We should each have a flying car by now, right? If we were in the future people predicted years ago, we’d be zipping through the clouds to work. That idea is still alive and well, but as it turns out, the cars got into a different cloud first. They’re in our phones, roaming around inside of apps on their way to pick us up. Technology isn’t linear; it stretches and morphs on its way to the future. The same principle applies to billing technology.
The cry is always the same: “Paper is obsolete! Right?” The truth is, we’re not quite there yet. Electronic billing has been around since the ’90s, and for every paperless friend who scoffs at the idea that anyone would still receive an archaic hard copy, there are plenty more who still enjoy receiving paper bills in 2017, even if they ultimately pay online. (In fact, 21 million people change the way they pay their bills from one month to the next.*) What’s clear is that when it comes to transactional documents, there are many who want a mix of the past and the future, the paper and the cloud.
So, what’s next? When we developed the OSG Mobile App, we wanted to offer clients a tool that enhanced their billing and payment processes. Beyond the right-in-your-pocket ease it provides customers—many of whom use apps for a litany of other services anyway—the app also allows for interaction. It’s about functionality as much as it’s about convenience. Their customers don’t have to stare at static PDFs; there are functions that actually engage them. It also offers the client customization options that sets the company brand apart.
Most importantly, it leaves room for change. The app grows with the client, and with their customers. There’s no way to predict the future specifically, but leaving room for that growth is essential.
*Source: Eight Annual Billing Household Survey, Fiserv Inc., 2016
The words “bill” and “invoice” are often used interchangeably across industries and in conversation. Though not a major crime against the language (they’re swapped with such frequency, it’s unlikely a misunderstanding would occur), it’s worth noting the differences. The two are related, but they’re not twins.
Bill: What we most commonly refer to as a bill is a balance forward, business-to-customer document. It’s a request for payment with the expectation that the payment will be made by a specific date. If it’s a recurring bill, any missed payment will appear in the next bill. For example, if you don’t pay March’s bill, April’s bill will reflect the balance from March, what’s due in April and any penalty or interest that has accrued. A bill carries over, and it also makes a demand: Pay now.
Invoice: An invoice is an itemized list of goods or services with individual costs and a total sum, typically used in business-to-business transactions. An invoice can be sent before or after a payment, which is why it acts more as a record of a transaction rather than an immediate request for payment. (If the invoice is sent prior to payment, it will often say something like, “Pay within 30 days.”) An invoice is also a static document, meaning it doesn’t show the previous balance due or payment history.
Statement: That’s right, a bonus word. A statement is essentially a status document indicating where an account stands within a particular time frame–you’re all paid up, you owe x amount, etc. It’s not a request for payment, though the word is often used like it is.
And one last language note: Another reason these words are used interchangeably is a matter of tone. In short, getting an invoice or a statement sounds nicer than getting a bill.
There’s a reason major companies like UPS and DirectTV devote pages on their website to topics like “A Simple Guide to Understanding Your Bill” or “How to Read Your Bill.” They’re anticipating an all-too-common issue: Bills are hard to read.
In fact, the most common cause of late payments is that people have trouble reading their bills. Poor organization and confusing design can slow down a person’s quick scan to see what’s owed and when. It’s a strange phenomenon given that these organizational choices will also slow down a revenue stream for the company issuing the bill. And since paying bills isn’t an activity typically linked to pleasure in the first place, the easier clients make it for customers, the better. Because what’s a common reaction to stress and confusion? Avoidance.
Two Things to Consider:
- Composition is an essential element of a bill’s design.
Beyond logos and color scheme, the placement of a bill’s key components is crucial. The total amount due, the due date and the summary of charges need to be nicely organized and obvious. This isn’t the time for bold artistic expression. Keep it clean.
- Every element of the bill/invoice should also be working to that same end.
If you’re incorporating dynamic messaging into your billing (which we highly recommend!), use that marketing as an opportunity to get a customer’s attention. Make it eye-catching and smart, but don’t overwhelm the space and add an additional layer of confusion.
By Guest Author, Ashley Sherrow, OSG Manager of Production Graphics
Did you know that a dynamic message on an invoice or statement is a designated area that allows you connect directly with your audience? It’s your monthly opportunity to relay a specific message to your customer. And since research tells us that invoices are opened 97 percent of the time, you are virtually guaranteed of having your message read.
Using a little bit of creativity you can create a message that is eye-catching, colorful and informative. The OSG data-driven application, Campaign Composer, gives you full transpromotional marketing capabilities that compliment your statement or invoice package.
So what do you need to do?
First you’ll want to compose your message.
- You can do this using design programs such as InDesign or Illustrator. Designing your message in one of these programs makes the design process easy. Also, since these are the same programs we use in the OSG Creative Studio, should you need help, we can guide you through either of these programs to help you get the message you need created.
- Tip: If you are designing multiple messages within an area, it is a good idea to separate the messages with a thin line between each message, or a border around each message.
- This space provides a great opportunity to cross-sell and up-sell your services or even your customer’s services. Not sure what to feature? Think about deals, sales, promotions or even important messages you want to share with your customers.
Next, as long as you’re designing a bill or invoice, why not create a whole invoice package? You can coordinate by utilizing other OSG communications tools such as Envelope Messaging, Additional Message Page and OSG Inserts.
You’ll want to be sure you’re designing your message to its full potential. To ensure this, here are some things to pay attention to:
- Is the message sized correctly so that it will fit into the message space on the bill?
- How will your message look on the invoice/statement? Make sure your messages blend in with the colors and style of your invoice/statement.
- Have you used imagery and colors to your advantage?
- Choose bright colored images and text that will stand out and grab your audience’s attention.
- Remember, less is more – you don’t need to plaster the message area with tons information. Short and sweet. Then direct the customer to a website for them to gather more information.
This weekend is Selection Sunday. You know what that means! Tourney Time is upon us. What that also means is that employers can expect to see a slight dip in productivity this month. According to a study by employment consulting firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas, nearly 2.5 million people devote over an hour of each workday to following the NCAA Tournament. So that’s an hour you’re not actually spending on work. To help your productivity we’ve pulled together three easy ways for you to maximize the effectiveness of your invoice or statement package.
- Add an insert to your next invoice or statement package mailing. They fit easily into your mailing and provide cost-effective one-to-one marketing to your customer base. Don’t have one? Not to worry, the OSG Creative Studio can design one for you.
- Add a Full Color Dynamic Message to your invoice or statement. Your readers are already looking at your invoice statement. Why not add a message unique to them on the invoice as well? A recent Pitney Bowes study found that color increases reader’s attention by 82 percent.
- The invoice isn’t the only colorful part of your invoice or statement package. Are you taking advantage of Full Color Envelope Messaging? That same Pitney Bowes study found that 69 percent of the study participants were more likely to open an envelope with color or graphics on the front than those without. Take a look at your envelopes and see if they could use a splash of color.
By implementing some or all of these ideas you can end up being the winning team and enjoy a championship season.
The results are in! “Greenery” has been named the color of the year for 2017. Last week the Pantone Color Institute®, the global color authority and provider of professional color standards for the design industries, announced the “fresh and zesty” color as the perfect representation of our hopes for the coming year. This choice of color is based on the need for reunification as a country and as a world during a tense political climate. Pantone explains that this color is always present when bold change is occurring, when grass starts to grow again and trees take root. Interestingly, this color also tends to manifests itself when the world is ready for a massive social change.
Color is a powerful communication tool and its effects should be taken advantage of and maximized. What better way to get the year started off on the right foot then by working with your billing company to choose the right colors to get your message across? Your billing company has plenty of color options, so take advantage and reach your customers in the subconscious language of color. According to Xerox Corporation, color increases readers’ attention span by 82 percent and improves reading comprehension by 73 percent. Get 2017 started off on the right foot with deliberate use of color.
Brrr! It’s getting colder outside and though the snow hasn’t fallen just yet, a steaming cup of hot cocoa would definitely hit the spot. Without a snowstorm to enhance the hot cocoa though, we’ll have to think of something else to keep warm – a dynamic workout perhaps? But who has the time (or motivation) for that? Why not just take advantage of Dynamic Messaging instead?
Just like a dynamic workout changes a regular workout from boring to exciting, with OSG Dynamic Messaging you can transform your ordinary invoice or statement into a highly-customized customer touchpoint using full-color technology. And unlike with the chilly weather, you have total control over how you want your message to look! Not only that, if you find yourself running out of room on the invoice, have no fear because with Envelope Messaging and Additional Messaging Page Inserts, you have additional opportunities to effectively communicate whatever message you want to your customers in an exciting and vibrant way.
So hurry up and use Dynamic Messaging before it’s time to curl up by the fireplace with your mug of hot chocolate.