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Mon, Dec 14, '20

Not Like Pulling Teeth: Can Better Invoicing Transform the Client Experience?

 

In the old days, we expected certain experiences in life to be painful: getting a tooth pulled, waiting at the DMV, or paying bills.

 

Not anymore. Thanks in large part to retail and service giants like Amazon and Uber that have rewritten the playbook for customer experience and feedback, individuals expect an elevated experience in every sphere of life. This transformation began on an individual consumer level, but it is now happening at the organizational level, in companies (and firms) of all sizes. 

 

In the professional services industry, this means that accounting firms hoping to retain their clients need to seriously elevate the end-user experience. Client retention is a perpetual issue: in Accounting Today's 2022 survey, 26% of firms named “acquiring and retaining new clients” a top concern. Simply put: “In the accounting world, client loyalty is never guaranteed—if they feel a better arrangement is available, then they’ll probably take it.”

 

So what differentiates an adequate client experience from a great one? The client experience is shaped by every touchpoint between the firm and the client: every in-person meeting, every document sent for signature, every phone call—and one step that has historically felt like pulling teeth for everyone involved: invoicing and bill pay. 

 

The Old Way: Partner Time Chewed Up, Clients Fed Up

 

Traditionally, preparing and sending invoices has been a tedious, reactive process for accounting firms, and paying those invoices has been equally painful for clients.

 

On the firm side, many hours are burned on manual tasks such as hunting for emails with PDF attachments to compare client bills from previous years, printing out and marking up statements, sending files back and forth for partner review and revision, and eventually sending an invoice to the client—unfortunately often with a lag time of weeks or, in worst cases, even months after the deliverables have gone out.

 

This lag time is especially problematic for the client, who might have a difficult time connecting the value of the work delivered to the fees charged. “Clients better appreciate the value of the work—and are more likely to promptly pay the bill—when the product is delivered than if they don’t receive the invoice until weeks later.”

 

And what happens when a client doesn’t pay a bill promptly? Then a firm is faced with the unpleasant task of collections, walking the tightrope of chasing down unpaid bills while maintaining good client relations. Due to the sensitivity of this, partners are often required to spend even more time communicating and smoothing things over with clients. 

 

Additionally, on the client side, paying invoices is typically very manual and time-consuming. Many systems require a client to pay one invoice at a time, each time entering the account number, invoice number, etc. Each stroke of the key in data entry introduces an opportunity for human error, in addition to the administrative time wasted.

 

Pain-Free Invoicing and Bill Pay

 

So what does it look like, from a client perspective, for invoicing and bill paying not to be painful–and dare we even say, easy? What if it could actually be, not just neutral, but a positive interaction between the firm issuing the invoice and the client they serve? Maybe even an interaction that helps to strengthen the relationship and improve client retention?

 

Thanks to the Artificial Intelligence (AI)-powered Intelligence-Based Billing™ (IBB) platform from Aiwyn, firms now have a specially designed tool to help them deliver a streamlined client experience, specifically when bills come due for services rendered. Since its launch, IBB has been consistently delivering measurable and valuable results for CPA firms.

 

Overall, accounting firms using IBB have seen a 69% increase in the number of clients who paid an invoice within 7 days of invoice issuance. So net 30 doesn’t turn into net 90, causing a firm stress and uncertainty around when that cash will get in the door, not to mention the strain it can place on client relationships. 

 

Here’s what a client experiences with IBB:

 

Accounting firm completes high-value work for client → Client receives online invoice in a timely manner→ Client enters one-click payment portal and pays invoice securely, in seconds → Client is delighted → Accounting firm completes high-value work for client

 

Watch this short video to see IBB in action.

 

The predictive insights delivered by a robust program like IBB is a further differentiation that becomes increasingly valuable over time. The machine learning behind IBB provides firms with key insights into clients’ behaviors, responsiveness, and timeliness in payments. For example, one client might consistently pay their digital invoices within days, while another might tend to need more nudging. IBB picks up on these behaviors and can automatically follow up in the most effective way for each client–an automated email reminder for some, or a prompt to pick up the phone and call another. It’s customized and gets smarter over time, tailoring the client experience accordingly.

 

IBB: Easing Invoicing Pain for Accounting Firm Clients

 

A great dentist is just as concerned with minimizing your pain while pulling a tooth than the legwork of pulling the tooth itself. Similarly, accounting firms are beginning to grasp the importance of reducing bill-paying friction for their clients. Firms know that the process is necessary, and minimizing the pain through it all is essential to keeping clients happy.

 

That’s why many leading firms (MST, Elliott Davis, and Edelstein, to name a few) have partnered with Aiwyn to create a seamless, easy, and trustworthy billing experience for firm clients.

 

Firm leaders know that their clients’ pain should be their own. When clients experience unnecessarily tedious burdens with their accounting firm, that should raise the hackles on every managing partner to spur them into improving their client experience. 

 

On the flip side: when clients win, the firm wins. When clunky processes like invoicing and payment are streamlined through digital transformation, not only does the client save time and money on processing those payments, but the firm gets cash in the door more quickly. And ultimately, the relationship between the firm and its client continues for years to come, resulting in happier long-term clients, more referrals, and better financial health of the firm.

About Aiwyn

Aiwyn helps top-ranked professional services firms revolutionize their work-to-cash cycle, resulting in faster cash flow firm-wide, more productive and fulfilled professionals, and a superior client experience. With Aiwyn's Intelligence-Based Billing™ (IBB) platform, high-value firm executives, partners, and staff are liberated to deliver more value to clients and work at the highest end of their professional expertise. Aiwyn offers a suite of solutions built on the IBB platform that speed up the client payment cycle and provide firm leaders with predictive insights to drive smarter strategic growth decisions. Benefits of Aiwyn to accounting and law firms firms: partners can save time, bill faster, and shed administrative headaches; finance leaders can reduce days-in-WIP and days-in-AR, speed up client payments, and smooth out cash flow; executives can better protect financial health with predictive insights and controls, and improve their firm reputation by offering best-in-class experiences to clients.

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