Choosing a Subscription Billing System? Here are a Few Things to Consider

~ 4 min read | December 15

To accept credit card payments online, most startups look for billing solutions that can handle recurring billing. However, the reach of a billing system is more extensive than you initially might think – it has a foot in product, customer care, reporting and accounting.

Going for the first subscription billing system that you come across without doing adequate research may be adding an unwarranted expense to your startup instead of making enabling you to manage financial matters more efficiently. Below are some reasons why a particular subscription billing system may not work for your business:

1. Rigid Billing Systems

Handling the ever-changing direction of your business models, customers and company can be difficult with a particular billing system. An inflexible solution may limit the implementation of various ideas that can help you take advantage of new market opportunities.

Dunning management is an important aspect that your recurring billing system should feature. In case of declined payments, will the system alert the user or cancel the subscription? Moreover, will it continue billing the user or will it stop until their payment information is updated?

An inflexible system can lead to a poor customer billing experience and hinder your ability to collect optimum revenues.

2. End-to-End Process Requirements

When selecting a recurring billing system, most small companies mainly consider the billing capability. However, your business has other financial management needs that revolve around billing. For example, you may need credit card reporting, sales analysis and financial reporting, collections and cash receipts. The billing solution you choose should be able to handle these standard accounting processes.

Moreover, the system should provide an easy way for users to upgrade, downgrade, or cancel their subscriptions. You do not want customers to feel “locked up” in a particular package. Also, enabling customers to manage their service consumption and billing will save you time and reduce billing support queries.

3. Flexible Integration

If you already have an in-house application that is unique to your business model, adding a new subscription billing system may not work the way you expected. Integration with legacy systems is usually a problem with most subscription systems. Therefore,  find a system that will integrate with most of the important applications that you use for your business.

Apart from this, look for a solution whose company offers a robust API that can be used for various in-house custom functions. On the minimum, the billing solution you go for should have a developer platform for you to create or integrate your own apps.

4. Proper Revenue Recognition

One of the important records you need when managing subscription payments is tracking recognized revenue and deferred payments over time. Most custom legacy systems and off-the-shelf billing systems will not update your general ledger for accurate, up to date report or perform other complex calculations. Doing these functions manually can result in high internal costs and time wastage. From a VAT compliance standpoint, these calculations are vital for the business to have strong audit trails.

5. Customer Service Tools

The billing system should enable you to look up and modify customer accounts as necessary. Sometimes, subscribers will contact you via email or phone, requesting for changes to be made on their subscriptions on their behalf. Other customers will expect refunds or credits if something goes amiss. Your support team should be able to handle these requests immediately to keep customers happy and prevent charge backs. Having a billing system that does not support account modifications is not using resources efficiently.

6. Relationship Indicators

When you are integrating a complex billing software, you would be aiming at having as little friction as possible to function well and grow. For the fulfillment of this aim, assessing the quality of the service is as important as assessing the capabilities of the product. Here are a few factors to remember:

  • Providing dedicated support in the planning and implementation stages of the products.
  • Working hand-in-hand with your team until the integration is complete.
  • Offering consultation and training as part of their implementation service.
  • Helping to resolve errors and advising as to how to go about handling an issue.

Get the Right Billing System

To ease the transition from your current billing system to a different one, determine your business’ needs to know the solution that will make the transition easier. With so many billing solutions available in the market, it pays to research your favorites to know their capabilities and limitations – especially considering the reach they have across your business. Remember, no two businesses are the same. The solution you go for should address your most important requirements.

John Solomon

Marketing Leader / Sales Enabler. Head of India Operations for @Infrascale / @sosonlinebackup.