How Can Businesses Stand Out and Inspire Customer Loyalty?

In January 2020, when news of a novel coronavirus started to break, it was impossible to fathom the magnitude of impact it would have on the global economy, let alone our lives. Seemingly overnight, businesses were forced to adapt and face adversarial conditions head-on. While many industries faltered, many SaaS companies surprisingly experienced growth.

The agility of SaaS organizations, coupled with their ability to deliver on-demand goods and services safely from a distance, has made SaaS businesses uniquely positioned to handle the shockwaves caused by COVID-19. But as more and more businesses were being forced prematurely into the digital space, SaaS companies had to respond creatively to remain resilient. As research from McKinsey & Company suggests, how companies responded to customers’ needs determined the strength of their relationship ties post-COVID. Knowing this, our SaaS business focused on customer care by emphasizing trust and cultivating loyalty.

The SaaS organizations that’ve seen growth didn’t just adapt their service and product offerings around their changing customers’ needs; they listened and adjusted their billing structures. By offering temporary reductions in price, or in some cases, putting a hold on payments all together, they effectively helped reduce churn. While it may seem drastic, acquiring a new customer can be anywhere from five to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one. Additionally, existing customers are at least 40% more likely to buy from you again than new customers are likely to convert. Simply put, keeping customers happy is good for business, especially if you are looking at only losing two months of revenue compared to two years, right?

While being able to offer this kind of payment flexibility sounds easy in practice, it can present numerous billing challenges for SaaS organizations who are relying on manual entry and/or keep their payment data separate from their other customer information.

For SaaS organizations that are already using Salesforce as your CRM, why not leverage Salesforce to handle billing as well? Along with improving your customer experience and automating workflows, subscription software like Blackthorn Payments can help drive loyalty during a crisis. Here’s how:

3 Ways Subscription Billing in Salesforce Can Help

1) Customer Retention

We’ve all experienced the frustration of having to call customer service because of a processing error or a billing mistake. Our frustration mounts when we expect a quick call, but get transferred from department to department and are asked to retell the same story over and over again.

For customers, discovering that a simple request like changing or canceling a subscription was never processed or updated across systems diminishes their overall experience, even if it was initially positive. Although these types of mistakes may seem small, COVID-19 has forced consumers and businesses to cut back on spending. Under heightened scrutiny, it only takes one or two mishaps to break trust and motivate a customer to take their business elsewhere.

For SaaS businesses that primarily rely on recurring revenue, having a strategy around customer retention is a must. Part of that strategy should include implementing subscription billing software to help reduce common mistakes and eliminate any friction in the customer’s end-to-end experience. Marrying your subscription billing platform with your CRM to see not only your customer’s payment history but their interactions (for example, through account activity in Salesforce) can help your team stay better aligned. Storing information in one place also makes it possible for team members to see if a customer’s payment schedule was changed, a request for payment was sent out and is due soon, or if their invoice has been already paid so that they are better informed and equipped to assist customers.

On the customer side, utilizing automated emails to proactively communicate with customers that their subscription has been updated, an invoice is due, or their payment has been received, helps build trust and deeper, more personalized connections with your brand. With the added layer of Salesforce, you can then monitor email open-rates to fine tune communications, channels for delivery, and opportunities for upselling.

Subscription billing software can also help promote customer retention and revenue recovery by automating declined card requests. Instead of the responsibility falling on account managers to call after customers to obtain new credit card information, retries can be automated following the criteria set. Blackthorn’s reattempt logic can be linked to a process builder in Salesforce enabling an email notification to be sent alerting the customer their payment method needs to be updated. Not only does this save your accounting and sales teams time and money by removing any unnecessary back and forth, but it also prevents any potentially important communications from getting lost in a private email string. When done successfully, the customer’s service is uninterrupted ensuring their satisfaction.

2) Automation

In order to survive COVID-19, much less scale, businesses need to streamline. As an organization’s customer base grows, relying on spreadsheets and a basic billing program to track and generate invoices becomes unsustainable. The burden increases when companies are using one program to manage customer information and another to manage payment data. Not only does this lead to data fragmentation, but it also creates obstacles for accounting (when reconciling) and IT teams (having to configure many systems), prohibiting growth.

Automating subscriptions is one place where teams can save a lot of time and hassle. By automating payment processing, businesses can get paid faster, decrease errors, and offer customers the flexibility to upgrade or downgrade their service as needed.

Depending on the complexity of services plans offered, businesses can use either a recurring billing tool to schedule payments or an advanced solution that supports any subscription model. Blackthorn Payments offers two subscription billing solutions designed around these needs. With Lite Subscriptions, teams can set up secure, one-time, or recurring payments in Salesforce and customize their checkout process with access to 120+ different payment gateways.

Recurring payments allow payment for goods and services over time with a single payment authorization. They can be set up with credit cards, debit cards, and direct deposits from checking or savings accounts via ACH.

If we think of billing as the lifeline of a business, it is important that:

  1. Your infrastructure works the way your business works. Leveraging a subscription platform built in Salesforce provides the added advantage of being able to use Salesforce™s automation logic (like flows and process builders) to customize your billing preferences to your specific processes.
  2. Your systems should be able to accommodate change as you face new challenges. In light of the innumerable challenges presented by COVID-19, being able to offer customers an extra layer of flexibility is a compelling way to stand out and show you care.

3) Reporting

Delivering exceptional customer experiences is a top-line goal for any business. But for businesses that operate entirely online (and do not have the benefit of interacting with customers face-to-face), it can be challenging to evaluate all of the touch points that make up a customer journey. It becomes even more challenging when customer data is siloed between departments and applications. Imagine having to look at your revenue in your billing platform and then go into your customer database to see which accounts have been updated, flagged, or are past-due. Not only does it become cumbersome to see which customers and products are affecting your revenue the most (or the least), it makes real-time reporting impossible, especially if your financials have to be manually updated.

Sound familiar? Now imagine being able to unify your data and view your customers’ payment history from one centralized location. With Blackthorn Payments, you can manage your subscription billing from Salesforce, giving you a 360° view into your customer’s behavior. By tracking your customer’s payment history in Salesforce, you can better understand:

  • What payment methods and channels your customers prefer -> To offer more personalized and localized experiences
  • Which marketing campaigns and sales promotions return the best ROI -> To optimize your advertising efforts
  • The lifetime value of your customers -> To measure your cost per acquisition and your average customer lifetime value
  • Which customers are the most profitable -> To develop incentive/loyalty programs and identify your target audience
  • Cycles of decline and growth -> For short- and long-term strategic planning
  • Common customer service issues -> To determine roadblocks and the best path to resolution
  • Why customers cancel service and when -> To decrease churn

Being able to unlock these granular insights from one platform not only saves time, money, and logistical headaches (your accounting and customer service teams will thank you!), it facilitates more accurate forecasting. Empowered with real-time data, executive teams can better drill down expected versus actual MRR (Monthly Recurring Revenue) streams to identify leakage and growth opportunities. Moreover, during times of crisis like COVID-19 when being decisive becomes critical, having accurate, real-time reports helps curb uninformed decisions and alleviate some of the emotional burden of decision-making. Knowing the full picture gives leaders the clarity to act confidently and chart the best course of action for their business, employees, and customers.


Meeting Our Customers Where They Are – Blackthorn’s Story

Back in March of 2020, when businesses began canceling in-person events to combat the spread of COVID-19, we were faced with our own critical decision. As people began sheltering in place and in-person events were put on indefinite hold, it became evident we needed to offer our customers a solution around virtual events. We quickly pivoted to integrate our Blackthorn Events app with Zoom, GoToWebinar, and other leading video conferencing platforms. As a 100% remote team, we know first-hand the power of video to instill connection. While it was a challenge, it was an opportunity to address our customers’ needs in real-time and offer them something unique, the ability to host, manage, and track their virtual events from Salesforce. In listening to our customers, we realized they were not only trying to navigate dramatic shifts in their industry, they (like all of us) were dealing with the weight of economic uncertainty. We wanted to help. So we offered both app customers extended free-trials, reduced pricing options, and the ability to pause their subscriptions. It wasn’t radical; it simply felt right to lead with empathy. Plus, we understood the value of reinforcing our existing customer relationships instead of solely focusing our efforts on acquiring new ones. And because of Blackthorn Payments’ subscription billing features, it was simple for us to automate and manage. Had we not been using a tool like ours, we wouldn’t have been able to offer our customers that kind of flexibility.


Additional Ways to Offer Customers Relief Through Subscriptions:

To help customers save where they can, here are some payment ideas you can offer customers and easily set up in Blackthorn Payments:

  • Give customers the option to pause their subscriptions and reactivate when they’re ready
  • Extend free trial periods
  • Instead of a large upfront annual fee, offer the option to pay monthly or quarterly
  • If possible, allow customers to defer payments for a designated time period
  • Offer next tier add-ons free of charge
  • Show gratitude and promote loyalty by offering gift or discount promos to existing customers

How Blackthorn Payments Can Help

COVID-19 has tested every aspect of our personal and professional lives. It’s shown us that in order to endure, we must be able to adapt to change and recognize opportunity in the space of discomfort. Whether it’s leading with empathy to meet customers where they are, or shifting business models and services to better address situational needs, COVID-19 has encouraged us to examine which processes are holding us back and which can help accelerate our growth.

If you’re feeling the pinch of disjointed processes, or contemplating entering the subscription arena, we can help. Blackthorn Payments maximizes subscriptions by syncing them to the most powerful tool in your wheelhouse Salesforce. From automating simple recurring payments to setting up more advanced tiered or usage-based subscription models, we offer lite and complex solutions to address your needs.

Ready to enrich your customers’ experience and simplify billing with Blackthorn Payments? Take it for a test drive or get started by talking to one of our experts.