Top 6 Online Payment Best Practices To Speed Up Your Firm's Cash Flow
NOTE: The recommendations in this article assume you’ve learned to avoid the top 6 online payment friction points (more on our blog here) and that you firm has created an awesome invoice that explains your value and delights clients (more in our recent white paper here).
Many accounting firms aim to delight clients by providing the best possible interpersonal service. That’s a start, but it’s also table stakes. To take things a step further and separate yourself from other firms, look to your checkout and payment process as a way to delight clients (and to measurably improve your firm's financial health!)
Think of your B2B checkout like a B2C checkout experience, such as Amazon. Amazon makes it very easy to pay — customers can order products in as little as two clicks.
Why should paying an accounting firm (you) be any different? Not only will your clients appreciate it, but a simpler and more enjoyable bill pay process means you get paid faster. Here are some practical tips to get started:
1. Make it personal (and clearly secure)
Generic payment portals — like the ones provided by many legacy vendors and big banks — aren’t just impersonal. They’re less secure and represent a higher risk of phishing threats to your firm.
Your firm should create an online payment experience for clients that is uniquely personalized for each client. Doing so reduces both the client’s perceived security risks, and risks in reality.
One easy way to do this is to let your client save their payment information. This offers a subtle, subconscious comfort — the client will think along the lines of, “Hey, these guys know me, this is secure.” Plus, saving payment information makes it faster for clients to pay invoices.
Brand the portal as your firm, too. Clients trust you, and should trust your payment portal by proxy. Putting your brand on more of your assets never hurts. It offers more personalization and makes you appear even more professional while keeping your brand name in your client’s mind.
2. Optimize for mobile
Life-before-COVID already demanded that any digital experience be mobile-enabled.
Life-after-COVID won't be any different—in fact, as vaccines propagate and travel ramps up, your clients will be back on the go at some point. Their ability to pay a bill, and your ability to realize revenue and speed up cash flow, should keep pace.
For example, say your client is about to board a plane for some business travel and sees they have a new invoice from you. Why not give them a mobile payment experience where they can review/pay in seconds, and get on with their travels?
This can be powerful in boosting your cash flows. See, our brains are wired to feel uncomfortable when we have an uncompleted task. We’re driven to complete it. Your client will want to pay that invoice right then and there — and if they have a capable mobile method, they’ll do it.
Plus, more convenience is always better. Clients appreciate it when they have more ways to pay you.
3. Make it fast and easy
Most portals are often slow to load and slow to process. Clients don’t always have the time or patience to wait. They think, “Oh, I’ll come back to this later”... but the invoice gets lost in a sea of other matters.
Ultimately, your firm’s cash flows suffer, and you have to exert more effort to collect on that unpaid invoice.
Thus, make your payment process as fast, easy, and transparent as possible. It shouldn’t require much thinking or waiting at all.
Aside from improving the tech with which you bill clients (to cut loading and processing times), the primary way to speed things along is to—again—let them save their payment information.
Make it so that it takes two button clicks — one to verify all their information and the other to remit payment.
Saving payment information also makes it painless for clients to pay. They no longer have to deal with tedious manual entry and other friction points that can ultimately delay your cash flows.
Then, there’s transparency. Let each client view all invoices they owe. When clients are ready and willing to pay the bills, the last thing they want to do is hunt for invoices.
Showing them every invoice makes it easy for them to see every invoice they have yet to pay and ask you questions if necessary.
4. Remind clients to pay
You send an invoice. The client is about to click to pay but has to take a phone call. Again, it's the old “I’ll come back to this later,” they think to themselves.
However, the world keeps spinning, and they forget. You end up with an invoice that balloons from net30 to net120+ (or net-"never")
It’s OK to remind clients to pay—even more than once. In fact, it’s necessary and appreciated. Your client doesn’t want to get dinged with a late fee, and most clients are generally fine with paying for services rendered (free tip: be wary of those that aren't fine with this!).
And you don’t want your partners making those awkward collections calls (and neither do your partners!). A clear, concise, and kind reminder —via email, or even text — goes a long way.
Just ping them beforehand that net-30 morphs into net-who-knows-when to make sure they close the loop.
The challenge is: how do you do that at scale? Well, you need a platform that automates the reminder process without sounding robotic. For example, one of our clients, an IPA top 150 firm, got 42% of their just-late invoices paid after just one “intelligent reminder” from Aiwyn (read the entire success story here).
5. Celebrate and appreciate the payment
Here’s what paying in most portals looks like: The client clicks “pay” → A wheel spins → Then, the page refreshes, and some sterile, impersonal response like “Payment confirmed” appears.
The client just paid you $30,000, and that’s all they get? Kind of underwhelming and impersonal, no?
Try something different.
Show some personality, some appreciation.... even some whimsy or joy. Get excited, and get them excited. They just paid for a lot of value delivered. You just realized a 5-figure payment. High-fives are in order.
Here's an example of what a client may sees when they pay a bill and their firm is using Aiwyn's Intelligence-Based Billing™ platform:
Fun and simple, right? But also intentional and powerful—this kind of celebratory graphic at the end of a seamless 3second payment experience has a profound psychological effect, both endearing your firm to the client and have a statistically powerful effect on the speed with which they will pay subsequent invoices. In other words, small things like this graphic delight your clients and get you paid faster.
(For more on the psychology of delight in the billing and collections process, check out our recent white paper.)
Just remember: a human being pays (or approves payment for) your invoice. A little dose of personality can get a laugh or two out of them and keep your firm at the top of mind when it comes to accounting services.
6. Bonus: Intelligently automate your back-end work-to-cash processes so your client enjoys this all sooner
The faster you send bills out the door, the sooner your client gets the bill in hand.
The sooner the client gets the bill following an excellent service delivery experience, the more closely they’ll align that expenditure with the immense value you just provided to them.
Intelligently automating back-end work-to-cash processes with AI is a powerful, easy, and ROI-rich way to do just that. (See how we do it here).
Automating the B2B payment process won’t just get your clients into a fantastic payment experience faster… it can also speed up your cash flows — in some cases, cutting invoice-to-payment time by up to 80 percent. (PYMNTs X America Express Study)