A customer portal is a secure website that provides a company’s clients (or potential clients) access to various self-service functions. These self-service tools allow your business to offload various operations to the people most invested in, seeing them completed quickly and easily. For example, a customer portal may allow users to:
- Submit support tickets to resolve technical issues related to your goods or services
- View shipping or payment details regarding individual orders
- Provide verified purchasers with the ability to post product reviews
- See money owed and make payments
The latter — customer payment — is the focus of our article today. As part of our Accounts Receivable Automation software, Invoiced features a customer payment portal that allows customers to view and pay their invoices.
Not only does our platform leverage comprehensive automation and integration capabilities to streamline efforts within your business, but the payment portal feature also accelerates the side of these transactions that are more out of your control — those on the customer side.
Here’s what you need to know about customer payment portals using the Invoiced payment portal as the primary example.
B2B Payments Made Easy
Talk to an accounts receivable expert about our online payment portal
What is a customer payment portal, and why is it useful?
As already outlined, a general customer-facing portal can support any number of functions. Still, a customer payment portal is exclusively concerned with receiving, registering, and recording the financial transactions tied to the sale of your goods or services. Commonly, payment portals allow users to:
- Ask billing-related questions
- Evaluate and approve estimates
- Manage account information (e.g., company addresses, payment details, authorized users)
- Provide payments
- View and download associated documentation (e.g., invoices, credit notes)
These portals — and their use by consumers — can have a dramatic impact on how current and potential customers view and interact with your business. In a survey of over 400 companies, Balance Payments, Inc. reported:
- 83% of respondents claimed that a smooth payment and checkout experience was their top priority when picking suppliers online
- 90% indicated that a commerce portal that complicated buying efforts would have a substantive impact on their brand loyalty
- 73% noted that they would be more likely to abandon their electronic shopping cart when faced with any difficulty during checkout.
In other words, an easy-to-use and efficient payment portal can affect your bottom line.
There exists quite a variety of payment portals, the most common being those found on consumer-focused e-commerce sites, but payment portals for business-to-business (B2B) transactions exist, too. Since these deal with invoicing, they must frequently be more nuanced and feature-rich platforms.
Benefits of a customer payment portal for businesses and customers
Benefits of payment portals for your customers:
Visibility into and control over payment needs and timing
A surprising number of companies — around 33% in the United States and Canada, according to survey data assembled by the Association for Financial Professionals (AFP) — still rely on paper checks sent through traditional mail to pay off invoices. With this approach, these customers are unsure when those funds will leave their accounts. With a self-service payment portal, buyers can more precisely manage when they pay their bills, allowing them to exert more nuanced control over their corporate cash flow.
Payments made convenient and simple
Paying the bills doesn’t land near the top of anyone’s list of fun things to do — so making it hard for someone to pay you is a surefire way to run into issues and delayed payments. A smartly designed invoice portal will let your customers review, pay, and even challenge outstanding charges with just a few mouse clicks. At the same time, an online payment site is available 24/7, meaning that buyers can easily settle their accounts even outside of regular business hours.
Benefits of payment portals for your business:
Same outcome, less time and resources
Typically, the shift to a customer payment portal lets you commit fewer resources to your accounts receivable (A/R) efforts without impacting the bottom line of your business. The self-service nature of payment portals means that your customers will handle much of the actual labor involved in processing invoices.
Bonus: When you integrate your payment portal with automated workflows that cover internal operations, you can navigate the payment cycle without requiring as much direct human intervention.
Get paid faster
“I want to get paid slower!” said no one ever. Referring back to the AFP study, 54% of responding businesses indicated that shorter A/R cycles were a leading driver in their choice to adopt digital payment methods, and 62% noted that faster compensation resulted in either “positive” or “very positive” benefits to their business.
By cutting out much of the back-and-forth communication and delays common to more traditional payment efforts, a customer portal will encourage the accelerated closing of outstanding invoices.
Easy access to more up-to-date data for analytics and forecasting
When you want to detect sales trends or optimize internal efforts, a portal can help. Along with the steady stream of outgoing invoices and incoming payments, your portal can collect a fair amount of metadata about how and when individual purchases were made.
With this larger, richer, and already electronic data pool, you can drive more value through your analytics and forecasting efforts.
Other features to look for when choosing a customer portal for payments
The key to choosing a payment platform is finding one that matches the unique needs of your business. Before making a choice, evaluate your current sales and collection processes along with your overall A/R efforts to gain a true understanding of what features you might specifically need.
Ask yourself and your team: Do you deal with fewer, larger invoices, or do you need a platform that can leverage automation to support high volumes? What payment options do you want to extend to your customer pool? How should issues be escalated to encourage prompt resolution?
To help, here are a few essential B2B payment platform features you’ll want to look for:
- Automation: Work smarter, not harder, by letting the platform handle your processing and validation efforts with minimal intervention or labor costs
- AutoPay: Particularly useful for subscription-based businesses, this feature lets regular customers simplify and stabilize their payment interactions
- Customer support: Self-service is all well and good, but if there are issues or confusion surrounding an invoice, having direct access to the right assistance can help keep your customers happy … or at least less annoyed
- Incentive management: If you offer credits or early-payment discounts, you’ll want your portal to make applying these deductions easy, traceable, and seamless
- Payment flexibility: the more B2B payment types (e.g., credit cards, virtual cards, ACH transfers) that you support within your portal, the broader your pool of potential customers will be
- Reporting: as already outlined, integrated analytics and reporting capabilities make it easier for you to capitalize on market trends and drive new efficiencies throughout the A/R cycle
How to set up a customer payment portal
We recommend that you follow the designated setup processes that accompany your chosen solution. Still, since we offer a customer payment portal as part of our portfolio, we can provide some insight into what those efforts might look like.
The Invoiced payment portal works right out of the box with no configuration. However, you can customize the behavior of your portal settings, including that related to:
- Partial payments
- Advance payments
- AutoPay enrollment
- Modifying contact information
- Applying open credits
- Customer portal subdomain
Our platform can accommodate more advanced configurations as well, including:
- Domain routing
- Google Analytics tracking
- Security controls
- Single sign-on
You can learn more about Invoiced customer portal capabilities and setup here.
Invoiced: B2B invoicing made easy
Keep your customers happy and your finances moving with Invoiced’s payment-focused customer portal, already bundled within our Accounts Receivable Automation software.
A sampling of payment-portal-related services that Invoiced offers you include:
- Flexible payment schemes: Incorporate AutoPay, early-payment discounts, tax assessments, and more into your invoice creation
- Support for multiple payment options: Let your customers choose the electronic transaction method that works best for them.
- A Check Lockbox feature: To simplify efforts related to those accounts still paying by check, automating the scanning, depositing, and invoice matching of these offline payments.
To learn more about our product, simply request a demo with an Invoiced representative today.