Make Your Invoices Customer Centric

In an earlier post, I discussed the importance of customer centric processes. Everything we do is a process, including invoices.

I always think of the invoicing process as a prime example.  Have you ever looked at a legal invoice, or an invoice from your doctor?

I just spend some time over the weekend catching up accounts payable for one of my clients. I entered invoices of a variety of things, about 25 in all.  It was actually very easy and didn’t take much time.

It gave me an opportunity to see a variety of vendor invoice formats. Each was unique.  Obviously to me, most of these invoices were designed by some accounting type or IT pro.  For most of the invoices, it was hard to determine what was actually purchased.  All I wanted was the invoice date, invoice number, what the client purchased, how much we owed, and when is it due.  Not one of the 25 invoices made it easy; not one thanked the company for the business, not one seemed very customer centric.

In another recent situation, I was working with a law firm discussing their billing process and the physical invoice.  I was looking at the process from a cash flow perspective.  We were shooting for a 4 day improvement to add approximately $100K of cash flow.

We also looked at it from a customer’s perspective.  Their invoicing process and invoice were hardly customer friendly.  Invoices took 2-4 weeks to prepare.  Pre-bills were prepared by the accounting group and distributed to the attorneys, the attorneys would review and manually notate differences/adjustments etc. and return their invoice packets to accounting.  The attorneys had 10 days to return their billings.  Accounting had to bird-dog the attorneys to get all the pre-bills back.  Accounting would prepare detail bills, many several pages long, and mail the invoices in oversized 8 1/2 x 11 envelopes.

The law firm’s clients on the other hand–like me with my startup accounts payable invoices–just want the invoice date, invoice number, what was purchased, and much is owed and when is it due. A “thank you” would be nice too.

We revised the law firm’s billing process to completely streamline the process.  The invoices are much cleaner–and now they are completed within seven days. Cash flow is estimated to increase by approximately $200,000, and a bonus? They are now thanking the client for their business.

How can you adjust the “everyday” paperwork of your business to be more customer centric?