Hosting is big business. The global application hosting market alone was valued at $41 billion in 2017 and is forecasted to reach $73 billion by 2022. Even so, hosters must continually improve to beat the competition and satisfy customers who expect not only a great product at a good price but excellent service from quote through purchase to billing and support.
While traditional hosters might once have offered straightforward website hosting or storage, they’re now just as likely to offer cloud computing, security & compliance services, or managed applications to large, multi-national organizations.
As the business grows, the underlying company infrastructure – people, processes, and systems – must grow, too. But many hosters are stuck with a billing solution that can’t cope, and without action, will be an impediment rather than a springboard to long-term, sustainable growth and profit.
In this post, we consider the problems with outdated hosting billing software and show how a modern web hosting billing and automation platform fixes them.
Challenge #1 – The key features aren’t integrated
Different billing systems might be used for different products or regions, with little, if any, integration between system functions. A modern billing platform improves the speed and effectiveness of workflow by integrating client management, sales, support and related areas.
Having a large customer base is great news, but it is important that size doesn’t get in the way of an effective relationship.
Creating a single view of customer interaction means customer details and history are easily managed, quotes sent quickly, invoices issued automatically, and late payments expedited. Moreover, integrating customer information with the help desk means support agents have a full view of all customer interactions and can tailor their response.
The quickest and easiest way to find new business is often from existing customers, and by taking advantage of the customer database, it’s much easier to find customers who are candidates for up-selling or cross-selling.
When you get a positive response, the billing system creates a quote, accepts electronic customer signatures as approval to go ahead, and moves the customer onto the service – an automated process that’s much quicker than paperwork or handshakes between different systems.
Reporting tools draw data together to provide integrated financial and business reporting, accessible through dashboards, to help spot problems and find opportunities.
Challenge #2 – Poor customer support means lost business
Technical problems are frustrating. If they‘re not fixed quickly, customers will look elsewhere for service.
Intelligent help desk
While customer and sales management are visible front-office aspects of your business, the help desk is the powerful back-office engine that delivers the support promise.
Tickets are automatically created and tracked to closure, and analyzing the number raised against different departments helps work out if there are underlying operational problems. Sorting them by priority makes sure support resources are applied in the right place.
In addition, integrating the help desk with other business functions means everyone has a consistent view of the support relationship with the customer.
The support service is improved by providing a self-service portal for submitting tickets and monitoring their progress, and for easy access to account information. This means the customer gets what they want when they need it and without unnecessary form-filling or being put on hold.
Challenge #3 – A hosting business has unique requirements
While all subscription-based businesses have some common billing requirements, hosters have specific needs.
Support for virtualization & integrated billing
Hosters use server virtualization to cut hardware costs and speed up deployment. By integrating details of the VM environment with the billing engine, it is possible to offer a range of billing options such as usage, cloud, bandwidth, or tiered rate.
The service the hoster offers obviously relies on their data center infrastructure, and modern billing platforms incorporate device management features to improve billing and support.
Device specific metrics such as CPU utilization, memory, and hard drive usage can all be used to improve billing accuracy, while features such as the number of ports and IP addresses can be varied to reflect a customer’s changing needs.
Challenge #4 – Old billing platforms can’t keep pace with company growth
A fast-growing hoster will quickly outpace an old billing system as the size of the customer base and the number of services increases.
While buying an over-engineered billing platform isn’t a good idea, neither is buying a platform you outgrow quickly. A modern billing platform not only has the capacity for volume growth but can easily integrate with new systems that are added, such as payment, accounting, or fraud management systems.
Experienced vendors can help with the challenges of moving from an old billing system to a new one: migration, integration, and customization, for example. And, when problems arise, they can respond quickly — 24/7 if you are operating globally — with skilled, professional staff.
Some companies consider their billing system as a basic utility. In fact, it is central to delivering a great customer experience and underpins revenue management. Choosing a reliable hosting billing software platform that specifically meets the needs of the web hosting industry helps avoid problems, save time, and guarantee customer satisfaction in the neverending pursuit of continued growth.