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Why Payment is the Forgotten Customer Experience Touchpoint: 4 Key Takeaways from Upflow's Event with Stripe

B2B payments

Côme Chevallier

Apr 30, 2024


1. Understanding Common Challenges in B2B Payments2. Bridging the Gap: B2B vs B2C Payments3. Cultivating Loyalty through B2B Payment Experiences4. Integrating Payment into Customer Experience Strategies

Upflow recently joined forces with Stripe to host an insightful event (both online and in our Paris offices), diving into the future of B2B payments and their impact on the customer experience.

With a panel of industry experts, including Jean-Thomas Cock (Head of Finance Operations at parcelLab), Xavier Augris (VP Finance at Botify), Ben Thirlwall (Head of Platforms, EMEA at Stripe), and Alex Louisy (CEO at Upflow), the event aimed to shine a light on the complexities of B2B payment processes and explore how the act of paying can be used as a customer experience lever for B2B companies in 2024.

On the stage from left to right: Alex Louisy (CEO of Upflow), Xavier Augris (VP Finance at Botify), Jean-Thomas Cock (Head of Finance Operations at parcelLab), Ben Thirlwall (Head of Platforms, EMEA at Stripe)

This article provides an overview of four key insights discussed by our panel of experts.

Want to all the details? Watch the full event replay by clicking here.

1. Understanding Common Challenges in B2B Payments

During the panel discussion, we got a good look at the everyday struggles B2B companies face with receiving payments. One big issue that was highlighted was the internal roadblocks and outdated tech causing headaches when trying to collect cash.

Turns out, the problem is most often not late payers, but the inefficient processes and lack of foresight in negotiating payment terms upfront. Xavier Augris from Botify really hit the nail on the head, stressing how tailoring the payment process to fit each customer's needs can make a world of difference.

“The first thing to do is make sure your internal processes are correctly updated so you can be sure you’ll get the information you need for payment. Ensure your CRM is up to date, that all the finance information is understood and shared with the finance team and you have to know your customer. Some customers want to have, for example, different invoicing processes, the addition of a PO number or some personalization on the invoice…so you really need to know as soon as possible how your customer wants to be invoiced.” - Xavier Augris, VP Finance at Botify

The discussion also got around to those outdated payment methods, like checks, that just won't seem to disappear. Despite all the new tech out there, a big chunk of B2B transactions still rely on these relics, causing major headaches and wasted time for finance teams. In fact, some 40% of B2B transactions in the US are still paid by check. Xavier of Botify chimed in on this point, highlighting how these old-school methods are a thorn in the side of businesses.

“Yes, we still receive some payments by check. And it surprises me. We still have to have someone to receive the check and put it into the bank.” - Xavier Augris, VP Finance at Botify.

2. Bridging the Gap: B2B vs B2C Payments

The panel went on to discuss the differences and similarities between B2B and B2C payments. While consumers enjoy smooth, hassle-free payment experiences, the B2B landscape seems stuck, wrestling with clunky manual processes and slow approval hoops.

But are there real differences that mean there’s a clear reson the B2B payment space in lagging behind? Ben Thirlwall of Stripe broke it down into three main differences between B2B and B2C payments:

  • Additional Information Requirement: Unlike in the consumer realm where a simple swipe or tap does the trick, B2B transactions today often require more information. Think order numbers, VAT details, and more. This adds complexity to the payment process, especially if the information is not readily available right away or hasn’t been communicated ahead of time.

  • Approval Processes: Ever tried making a big-ticket purchase only to find out it needs your manager’s (and maybe even their manager’s) stamp of approval? That's often the way in B2B. In many cases, there's a whole rigmarole of approvals needed before the cash can start flowing. The result? complexity and time delays in the payment being made.

  • Payment Timing: In the world of B2B, timing is everything. It's not just about paying; for some companies it’s about when they choose to pay. Some finance teams play a delicate dance with their payment timing to keep the cash flowing while optimizing their working capital. This can sometimes lead to delayed payment.

Here at Upflow, we’re working hard to bring more of these seamless B2C payment experiences into the B2B world. While there are fundamental differences between B2C and B2B, as noted above, we’re not settling for the status quo. There’s a lot to be done that can bring the two payment experiences closer. That’s why we’ve just launched Payments by Upflow - our game-changing, collections-first payment processing platform built directly inside Upflow. Find out more here.

3. Cultivating Loyalty through B2B Payment Experiences

The panel dug into how the payment process can be a game-changer for building customer loyalty in B2B.

Ben Thirlwall from Stripe talked through his 14-year experience of working for American Express on the B2B side, and advocated taking a page from the B2C playbook.

Making payments a seamless part of the customer experience doesn’t mean taking the same approach as those old-school credit card loyalty programs with points and prizes. A better approach is simply making payment so easy that your customers wouldn't dream of going anywhere else.

“The next wave of innovation we have seen is about embedding payment into the customer experience in the most graceful and elegant way, so that it’s actually so convenient - why would you want to do it any other way?” - Ben Thirlwall, Head of Platforms, EMEA at Stripe.

Led by Alex, the panel then went on to talk about autopay. When your customers trust you enough to put their payments on autopilot, you know you're doing something right.

Alex made the point that it's all about building that trust and making life convenient for them.

“Most of your customers want to pay you, because otherwise you probably wouldn’t have a business. And I’m still shocked when I hear people say ‘I would never go on autopay because I don’t trust my vendor’, when it’s actually your lawyer or someone you have been working with for a very long time.” - Alex Louisy, CEO at Upflow.

Jean-Thomas from parcelLab, on the other hand, noted that there’s a dichotomy here between the way businesses would like to be paid (autopay) and the way they are willing to pay their own suppliers.

“It’s part of the paradox for a lot of companies: they are happy to be 'autopaid' but they will not autopay. You can’t expect people to have a different behaviour from your own, but autopay would be the ideal world.” - Jean-Thomas Cock, Head of Finance Operations at parcelLab.

4. Integrating Payment into Customer Experience Strategies

One big lesson we all walked away with from the event was just how crucial it is to weave payment processes right into the fabric of your overall customer experience strategy. The panel discussed the point that it's not just about getting paid – it's about how you go about it that can make or break those customer relationships.

Your sales and customer success teams are the unsung heroes when it comes to making payment experiences top-notch. Ensuring you’re on the front foot, empowering your Customer Success and Sales team to discuss payment from the outset of your customer relationships will help you avoid a lot of headaches later on.

Instead of sitting back and waiting for the money to roll in, why not roll up your sleeves and get ahead of the game? By getting proactive about chasing down those payments, you're not just solving a financial puzzle – you're strengthening those customer bonds and having customer payment conversations in a friendly, healthy way rather than waiting too long and becoming unnecessarily adversarial.

“I think the most important part of the process is to make sure the invoice has been correctly received, around 5 days after you first send it. From my point of view, you don’t have to send a dunning email or letter to say ‘Hey, you are late. You have to pay your invoice’. Just send a simple email earlier on - ‘Hey, I’m Xavier from Botify, you are our new client so do you have all the information you need?’…With just one simple email you can win like 10 days in terms of cash collection.” - Xavier Augris, VP Finance at Botify

Bottom line? When you integrate payment processes into your broader customer experience strategy, good things happen. You're not just collecting cash – you're building lasting relationships that'll keep your business thriving for years to come.

To wrap things up, our recent event with Stripe was a goldmine on shaking up B2B payment and turning this often forgotten touchpoint into a significant lever for boosting customer satisfaction. From tackling everyday hurdles to narrowing the gap between B2B and B2C payment processes, the insights shared were valuable to all who attended.

By smoothing out the kinks, nurturing loyalty through seamless payment experiences, and integrating payment strategies into broader customer experiences, businesses can open up exciting new paths for growth and stand out in a crowded market.

If you missed out on the event, don't worry! Access the full replay here.

Interested in discovering more about Payments by Upflow, our game-changing, collections-first payment processing platform built directly inside Upflow? Find out more here.

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