Let Your Customers Do The Work

Paperless invoices and online payments

Running your business efficiently and productively in good times will be even more beneficial when the economy is slow. Two of the key words in that sentence are efficiently and productively. The past two years have taught us the importance of doing more with less. Below are two ways you can do more work 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 much more efficient ways of delivering your invoices. E-mail them. I know, I’ve heard it before: Your customers don’t want e-mailed invoices. I am sure some of your customers fall into that category, but not all of them. Remember, there is an entire generation of iPhone users taking over the businesses you sell to. And they don’t want paper.

As you consider the possibility of e-mailing invoices, think of all the associated costs with paper invoices: paper to print on, a printer with ink to print with, envelopes to mail the invoices in, people to put the invoices in the envelope, and postage to mail the invoice. For every thousand invoices you send out each month, you are probably spending a minimum of $500—money and time that could be spent more productively in other areas of your business. When you consider daily invoices and monthly cylinder rental invoices, the numbers can add up pretty fast.

Put Your Customers to Work
Second, let your customers do all the work. Let them pay their invoices online. Every major company you do business with probably encourages you to pay your bills online. Why? Because you do all the work! They don’t have to receive your check, mark the account number on it, send it to Accounts Receivable for posting, and then carry the checks to the bank for deposit. Think of the customer service angle. Your customers are happier because they pay their bills when it is convenient for them. The smaller the customer, the more they will like this feature. Your smaller customers could go home, eat supper and then sit down and pay your bill online. To make it even easier for them, you can put a link in the e-mail when you send their invoices to them. They click on the link and it takes them directly to your online payment system.

Keeping Transactions Secure
To accept online payments, you need a merchant account and web software that allows you to accept the payments. The merchant account handles the security issues. The liability is too high for a distributor to have to store bank or credit card information. The merchant account approves the request for payment. The distributor needs a secure certificate so the secure lock will display on the website. The approval amount, the approval number and the invoices being paid are sent to the distributor via e-mail. From a security standpoint, the distributor never sees the credit card. He just knows from his approval number that he is getting paid. As part of new federal regulations, distributors must be extremely careful with credit card information. There should be no need to upgrade your host software. Online payment applications are typically web-hosted, and most software companies are offering these types of capabilities.

Gases and Welding Distributors Association
Jim Broughton Meet the Author
Jim Broughton is president of DataWeld Incorporated, located in Bossier City, Louisiana, and on the Web at www.dataweld.com.