Subscription billing: Tips and tricks from the field – Part 1

Subscription billing: Tips and tricks from the field – Part 1 A successful subscription business is all about paying attention to the details. In the first of a new series of blog posts, Ben Parkin reveals some tricks of the trade when it comes to tailoring your subscription billing system to the needs of your specific business.

Every company is different, and in all my interactions with customers and prospects it is fascinating to learn about the intricacies of their businesses and to understand the problems they need to solve. At a high level, the challenges are usually very similar – launching new subscription products quickly or automating billing and payment processes – but dig a bit deeper and engage with more stakeholders and you realise that it is the finer details that make all the difference. This can range from simplifying a sales process to offering a greater choice of payment methods or contract periods. Here we share some insider tips to help you on the path to a successful subscription business.

Billing notifications: internal and external

Efficiently managing the subscription lifecycle is a key part of running any subscription business, and transparent communication of lifecycle events is crucial for delivering a superior subscription experience.

Email notifications are widely used by subscription businesses to communicate orders, invoices, renewals and so on, but they’re not just for your customers. In Skyline, one simple trick can be used to make customer email notifications also drive internal business processes and compliance.
 
Each email notification template includes an optional BCC field, which enables you to copy in another person or team who may be responsible for that particular process or lifecycle event. So, for example, the renewals team can be engaged to follow up with customers approaching their renewal date, or the collections team can be involved in overdue payments. Furthermore, compliance email addresses can be copied in for auditing purposes and governance.


Custom fields and more

Most companies need to store unique data attributes when they map out their own specific business processes, and any subscription billing system worth its salt will provide the means to customise the data model accordingly. Skyline offers this flexibility through custom fields at the customeraccount, contact and subscription levels. However, we are finding that our customers are now getting increasingly creative in how they use custom fields to centralise access to all customer and subscription related information.

So, my next tip is how to set up custom fields for order forms, quotes and contracts.
 
When creating your custom fields, simply choose Text Box as the custom field type, and this will allow you to enter the address of the file to be linked. For internal documents, this can be a local / private address; for documents which need to be accessible by your customers, this can be a shared location such as a file stored on your website or a Dropbox link.

Multi-unit or multi-subscription?

Another one of the most common questions we hear from B2B subscription businesses is how best to manage and bill for a per seat pricing model, and Skyline provides two flexible options for how to manage the different scenarios.
 
The first is to allow multiple subscriptions to be sold on the same order, which though tied in to the same contract terms initially will mean that each subscription has its own independent lifecycle. This model allows individual subscriptions to be upgraded to premium subscriptions or terminated early, without having to change or cancel all subscriptions, for example. If the customer wants to buy more subscriptions these can simply be sold as new subscriptions on a new order and again treated with their own separate lifecycles. This model has its advantages for some businesses, in particular ones where unique identifiers or inventory items need to be tracked against each individual subscription, such as telephone numbers, IP addresses, etc.
 
The second option is what we call multi-unit subscriptions, where the quantity is applied to a single subscription record pertaining to an order. At the time of sale, the customer chooses the number of seats required but only one subscription record for the bundle will be created. Skyline also includes some neat features to help manage changes to these contract terms, for example increasing the number of seats will automatically change the recurring charge, including any prorating as applicable. Similarly, upgrading from one multi-unit subscription to another can be done easily, including flexibility to choose whether to keep the existing contract term, start a new contract term based on the new subscription, or to negotiate a completely new contract period. This model is very well suited to SaaS businesses where it is not required to track each seat / user separately.
 
Feel free to book a meeting with me if you’d like to see these features in action.