It’s a given that a software as a service (SaaS) business will need to take recurring payments from customers. The only question is: how?
If you’re using enterprise resource planning (ERP) software for your business, then the answer may seem straightforward. Some popular platforms like NetSuite have a built-in recurring billing module, so use that and you’ll be all set!
…well, not quite.
NetSuite may be a favored all-in-one solution for functions such as order management, procurement, and of course, recurring billing. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that its built-in recurring billing functions are the best in the market.
An alternative is to use a dedicated platform with a strong NetSuite integration for your business’s recurring billing needs. It may seem counterintuitive to look for a separate platform for just one function—after all, your ERP advertises those capabilities, too.
But keep in mind that when it comes to big, powerful ERP systems, such logistics are rarely simple.
1. Ease of implementation
Implementation of your recurring billing setup should be smooth and frictionless. And if customer service is assisting you with implementation, they should be invested in getting things up and running for you as soon as possible. After all, as a paying customer, you definitely deserve a five-star implementation experience.
If you’re using a billing module native to your ERP, you’d probably assume implementation would be a breeze. Unfortunately, that’s often not the case. It’s common for the implementation of these platforms to take years, setting users’ financial operations back by the same amount of time.
If you’re feeling daunted by the prospect of implementing NetSuite’s native recurring billing module, integrating a separate recurring billing system may be the way to go. Look for one that’s easy to implement, such that you can start using it within months. Not years.
Your recurring billing system should also be backed by stellar customer service. The very best solutions will assign a dedicated point of contact for implementation, as compared to a generic departmental inbox like [email protected]
This way, you can get personalized assistance from a person familiar with your business’s unique billing circumstances, and who truly cares about helping you get value from the product.
2. Ease of use
If you thought implementation was tough…well, don’t expect things to get any easier when you actually try to use your recurring billing setup.
Your finance team shouldn’t be struggling to use this important tool, and your business certainly shouldn’t need to hire external parties to help them do so.
In fact, do a quick online search and you’ll find that NetSuite consultancy is an entire industry of its own. While these consultancy firms are probably thriving, I’m not sure this speaks well of the software’s ease of use.
No matter how advanced your recurring billing system may be, it should still be user-friendly and intuitive to navigate. Especially for your billing clerks who will be using it daily.
Remember, you’re investing in a recurring billing system to automate tedious billing processes and oversee subscription management with ease. So, if your team:
- finds your billing system to be a hindrance (even after undergoing training for it!), and/or
- is even itching to go back to using a legacy billing system,
then you know you’ve got a problem.
Despite being a module within a system you already use, recurring billing doesn’t come standard with most ERP products.
For that module, you’d have to pay extra—and the fees can be extremely high. If you need to engage the expert consultants I just talked about, expect your bill to balloon further.
Needless to say, your ERP’s recurring billing module might not be the most affordable option.
The more cost-effective approach is to get custom quotes for recurring billing systems with seamless integrations, then plug your chosen billing solution into your ERP setup.
This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to spring for the cheapest recurring billing platform. Rather, the goal should be to choose the recurring billing solution that gives you the most bang for your buck, while considering factors such as ease of implementation and ease of use as discussed above.
You may just be surprised at the cost savings you can reap from using a separate recurring billing integration, while still enjoying billing features that are just as—if not more—robust.
4 things to consider if you’ll be using a separate recurring billing system with NetSuite
So far, we’ve seen how integrating a separate recurring billing system with your ERP may be the better bet compared to using its native recurring billing module. And if you’re leaning in favor of such a setup incorporating NetSuite’s ERP system specifically, then check that your separate system:
- Integrates fully with NetSuite: This should be obvious. You don’t want to shell out for a recurring billing solution, only to find out that it’s incompatible with NetSuite!
- Offers a flexible product catalog: As a SaaS business, you’ll want to have full control over your customers’ pricing plans and subscriptions without affecting your default catalog offerings. A flexible product catalog makes this happen.
- Supports multiple billing frequencies: Different customers may be on different billing schedules. You should be able to bill them according to their preferred subscription billing frequency and dates without impacting other customers’ billing schedules.
- Automates more than just billing: Be it dunning management for a more effective collections process, credit card updating to mitigate failed payments, or ASC 606-compliant revenue recognition, your recurring billing system should be able to effortlessly automate many billing-adjacent processes, too.
Any good recurring billing system will offer product demos to let you get a feel of its features before you make a financial commitment. Make full use of these demos to suss out the system in detail and confirm it’s a perfect fit for your needs.
The choice is yours
So, what will it be?
NetSuite offers a fantastic ERP platform, but its built-in recurring billing module isn’t necessarily known for being easy or cost-effective to set up and use.
Alternatively, you could use a separate system developed for sophisticated recurring billing and integrate it with your NetSuite ERP setup.
Going for the second option opens a whole world of possibilities as you aren’t limiting yourself to the functionality in NetSuite’s native solution. Instead, you are free to explore different recurring billing platforms and shortlist the one that gives you a raft of powerful features at a budget-friendly price point. You can also look out for one that is a joy to implement and use with minimal friction.
A recurring billing solution can either enhance or impair your business’s financial operations. Take the time to pick the right one.