Electronic Payments Are Good for Finance and Customers: How to Drive Adoption with the Right Change Management Philosophy

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Change is never an easy path, no matter how good its potential is for everyone it affects. Finance leaders are in a position to drive change, and what matters in achieving it is the approach. Change guru and CEO of FutureThink Lisa Bodell said, “Change cannot be put on people. The best way to instill change is to do it with them. Create it with them.”

Those words encapsulate what good change management should entail. As financial leaders, you’ve had to manage transitions to new technology to modernize and optimize your workflows. One obstacle is changing the behavior of how customers pay. Payment industry research shows that most people accept and use electronic payments in their personal lives and for their business finances. Recognizing the need to be ready when customers choose to pay, media companies now make this part of their revenue cycle management. The result is a more stable cash flow, fewer days’ sales outstanding, reduced hard costs and improved back-office efficiency.

Broadcasters adopting electronic invoicing and payments reap these advantages, simplify workflows and reduce the time and labor associated with paper invoices and checks. I’ve talked with many broadcasters about this shift, and they’ve all noted the need to change mindsets and behavior around payments internally and with advertisers and agencies.

As a result, many companies have integrated practices and strategies to increase adoption. Below are some learnings and ideas to get your staff and advertisers to adopt electronic payment workflows.

Start with Your Sellers

Your sales team has a direct relationship with customers and often plays a role in payments. They may swing by and pick up checks or call about outstanding balances. They are also part of account setup and remittance processes.

Salespeople can connect the dots on the benefits of electronic payments. Invoices and payments arrive sooner by skipping the mail. There are fewer excuses, resulting in less time chasing customers down to collect. Accounting is automated, and there are options for requesting payments in advance or taking them on the spot.

Finance can also take sellers into the mechanics of the paper process, including how much time and cost it eats up. With many businesses dealing with reduced staff, it’s simply not sustainable. If it takes too long to get invoices out, checks will be delayed, which could affect their commissions. Walking salespeople through this may create some lightbulb moments.

There will still be pushback, as we’ve heard from customers. Payments are a sensitive topic, and we’ve learned from finance managers how they’re navigating this issue by demonstrating how easy electronic payments are and how they benefit everyone. Customers can make and track payments more easily, and salespeople will see their commissions safeguarded with faster collections. Include your sales team in creating the new processes so they feel excited about the new systems and take ownership of their part in this electronic workflow.

Make Electronic Invoices and Payments the Default

Initiating change isn’t always about going from one option to another for customers. Rather, the organization’s shift dictates the process. Many stations using electronic invoicing and payments began making it the default at new customer setup. This process also requires coordination with sales, as they often set this customer expectation up front. Sales must be on board to establish that this is the broadcaster’s uniform approach to invoices and payments with new customers, leading to their comfort with the process. It can also make the rollout to the existing customer base more seamless.

In expansion, the most successful broadcasters we’ve worked with have made it a policy to send advertisers an electronic and mailed invoice. They’ve relayed that this small change gets more people to adopt, and they’re near 100% of billing electronically.

Communicate Early and Often to Dispel Misconceptions and Worry

Much of the friction to change comes from misconceptions and fear. Advertisers may have concerns about security or creating accounts. Proactive communication will ensure these concerns don’t impact adoption. Many stations take the first step by emailing and adding an insert into the mailed invoice. This document can include FAQs about security, the process and any requirements.

After the initial communication, track who has adopted and who hasn’t. Extend outreach through their salesperson, such as additional emails for those slow to change. Be ready to answer questions. It also helps to advise customers why electronic invoicing and payments are more efficient for them. They have control over what they pay and may be able to use a credit card for additional float and better cash management. They have access to an online portal to view invoices, statements and payment history rather than needing to request that information. Also, they may not realize the costs of paying by check: the cost of issuing a check is between $2 and $4 per check, which can add up over time.

The more educated someone is about a topic, the more open they will be to change. By giving them information that’s accurate and demonstrates value, you make them part of the change process.

Change Management Moves the Revenue Needle Forward

Adopting these practices will make a difference in your cash flow and revenue cycle. Be proactive to get internal influencers on board early. Put a policy in place, and ensure you have leadership buy-in and support. By working together, you’ll see results. Our customers have reported wins like improved days outstanding by as many as 15 days, reduced postage and paper costs and incremental adoption rates each month. With a robust electronic invoicing and payment solution, a resolve to provide a modern payment experience and a focus on change as something everyone can be part of, your company can attain these same wins.

This article was written by Jeff London, Marketron’s GM Traffic/SVP of Client Services. London oversees traffic and payment solutions and services, customer success, implementations and training, support services and IT functions at Marketron.

Posted at MediaVillage through the Thought Leadership self-publishing platform.

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