Has your provider designed their services to ensure that your needs are met before theirs? What mechanisms are in place to confirm that this is the case? We believe that service design should be focused on the customer and every single touch point that occurs with that customer. While providers focus on their services and products to please their customers – as they rightfully should – we see a fundamental gap in service design that hampers a positive customer experience. No matter how awesome your product or service, if your invoice doesn’t serve the customer, then you have a problem. But the problem isn’t the problem. Huh?

Really, an invoice is just an invoice. Right? How else would a vendor bill for services? An invoice is just a thing to get the customer to pay, right? Mostly. Let’s go deeper on this last part – an invoice is meant to make a customer pay. Obviously, right? Let’s apply service design to this… Is your invoice designed in such a way to get you to pay without having full confidence that it’s accurate? Is the invoice designed to help the vendor understand how they’re billing you MORE than how they’re servicing you? Are these the same thing? We don’t think they are.

ACCOUNTS PAYABLE IS AN ENTRENCHED PROCESS BY VIRTUE OF BAD DESIGN

Customers generally accept that an invoice is a window into the services they receive. Again, generally true. Is that sufficient? And is it actually true? Do you just take it as a given that the invoice is correct? And if you feel it’s not, what do you do about it? As discussed here, most customers simply approve invoices in order to move on to more important items – or seemingly more important items. What if the design of the invoice also took THAT into consideration – that by virtue of complexity and confusion, you’ll just pay?

These underlying problems are the real problem. The problem isn’t that your invoice might be wrong, the problem is that the design of the invoice limits you from making the best decision. Decades of standardized invoice processing have created a status quo of sub-optimized decision making. It’s made worse by invoice design that serves the vendor’s requirements more so than the customer’s needs.

DETAILS MATTER, ESPECIALLY THE ONES YOU CAN’T SEE

Another crucial piece to the design of the invoice is what’s NOT there. This is important to understand because the customer does not have the domain expertise to know when a thing is missing. If you rent uniforms and you get an invoice with missing information, how do you know it’s missing? Have you ever designed a uniform rental invoice? Ever worked for a uniform rental company? If it’s not there, you simply do not know that it’s not there. There’s a reason it’s not there – it would make you know something that the vendor does not want you to know.

THIS IS A DECISION PROBLEM

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, our goal is not to beat up on vendors and make them out to be the bad guys. Our goal is for their customers to be happy, and we’re pretty sure vendors want happy customers too. A happy customer is an informed customer. One that feels confident that their invoice is correct AND gives them the information they need to make the best decision. We think that vendors would agree that the goal is to keep the customer. We want to help them achieve that by helping their customers make the best decisions.