For banks, the success of online bill pay with retail customers has not translated into similar success with business and commercial customers. Fewer than 5 percent of all business customers use online bill pay, and growth rates are either flat or negative.
How can that be? Unfortunately, today’s bank-offered business bill pay solutions are not built for business at all. Instead, they are thinly veiled consumer bill pay solutions that don’t address the most basic of business-to-business (B2B) payment requirements.
Without effective online B2B payment solutions, businesses revert to manual, ad hoc paper-based processes for accounts payable (AP). Today, a staggering 76 percent of business bills – a total of 8 billion annually – are still paid by paper checks at the end of a staggeringly primitive invoice approval process.
Banks don’t often realize that their business customers struggle to automate AP and payments. They’re missing a huge opportunity to offer a sticky, valuable, fee-income generating solution to a broad segment of business and commercial customers.
Do you know the five things your customers want from business bill pay?
1. Direct integration with their Accounting/ERP application
Many customers use accounting software packages like QuickBooks or ERPs like Microsoft Dynamics GP, NetSuite and Intacct. These packages work with their general ledger system – their financial system of record. Businesses expect that any bills and invoices entered into their general ledger are automatically and immediately reflected in their payment systems, and any payments made are immediately posted to their general ledger. This bi-directional integration eliminates manual “dual entry”, reduces errors, and provides visibility into the entire invoice-to-pay process – what customers want.
2. Automated Invoice Capture
Customers are tired of manual data entry. They don’t want to enter invoice information at all, and they definitely don’t want to do it twice – first in their ERP or accounting package and then in a bill pay program. They want important invoice information to be automatically extracted from paper and electronic invoices and presented for review and posting into their accounting platform.
3. Simplified Invoice and Bill Approval
Customers want tools to let their accounts payable (AP) staff get their work done efficiently. Tools that enable them to route captured invoices through existing workflows to the right departments for approval and proper coding while also recording approval history for audit and compliance reasons. They want these tools to be web-based, so they can stop wasting time walking pieces of paper around the office for signatures, and can reach approvers anytime/anywhere via any device.
4. Secure Payment Authorization and Execution
Ever heard of payment controls, segregation of duties and dual authorization? They’re words to live by if you run a business as they limit the risk of internal fraud. Bill payment solutions are expected to implement everyday cash management features and financial controls. The use of electronic payment channels (e.g., ACH and commercial cards) enables business to time vendor payments more precisely, providing better control over cash flow.
5. Fraud Protection
Regulation E does not protect business like it does consumers. Businesses want a level of comfort that they are protected and guaranteed against online fraud. Bill pay systems do not offer fraud protection.
Today’s online business bill pay solutions are dead-end solutions that are just simply broken. And growing businesses are not waiting for their banks to help them bring greater efficiency, simplicity, cost reduction and enhanced security to a core business process – they are implementing non-bank invoice and payment automation solutions. By paying closer attention to their customers and delivering business bill pay solutions with the features they want and need, banks have an opportunity to build deeper, more profitable relationships while decreasing the risk of fraud. Everybody wins.
For more information about what commercial customers are looking for in their bill pay solutions and how to meet their needs, visit http://www.mineraltree.com/for-banks.