Tips for Improving Your Agency Billing
Like most people, I was drawn into the world of advertising agencies because of the excitement in the everyday—something I am not sure most accountants would say about their job.
When people think of advertising agencies, the first thing that comes to mind might be super bowl commercials, big bucks, or perhaps the uber-talented Don Draper of Mad Men. I would assume that one thing people are not quick to think about are the complexities and questions that can come from an ad agency accountant’s perspective. While I might not be Don Draper (or better, Peggy), my role within the agency is just as crucial to the everyday operational functions needed to help it succeed. Below I have outlined 3 tips that can help an agency’s billing department, based on my own experiences in the industry.
See my life illustration below:
#1 Focus on Strong Client Communication
This is where the account management team and accounting team meet together and work hand in hand. When clients feel they are being heard and understand the billing process, they are more inclined to have a better overall relationship with the agency. At Texas Creative, this means that billing is coming from a billing manager after they have worked closely with the account manager to ensure that everything has been properly reviewed and is ready to be sent. This process decreases the chance for errors in invoicing that can cause difficult conversations for everyone. We want to make sure the lines of communication are open between both billing and account service so that if any questions might come up from a client everyone is on the same page and can help to facilitate the conversation. The goal is that everyone on the team is so aware of invoicing and billing processes that a client is comfortable reaching out with questions across the team. We want our clients to feel that they are partners rather than a paycheck throughout their dealings with the entire agency.
#2 Consistency is Key
One of the most important things you can do as a billing department is to make sure that you are billing on time. When clients know when and how to expect their billing each month it can create better communication and improve the overall internal process as well, making everyone happy.
- Bill monthly or bi-monthly to help decrease the chances of large projects building up that may come as a surprise to the client and require deeper discussions down the road
- This should be done in such a way as to keep company cash flows stable but also in a manner that works with the client’s expectations of billing
- Ensure your entire organization is keeping their time entry up-to-date. This helps keep the agency accountable to the client in reporting time for each project and keeps the scope of work in the forefront. (Added bonus: this also makes it easier for the account management team to have conversations with clients if time is building up on a job before it’s too late.)
- This is probably the most important part of the whole client billing process. Many “surprises” can be avoided simply by having all employee time done on a daily basis
- Bill on (or around) the same day each month, so clients will come to expect it. This can also help internally so you can space out client billing for the accounting team, making it less overwhelming
- Understand what the client needs. Whether your invoices require highly detailed text or high-level overviews, understanding what the client is looking for each month and remaining consistent in the way it is presented can help in maintaining strong client trust
#3 Upfront and Honest Living
Another critical thing we can do to help both clients and the billing department succeed is to have upfront and honest conversations about all things finance related. This could be everything from account managers providing detailed costs estimates to a client prior to commencing work, to the accounting team creating and committing to payment terms, to providing contracts that have clearly defined billing systems clients can review. Laying the groundwork up front makes everyone’s life easier on the backend.
At the end of the day, it seems service really is the bottom line. Honing your skills in these three areas can increase satisfaction in client relationships, can help keep your internal billing department sane, and foster stronger relationships inter-departmentally at your agency. Are there other tips you have found that can help promote positive vibes in your agency billing department? Or maybe you want to talk some more about that Don Draper gentleman? Share with us below we would love to hear from you.