Companies need to be as efficient as possible to succeed in today’s competitive business environment. E-billing can direct them toward that goal by replacing the cumbersome, error-prone process of manually sending customer invoices and processing inbound payments with one system that does it all, often automatically. Among e-billing’s many benefits, companies can trim their expenses and improve cash flow.
What Is E-Billing (Electronic Billing)?
E-billing is a paperless approach to sending invoices and processing customer payments via the internet. E-billing is made possible by an electronic billing system or accounting software with embedded capabilities in their core systems that generates and sends bills to customers, accepts payments and tracks related data. Among its benefits: E-billing can increase invoice accuracy, accelerate the billing process and improve cash flow.
What’s an e-bill (electronic bill)?
E-bills are electronically generated and delivered invoices requesting payment for products or services rendered. They replace paper invoices created manually and sent via the U.S. Postal Service. E-bills typically contain the amount due, payment terms, a purchase order number and a link to a secure payment portal, where customers can pay their bills online using a credit or debit card, PayPal, ACH transfer or other payment method.
What’s an e-billing system?
An electronic billing system integrates several types of software that are involved in the billing and payments process. However, e-billing does not necessarily require an electronic billing system — ERP systems can provide functionality as well. The system requires an online interface to communicate between a company’s billing system and its banks, and between the company’s customers and their banks or bill-paying systems.
E-billing vs. e-invoicing.
E-billing and e-invoicing are often used interchangeably, but e-invoicing is actually just one piece of e-billing. E-invoicing refers to the electronic delivery of an invoice or bill to a customer for products sold or services rendered.
- E-billing enables a business to invoice clients and receive payments electronically.
- Among the benefits of e-billing are improved invoice accuracy, an accelerated billing process and better cash flow.
- It’s often more convenient for customers and may engender greater loyalty.
- E-billing can include automatic subscription renewals or automatic payment reminders.
E-billing is a process used by accounts receivable staff to invoice customers and receive payments electronically. Customers can access their e-bills on the company’s website, or the e-bill can be delivered via an email attached with an electronic document, such as a PDF or XML file. In either scenario, customers have the ability to examine their bills online before making a payment.
But e-billing does more than streamline invoicing and payment. For example, e-billing can help a company better. E-billing reporting also provides stakeholders with the financial insight necessary for forecasting and deciding whether to engage in invoice financing or invoice factoring should cash flow look to be in jeopardy.
Most companies use one of two types of e-billing payment systems: biller direct or bank aggregator. In biller-direct e-billing, a customer logs onto a company’s website to view and pay its bills by entering their bank or credit card information. In bank-aggregator e-billing, a customer logs onto their bank’s website for their e-bills and pays using the bank’s payment interface.
How Does E-Billing Work?
An e-billing system eliminates time-consuming manual invoicing and payment processing. The following breaks down the array of steps involved.
Information gathering: The system collects the customer’s billing data from accounting or ERP software, including the price of the product or service provided, date of purchase and payment terms.
Bill generation: The data is poured into a bill template, and then the bill is generated.
Bill delivery: The bill is sent to the customer electronically by email, via a secure Web portal or through another form of file transfer. The customer receives notification that the e-bill is available.
Bill reminders: The system sends electronic reminders to the customer if they have not opened their bill, their payment date is nearing or they missed a payment.
Bill payment: E-bills often include a link to an online portal where customers can enter bank or credit card information and authorize bill payment.
What’s in an E-Bill?
Any information that appears on a traditional printed invoice will be on an e-bill. That includes the date the bill was issued, the amount owed, the date payment is due, the goods or services that were provided and payment terms. An e-bill often contains a clickable link to a payment portal, where the customer can pay electronically using their bank account or credit card information. E-bills make payment easier and more convenient for customers, which in turn may result in faster payment and increased customer satisfaction. To wit, 69% of more than 3,000 U.S. consumers surveyed by Fiserv in 2021 about their billing preferences said receiving e-bills increases their satisfaction with the billing company, and 36% said it makes them less likely to switch to a competitor.
Top E-Billing Benefits
E-billing is a win-win for both companies and customers. Here are many ways both parties benefit.
Enhanced visibility: E-billing provides businesses and customers with a fast, simple way to see. Customers can be automatically reminded about unopened e-bills or upcoming or past due payments.
For example, a company can review reports from its e-billing system that track monthly e-bills and identify which customers are paying on time or are late. It can combine sales, marketing and other operational data with historical billing information to help decide which products to keep in stock. It may also use this data to determine which clients they’d work with again or what pricing terms to offer to those who pay on time versus those who don’t.
Speedier payments: No doubt, e-billing is far faster than the traditional paper-based billing process, which requires invoices to be printed, stuffed in stamped envelopes and sent by regular mail. Two weeks can easily pass from the time it takes for the bill to arrive at its destination (assuming it does) and then be opened, paid and mailed back. Another assumption is that the bill will be paid on time and won’t require the company to issue additional bills.
E-billing shrinks the time between when a bill is generated and when it’s paid, sometimes to one day. Consider the example of a utility company that automatically sends a monthly e-bill to customers who have payments automatically withdrawn from their bank accounts. E-billing can also be used for subscription renewals, such as for a digital news media site. The bigger point: The less friction in the invoice and payment process, the quicker a company gets paid, which can improve its cash flow metrics and key performance indicators.
Greater accuracy: When processed manually, billing is more prone to data-entry and mathematical errors; at times it can result in duplicate billing or the need to reissue invoices that originally contained mistakes. What’s more, manual billing can open the door to invoice fraud and theft. Software-generated e-billing can help cut down on or eliminate those issues, as well as shorten time spent on investigating problems.
Reduced expenses: E-billing eliminates the costs associated with printing, stuffing and mailing paper invoices. It also decreases the number of people needed to process and track payments, which also cuts costs. Instead of spending time on monotonous, repetitive activities related to billing, skilled employees can focus on more strategic, value-creating tasks. An e-billing system that scales as a business grows may obviate the need to hire more employees.
Improved customer relationships: Customers are likely to have greater trust in businesses that offer e-billing because every charge is displayed and all historical payment data is easily available. Customers may also appreciate payment reminders that help them avoid late payment fees, or resubscription reminders so they don’t face a gap in service.
More efficient collections: Automated reminders that payments are near-due can reduce a company’s need to chase after customers to collect what’s owed. Companies can also track which customers frequently pay late and could increase credit risk. As with the preceding point, improved collections can help keep a company’s cash flowing.
More flexibility: E-bills can be sent wherever customers would like them delivered. This flexibility, plus the ability to make payments electronically, has taken on added importance as more businesses operate remotely.
Hipper and greener: E-billing requires less energy and resources than a paper bill — think: paper, printer, ink, outgoing and return envelopes and postage. E-billing benefits the environment, and environmentally conscious customers will appreciate it.
Who Uses E-Billing?
A variety of business functions rely on an e-billing system to improve their performance. They include:
Bookkeeping: E-billing provides the accounting department with detailed visibility into the status of the company’s bills outstanding and payments received. E-billing helps them balance and reconcile the books, more accurately forecast cash flow and improve working capital by reducing days sales outstanding, which is the average number of days it takes to collect payments from customers after the completion of a sale.
Accounts receivable: A company’s accounts receivable (AR) team, which is typically part of the accounting department, uses e-billing. AR is responsible for invoicing the company’s customers for their purchases of goods and services and receiving their payments.
Customer service: If a customer calls the company or initiates an online chat with a billing or payment question, a customer service rep can refer to the e-billing system to assist them.
History of E-Billing
E-billing is a result of multiple innovations in the technology world. The computer gave companies the ability to generate electronic invoices, or at least convert a handwritten or typed paper bill into a digital format, though they still needed to be printed out and mailed to customers. With the rise of the internet, email and mobile tech, companies could post digital invoices on their websites, or email, text or message them via an app like WhatsApp to customers. Once the infrastructure for electronic payments and internet banking was developed, customers could pay their bills electronically via their credit cards or banks.
The National Automated Clearing House’s (NACHA) Council for Electronic Billing and Payment (CEBP) is credited with establishing the e-billing and payments systems used today. NACHA helped promote the adoption of electronic payments in ecommerce, electronic bill payment and presentment, international payments, electronic benefits transfer and student lending.
E-Billing and AP Automation
Accounts payable automation technology, or AP automation, handles the tasks associated with e-billing. The process begins when a company receives a bill, either electronic or paper, from a supplier; a paper bill is converted to a digital format using optical character recognition (OCR). AP automation performs three-way matching, which makes sure the invoice’s details are the same as on its corresponding purchase order and delivery receipt. If they match, the e-bill is automatically routed to the correct person for approval, after which payment is issued. Some consider AP automation “touchless” processing because it minimizes the need for error-prone manual data entry.
Like e-billing, AP automation speeds bill payment, reduces the cost of storing paper records, provides an auditable digital trail and frees accounting staff for higher value tasks. Companies that pay their bills more quickly and reliably may earn a better reputation with their suppliers and receive more favorable financing terms.
Embrace Billing With NetSuite
NetSuite SuiteBilling, helps companies automate and streamline the billing process. SuiteBilling can create and issue invoices that include a link to where customers can pay electronically, and it keeps track of past-due accounts. This information can be shared throughout a company to inform financial forecasting, improve cash flow and keep errors and costs to a minimum. In addition, SuiteBilling can manage service subscriptions and prevent revenue leakage by sending out automated renewals. The software offers the flexibility of multiple pricing models and billing schedules. Also of note, SuiteBilling gives subscribers access to an account portal to manage their account information, view their order history and, of course, pay their e-bills.
Setting up an efficient and accurate e-billing system helps a business keep costs low and customers happy. Digitizing everything from invoice creation to payment processing can increase the odds that businesses will be paid on time and in full by their customers.
Is e-billing safe?
An e-bill won’t get lost in the mail like a traditional bill. There’s also less chance of human error or fraud. Electronic reminders, combined with easy electronic payment options, mean customers may be more likely to pay an e-bill.
How do you use an e-bill?
Companies use e-bills to collect payment from their customers for products or services rendered. E-bills include the date the invoice was issued, the amount owed and date due, the goods or services provided and payment terms. An e-bill may also contain a link to a payment portal.
How do you create an e-bill?
Using software, an e-bill can be created either by digitizing a paper bill or by using digital information to create an invoice. Most companies use one of two types of e-billing payment systems: biller direct or bank aggregator. In biller-direct e-billing, a customer logs on to a company’s website to view and pay its bills by entering bank or credit card information. In bank-aggregator e-billing, a customer logs on to their bank’s website for their e-bills and pays using the bank’s payment interface.