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Thursday, September 9, 2010

Electronic Billing - The Right Thing To Do

by Matt Bickford

A few months ago we announced a billing policy change that will go into effect in January, 2011 that will impose a $2.00 fee for statements sent via pony express (aka snail mail). The notices we've been including with billing statements offer incentives for early adopters to alternative electronic billing methods. We're pleased that positive responses have been overwhelmingly more plentiful than calls from customers unhappy with this policy change, but we are concerned about the nature of some of the complaints. It's my hope that this post will clear up some concerns for some readers that may still be curious about the reasons for the change.

Going Green When John F. Sessions started Bug Out in 1963, he established the foundation on which our culture of conscientious applicators stands tall. Although the term "Green" as it's used today to indicate environmentally sound practices wasn't likely used in the mid-late 60's, I'm fairly certain that they referred to it by what they knew it to be at the time, "common sense".

Fast forward to an age of unprecedented electronic access to collective intelligence when anyone can be an expert on anything in as little as a 3 seconds after a Google search, and a policy that effectively reduces the amount of paper that a business consumes is just plain common sense. It's the right thing to do.

That understood, it's certainly not the only good business reason for the deployment of such an initiative, nor is it necessarily the top reason considering that paper is a replenishable resource. (It comes from trees - I Googled it)

Stabilization Of Revenue Uh oh, now you're going to get all biznezzy on us, Mr. Bloggerman! Well ok, maybe a little. Decades of empirical data collected internally has revealed that clients with accounts set up to auto-pay electronically stay on the books longer and maintain a healthier payment history on average compared to accounts that do not.

Why is that, smarty pants? What are you implying? I'm glad you asked! It's not because people that pay their bills from a traditional invoice received by mail are a bunch of deadbeats. On the contrary, we know full well that our clients are hard-working, very busy people. We're in your homes and at your workplaces, believe me--we know you. We understand fully that the pest control bill is just another piece of paper in the stack. Therefore, offering a payment method that makes your lives just a little bit simpler is another example of an act of common sense. It's the right thing to do.

Offer? You're making me do it! How's that an offer? You got me there. Yes, we're nudging our clients just a bit knowing full well that a very small number of you will unfortunately choose to take your business elsewhere. Considering that the technologies that enable the safe and secure digital transfer of money were proven and available to consumers and businesses well over 2 decades ago, this change is well past due. We like to think that the delinquency is because we opted to observe trends and monitor the marketplace for acceptance and adoption before we decided to "nudge", but it's just as possible that like you, we've just been very busy.

Preservation of Capital Aha! Now we're getting to it! You profit monger, you! Vilification of for-profit organizations is a common practice in the media today. Some of it is even justifiable. There have been, currently are and always will be some bad companies out there, but profit itself is not evil, it's why businesses exist and it's probably why you're employed. That understood, profit has little to nothing to do with this new billing policy. It does relate directly to operating capital, however.

During periods of economic recession, good companies, much like the average family, must exercise creativity and maybe even eat a Spam sandwich or two in order to survive. Many companies take the "easy route" by raising prices or adding fuel surcharges to their invoices, which makes about as much sense as a government-imposed tax increase on its citizens to combat a bad economy. Some companies reduce employee benefits and maybe even reduce the number of employees. No matter what tactics are utilized, survival during tougher economic times is a challenging fiscal gladiatorial bout. Ultimately the market is the Ceasar that will deliver the live or die thumb up or thumb down. That's business.

For many years Bug Out Service has invoiced its clients by mail as a courtesy at no additional charge. The ever rising costs of this practice compared to the growing level of acceptance of electronic payment methods by the market we serve make this expense impossible to ignore. We estimate that annual savings could top 6 digits and have already realized savings of thousands of dollars per month in the form of current-customer conversions to electronic billing.

This cash is operating capital that is being used to continue to provide the high quality of service that our clients have grown accustomed to and rightfully expect. It's money that we've been able to secure during an economic period when our expenses are growing at a rate exceeding that of our rate of growth, and we did it without raising prices. It was and is the right thing to do.

"Pony Express" photo by Cotaroba and "Cash Photo" by AMagill are used herein under the guidelines of the Creative Commons Attribution License

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