The distributor will need a secure certificate, this will appear as a lock on the website.

The merchant account would approve the requests for payment. At that point, the approval amount, approval number and the invoices being paid will be sent to the distributor via e-mail. 

From a security standpoint, the distributor never sees the credit card, therefore payment will be confirmed by the approval number. Because of federal regulations, distributors must be extremely careful with credit card information. There should be no need to upgrade the host software, given that many online payment applications are web-based.  

This article originally appeared in the Second Quarter, Spring 2011 issue of Welding & Gases Today Copyright ©Data Key Communications, Inc. All rights reserved.