The Microsoft Cloud Partner Program is not limited to reselling Microsoft Cloud Products but enables the partners to manage the entire customer relationship. Becoming a CSP allows you to increase your profits, sell value add-ons along with Microsoft products, and build a deeper relationship with your customers.
The CSP partners are not merely resellers but have to also function as trusted advisors to their customers as well. As a Microsoft CSP, you must manage the billing, collections, usage reporting, and provisioning of licenses and subscriptions for your customers. You also have to provide billing, subscription management, and technical support to your customers. To know more about the responsibilities of a CSP, check this out.
Why do you need a Microsoft CSP billing tool?
Microsoft Cloud Partner program offers CSPs a lot of opportunities to grow their CSP business and increase their profits. Managing the billing of a large customer base with different billing cycles and models, custom pricing and discounts becomes challenging as a CSP. With subscription-based selling on the rise, it becomes even more difficult to handle the billing due to the upgrades, bundling of services, add-ons, etc. Research shows that due to these complex and dynamic billing scenarios, almost “48% of companies with a recurring revenue business model struggle to meet accounting and reporting challenges.”
There are other challenges related to CSP billing that are commonly faced such as bill reconciliation, tracking payments, miscalculation of taxes, keeping up with Microsoft price changes, plugging revenue leakages, maximizing profits, etc. You can read our blog to understand more about the challenges in CSP billing. A Microsoft CSP billing tool can address these billing challenges as well as aid business growth. The benefits of using a CSP billing tool are as follows-
Generate error-free invoicing
Manually billing your customers can lead to inaccuracies and delays in invoicing. This can lead to loss of revenue and increased administrative workload. This not only impacts the operational efficiency of your finance team but also subjects your customers to an increase in workload as they have to get the inaccuracies corrected. Microsoft CSP billing tool leaves no room for errors in the generated invoice and results in improved and faster payment collection.
Enhance customer experience
Accurate and timely invoicing, a self-service portal giving control in the hands of the customer, and quick resolution of billing discrepancies help enhance the customer experience. An improved customer experience reduces customer churn and increases Average Revenue Per User (ARPU). When the customers are happy and satisfied with your services, they tend to build long-lasting relationships and are more open to buying more products and services from you. This helps in increasing profits by lowering the customer acquisition costs as well as increasing the customer lifetime value.
Minimize revenue leakages
Every business suffers from revenue leakages in some form or the other. These could be due to cash flow delays, excessive expenses, etc. The most common cause of revenue leakage is improper billing, which can be due to underbilling, delayed billing, or not billing at all. In a subscription-based business, revenue leakages become a recurring problem. Automating the billing system helps eliminate revenue leakages. Using the Microsoft CSP billing tool keeps the billing system agile by having updated customer profile and subscription and usage details as well as using the correct pricing for all products and services when generating the invoice.
Scale-up the business
Manual billing consumes a lot of time in generating invoices and in solving billing-related discrepancies. Both the finance as well customer service teams lose hundreds of hours to this leaving little time to focus on scaling the business. To scale up a business, multiple manual processes need to be automated like marketing, customer service, certain HR functions, and most importantly billing. Microsoft CSP billing tool allows you to serve a large number of customers with the same number of resources. Improved billing accuracy and timely payment collection help in strategic cash flow planning and business expansion.
9 features to look for in your Microsoft CSP billing tool
Choosing a Microsoft CSP billing tool for your business can be hard considering the various billing tools available in the market. When you decide on using a Microsoft CSP billing tool you should look for the following features that can make your CSP billing simpler and faster.
1. Automated billing & provisioning
The right Microsoft CSP billing tool should offer an end-to-end, fully automated process requiring minimal manual intervention or administrative work. This reduces the operational costs of the workforce as well as costs incurred due to billing errors. The Microsoft CSP billing tool should have a bi-directional sync with the partner center so that any changes to the customer’s licensing and subscriptions along with the Microsoft price changes are automatically updated.
The Microsoft CSP billing tool should support multiple billing models such as flat rate billing, tiered billing, and usage-based billing. The invoices should be automatically generated as per the different billing cycles of each customer. The tool should also allow you to set up automatic renewals for subscriptions, this reduces the instances of missed payments and the customers receive the services without any interruptions.
2. Multiple payment gateways and methods
Having multiple payment gateways and methods helps attract more customers and increases geographic coverage. Having only limited payment gateways might restrict international transactions. A wide range of payment gateways support multi-currency transactions. As the payment gateway is the last point in the completion of the sale, not having the preferred payment gateway might make the customer abandon the sale at checkout.
Different payment gateways offer unique features allowing the customers to choose the payment method that they are most comfortable with resulting in a better customer experience. Apart from online payments, there should be an option of adjusting any offline payments collected in the form of cheques, etc so that the customer billing is up to date.
3. Easy onboarding and support
A quick and easy onboarding process along with 24/7 platform support is what you should look for when considering a Microsoft CSP billing tool. Billing tools that have a long migration process can be unnecessarily laborious and time-consuming. The Microsoft CSP billing tool should offer integrations so that your existing billing data can be migrated easily and quickly without any data loss.
This will allow you to get your billing system up and running without any operational delays. Robust customer support will help your team navigate through the billing tool easily and help resolve any technical errors timely.
4. Self-service portal
Customers want more control over their subscriptions and licenses. A self-service portal provides the customers with the desired control and transparency they need. The Microsoft CSP billing tool should have a self-service portal for the customers where the customers can view all of their billing-related information including invoices, payment history, pending payments, upcoming subscription renewals, etc in one place. To further improve the customer experience, the self-service portal should be equipped with a self-checkout feature where the customers can make purchases on their own. Customers should also be able to raise support tickets and track the status of their queries on the portal.
5. Custom pricing and discounts
The Microsoft CSP billing tool should allow you to create unique product offers and set account-based custom pricing and discounts. You should be able to set special promotional pricing for certain customers to attract them to try new products and services. The billing automation tool should also allow you to set up time bound pricing and offers that automatically get disabled once the offer period ends. This will ensure that the discounted pricing is no longer available after the promotion ends.
6. Bundling and packaging Microsoft products
When choosing a Microsoft CSP billing tool, look for one that can help you create bundles or packages of products that are complementary to each other. You can group Microsoft products along with third-party solutions as a single bundle. This helps create unique solutions that can solve specific business challenges for your customers.
These personalized bundles can function as a differentiator for your CSP business. Selling these bundles is beneficial for your customers as they get a complete solution in one place. This also increases your revenue as you can sell the third-party solutions at a higher margin. The billing tool should allow you to create preset bundles for your customers to choose from but at the same time allow your customers to create their bundles on their own. Furthermore, your CSP billing tool should also enable you to sell
7. White-label marketplace with an intuitive interface
When you are offering self-service to your end customers, serving them on your domain with your brand experience, logo, etc. can go a long way into strengthening brand recall and creating visibility for your CSP business. Thus, your Microsoft CSP billing tool must provide you with the feature of a white-label marketplace where your customers can get a shop-cart experience, with your custom messaging, capabilities, etc.
Furthermore, an intuitive interface, supporting the white-label marketplace will make it seamless for your customers to navigate through your portal, enhancing the overall experience. Therefore, you must look out for a powerful and simple UI which you can further present to your customers.
8. Billing intelligence and analytics
A Microsoft CSP billing tool is not simply about creating automated invoices and facilitating quick usage reconciliation, it must also help you with selling and managing Azure-usage based subscriptions. This feature is all about ensuring billing intelligence. On the one hand, your tool should help you get consumption reports with margins to help get cost estimates on a daily basis. On the other hand, the capabilities of being able to group subscriptions to control costs is important. Finally, with the right Microsoft CSP billing tool, you can set budgets and thresholds with notifications and alerts to help you and your customers effectively manage Azure usage.
9. Advanced integrations
To efficiently run your CSP business, your billing tool should integrate and run with other systems. Integrations can help simplify business processes by enhancing connectivity and visibility of data. The ability to synchronize the customer subscription history and billing data to other tools used to manage the business will give you a holistic view of your data. In the absence of integrations, a lot of time and effort will go into transferring data from one platform to the other. This not only puts a strain on resources but can result in data loss as well. Integrations reduce errors, increase efficiency, and help scale the business.
CSP Control Center (C3): The Microsoft CSP Billing Tool You Need
Now that you understand the Microsoft CSP billing tool features you must look out for, you are all set to make an informed choice. Undoubtedly, there will be several tools in the market to choose from. Understand the features being offered by each one of them and align them to your organizational needs. Just because a Microsoft CSP billing tool has impressive features, it is not the right fit for you, you need to ensure it addresses your unique challenges and concerns. As a billing tool being used by CSPs across the globe, C3 brings to you unparalleled features which can be customized as per your needs along with an extensive product and technology ecosystem.
Irrespective of whether you are a direct seller, indirect provider, or an indirect seller, C3 has unmatched features and capabilities to serve your business model. If you choose C3, you will get:
A powerful interface
Get access to a simple and immensely powerful interface with intuitive capabilities for your organizations as well as end customers. We offer an omni-view partner dashboard and a powerful customer portal powered by the latest design to help all your stakeholders navigate the platform seamlessly.
Marketplace for end customers
Keeping pace with the customer’s need for an e-commerce experience in all digital interactions and transactions, C3 enables you to provide shop and cart experience for your customers. This will empower your customers to manage their licenses on their own, providing self-service, as well as enabling them to view previous invoices, license history, etc. whenever they want, without having to wait for a response from your customer support.
Third party selling options
A terrific way to make your revenue pipeline thicker is to offer additional solutions to your customers, beyond Microsoft subscriptions. As a Microsoft CSP billing tool, C3 enables you to sell your own products as well as offers published by other ISV in the Microsoft marketplace. Often, such home grown or third-party solutions have a higher profit margin, leading to greater impact on your bottom line.
Azure cost estimates and controls
Fine grained features by C3 enable you to keep a constant check on the Azure estimates and usage for your records as well as for your customers on a daily and monthly basis with Azure consumption reports. You can seamlessly recheck usage reconciliation in the end. Furthermore, with C3 you can group subscriptions to manage cost control and reduce your outflow.
Automated invoicing with automated adjustments
This is one of the key features of C3 as a Microsoft CSP billing tool. It enables you to send automated invoices to your customers, when they want to receive it, without waiting for Partner Center reconciliation. You can leverage a combination of itemized and usage-based invoicing for licenses and services, based on your customer needs. At the same time, you can secure advance payments from your customers and C3 will make automated adjustments, freeing you from the hassles of accounting.
Preferred payment methods
As a CSP, you may have a preferred mode and method of payment. We understand each CSP has a different preference, and hence, offer different methods as well as gateways for you to choose from. To leverage our Microsoft CSP billing tool, you do not have to adopt yet another payment method across Credit Card, ACH and Offline Cheque based payments. If online payment is your suit, we also have multiple gateways you can use.
Data, analytics, and insights via extensive reporting is what C3 brings to you to help attract new customers, retain, and grow your existing ones. The tool enables you to track and monitor customer behavior to build deeper relationships, suggest meaningful expansions and gauge any customer attrition to address it preemptively.
Finally, C3 offers numerous integrations to help keep all your operations connected, without any manual efforts. Our integrations include ConnectWise Manage to reform how subscriptions and customer invoicing is managed, C3- Autotask to migrate subscription history from C3 to Autotask, as well as with accounting software like Quickbooks, Xero, etc. These integrations take billing and invoicing automation to the next level, giving you integrated control over all aspects.
That is not all. In line with our commitment to help our customers build bigger CSP businesses, we are adding premium features every month. Stay tuned to this space to learn about the latest C3 features and the benefits we bring to you to address your Microsoft CSP billing tool needs.