In the second installment of our new Q&A series, Cor Makkinje, Manager Professional Services talks tactics on strengthening customer relationships to boost trust and increase retention through challenging times.
Q: Retaining customers and supporting them through this challenging period is essential to our business. How integral is our credit department in achieving this and how can we do our part to strengthen customer relationships?
A: In uncertain times, businesses rely on loyal customers for financial continuity. Not only that, but they have a duty of care to the people using their products and services. To achieve long-term loyalty, and maintain customer relationships through challenging periods and beyond, it’s essential for organisations to look at how they can support their consumer base. From personalising each experience to offering a variety of payment methods, there are a number of ways to do this. We’ve rounded up some of the top methods to consider.
During extraordinary situations, financial challenges can affect customers and businesses alike. Of course, reasons for non-payment differ from customer to customer and depend on individual situations. As such, businesses must take different approaches with different customers. Some customers pay on time, all the time; some are a little remiss with paying invoices; others are regular late-payers; and some are now facing payment difficulties as a result of the adverse circumstances.
For this reason, a one-size-fits-all approach simply doesn’t work. Software such as Credit Manager makes it possible for businesses to categorise customers into segments and create a workflow for each group. Effective segmentation is achieved by discovering who the customer is, what they need, what the risks are and how best to communicate with them, depending on the circumstances. And once segmented, the software can ensure that personalised communication is sent to the right customer at the right time – meeting individual expectations and improving relationships.
Varied payment methods and alternative invoicing
Making payments is no longer a one-option process. With an extensive variety of payment methods now available, the order-to-cash process need not limit customer choice when it comes to paying invoices. Paying online has changed the game, making it easier than ever to place an order and pay for it instantly.
Partners who have integrated within Onguard’s CreditManager, such as AcceptEasy and UnifiedPost, now offer a range of payment options: from posting a paper invoice to making easy online payments with iDeal, credit card, email, text, a QR code or via chatbot. And this approach doesn’t only offer customers choice. It also allows businesses to estimate and gather data on individuals’ payment risk.
With this detailed data, companies can see how and when specific invoices are sent, viewed or paid. Using this information, they can then develop a risk profile. This helps the acceptance process along, while limiting payment choices for specific risk profiles to minimise the possibility of late or non-payments.
Complaints can indicate that something in a business’s order-to-cash process isn’t working properly. However, they also offer the opportunity to make organisational improvements. And, if handled correctly, this can also boost customer relationships.
Utilising the right technology can help streamline the process. Tools With tools such as CreditManager, complaints can be registered, and then all related invoices collated into a complaint workflow. The invoices can then be automatically frozen ahead of resolution. This avoids continual payment chasing when complaints are ongoing.
The complaint workflow then sets off a course of specific automated actions to resolve the complaint – whether by notifying a particular department of actions they need to take, sending an email follow-up to the customer or monitoring complaint responses to ensure that no complaints are forgotten or lost. As a result, you reduce lead times, quickly identify high priority cases based on a quick analysis of specific factors, and glean valuable insights from customer history and behavioural patterns to ensure optimum handling of the complaint.
Offering personalised, customer-friendly solutions from a single platform can help reduce confusion, assist payments and avoid invoice pile-ups. Multi-channel communication modules, such as those developed collaboratively by Onguard and Alphacomm, can facilitate the maintenance of effective communication throughout the order-to-cash process using the latest and greatest technical tools, regardless of how each customer has chosen to receive their invoices.
Personalised video or voice messages can help explain individual situations to customers, streamlining the process by offering a single point of contact, and directing debtors to a solution with state-of-the-art credit management techniques.
By approaching customers in a way that suits their personal needs, the impersonality of a traditional invoice can become a thing of the past. Using data to personalise communication can drastically improve the relationship between company and customer. Furthermore, you can use the same information to develop an insightful customer profile that helps assess potential future risk. This allows you to minimise the danger of a precarious financial situation caused by repeat late-payers. And by offering customers payment choice and efficient complaint resolution, especially in challenging times, companies can display empathy for an ever-changing and uncertain situation – offering unwavering service at all times. Overall, by taking this approach, businesses can effectively assist their customers through tough times, strengthening customer relationships – and ultimately, secure their backing into the future.