Digitization and electronic invoicing: Invoicing is a key step for every company, but not for the usual reasons. If it is done well, it can become a valuable opportunity for contact with customers, a pathfinder for the implementation of other digital technologies and a tool for expanding one’s target market. All this without forgetting compliance, which brings with it the use of specific and useful technologies for all companies.
At first glance, the title of this article may seem paradoxical, or at least not so obvious, since it correlates three aspects that are very distant from each other, at least apparently: compliance, internationalization and billing experience.
How do these three things connect?
In reality, there is a connection, and indeed it lies in a certain trend that is becoming increasingly important and relevant for companies in any sector: digitalization.
Digitization is the common thread running through these three separate phenomena, which together indicate the direction that every company will have to take sooner or later in order to remain competitive over time.
This direction is to dematerialize the company’s internal and external document processes along the entire business chain, exploiting the many tools provided by digital transformation.
In the long run, the objective of every company should be to build and provide a truly paperless experience that is convenient and efficient for all its customers.
Paper is disappearing, but processes must also be changed
Every day, companies in Italy and elsewhere consume a large amount of paper, sometimes due to actual inefficiencies, and sometimes because adequate systems have not yet been adopted and processes have not been “modernized” to eliminate paper.
Obviously, in order to finally say goodbye to paper, it is necessary to adopt solutions that enable the path of dematerialization, an expression that means ” IT activity applied in creating a document exclusively – or primarily – in an appropriate digital format, usable by computer, aimed at destroying the previous paper materiality of the same documents.”
As you can understand from the definition, dematerialization is a wide and complex process that cannot be limited only to the “disappearance” of the paper document and its replacement with a digital file.
Of course, the document in its paper form disappears, but intervening only at this level is undoubtedly restrictive. If you limit yourself to replacing the document while maintaining the existing business procedure, then the most you can achieve is a reduction in the amount of paper used.
For the rest, however, there are no benefits, quite the opposite.
Leaving workflows and processes unchanged, in fact, also leaves the critical organizational issues and the consequent diseconomies they cause unchanged. “Half-digitization” often ends up amplifying pre-existing criticalities, causing more harm than good.
For this reason, it is necessary to intervene in the process in order to eliminate the possible bottleneck effect that one could run into, even with digital documents.
In this way, you can make your internal processes more efficient, faster, cheaper, and, above all, more convenient for customers.
Not only invoicing, but above all, experience
In fact, it’s not just the individual company that benefits from dematerialization, but the customer himself who benefits from a service that goes beyond the simple invoicing or receipt of a document.
The customer also expects to see the customer experience improved in some way, and herein lies the key: for the transition to the paperless experience to be successful, it must also be perceived as such by the consumer himself.
In other words, there must be advantages for both the company and the customer: in this sense, the paperless experience must translate into a better customer experience.
There are so many ways for this to happen, so many benefits a company can provide via a new customer experience that is realized through the paperless experience:
- Opening and responding to received documents can take less time;
- The documents received can still be easily consulted and understood just like “classic” paper documents;
- The paperless experience must facilitate the reception of documents, their collection, and their eventual retrieval if necessary by the user;
- In the context of a paperless customer experience, it’s not the user who has to remember deadlines, but rather the system itself that presents them through a personalized notification service;
- Digital documents can (should) be accessed at any time, from anywhere and on any device.
From customer experience to intelligence experience
From this point of view, therefore, adopting a paperless experience in the invoicing phase not only has an impact within the company, but, as we have seen, also externally, since px can become the keystone, the right opportunity to significantly improve the experience of each consumer.
In this sense, paperless experience and customer experience are tied together, and to transform the latter, the former is a mandatory requirement, an aspect that cannot be overlooked, since all companies should want to evolve from offering a simple customer experience to offering their customers an Intelligent Experience.
KPMG underlined this transformation in its report “Tomorrow’s experience, today,” highlighting how, based on a study in 14 countries, many leading companies in various sectors are implementing new technologies to improve the customer experience by making it “intelligent.”
At this point, you may wonder what it means to offer an Intelligent Customer Experience.
Obviously, the focus should be on the term “intelligent,” which indicates the ability to learn from the information you already have and from recorded interactions in order to optimize subsequent ones.
In this way, the customer experience can be improved gradually, each time refining and adapting, so as to become increasingly simple, efficient, and personalized.
All of this, of course, requires ad hoc technologies that every company must put in place even when it comes to billing, so that it becomes a truly relevant phase of the business and customer experience.
The list of these solutions is vast and includes a range of different technologies.
Here are just a few examples:
- Data analytics: This is a fundamental resource, especially when it comes to predicting trends, behaviors, or reactions on the part of consumers, allowing you to design a highly personalized customer experience that can adapt in advance to individual needs.
- Artificial intelligence and cognitive automation: The implementation of artificial intelligence and machine learning (for the distinction between them, read here) is now a widespread reality as well as a necessity for all companies, thanks to its versatility and its ability to support the decision-making phase. In the context of invoicing, Artificial Intelligence can be very useful in terms of helping customers understand the content of the document, and empowering them with the ability to react immediately or easily ask for clarification of the content.
- Mobile device: The mobile-first approach is fundamental whenever you want to get in touch with today’s consumer who increasingly uses a smartphone to perform a wide range of operations. In this sense, digitized invoicing documents must not only recreate the appearance and ease of use of paper documents (as mentioned above), they must also be readable and usable from mobile devices.
- Content intelligence: This represents a new way of approaching content marketing, where, by exploiting the technologies mentioned above, you can create more effective content that adapts to the recipient and immediately tracks their reactions and behaviors so as to give each brand the possibility of personalizing each subsequent piece of content with great precision.
Billing experience: between marketing approach and compliance needs
All of the technologies described above can be used within the billing process, which can then become a very important customer contact opportunity, which can then work on other aspects and objectives.
In addition, applying these solutions to invoicing can be a way of seeing “how they work”, so that they can then be implemented with greater confidence and effectiveness in other areas of the business: in short, electronic invoicing can lead the way in digitizing all business processes, in their entirety.
However, don’t forget that invoices, however electronic, are still “official” documents, produced by companies and which must be submitted to the tax authorities, and therefore have a non-negligible importance.
For some time now, the Italian legislator has required companies to switch to electronic invoicing, given that, starting from 2019, the following transactions will go digital, all with the goal of combating tax evasion and ensuring compliance: those between entities who are residents of or established in Italy that involve VAT, as well as those who do not have permanent establishment and are represented by a fiscal representative.
The fight against tax evasion has been further strengthened through the almost generalized obligation to issue an electronic invoice for the supply of goods and services carried out between VAT taxable persons who are residents, established, or identified in Italy.
Among other things, with Circular No. 19/E of 2019, the Legislator also outlined all the main and operational guidelines for the definition and management of tax controls and assessment. It also highlighted the fact that, having the data deriving from electronic invoicing and the telematic transmission of daily receipts improves the activities of risk analysis and compliance.
All of this allows the financial administration to observe and analyze taxpayer behavior and any anomalies, provided that the same (which, in the vast majority of cases are companies) have the digital solutions necessary to be in line with the demands and requirements of the Public Administration.
Digitization and electronic invoicing and other technologies
It is a fact that is acknowledged in its own way by the legislator, that the control methods for compliance require a certain procedure that is specific and suitable for being secure and verifiable, both from the point of view of the reliability of the documents produced and in terms of personal data protection.
For example, the electronic storage and telematic transmission of data to the revenue department require particular technological tools that are capable of guaranteeing the inalterability and security of the data related to fees.
Fortunately, there are technologies that can guarantee all of this: security and immodifiability of documents, traceability, but without sacrificing the experience component that is fundamental to every user.
We’ve already mentioned some of them in this post, for example, machine learning, algorithms, artificial intelligence, but also, Blockchain, Big Data, RPA, and many others, which allow any company that implements them to proceed with a new level of the invoicing procedure and of document management, which becomes more evolved, automatic, and transversal, and which guarantees a conscious control of administrative and fiscal compliance at all times.
Once again, therefore, starting from electronic invoicing, you can introduce and implement other solutions, which guarantee a complete, organic, and accomplished digitalization in all areas.
Those who digitize go international
Finally, we should note that the European Community itself has played a key role in introducing e-invoicing, providing guidance and the regulatory frameworks that have stimulated the Italian legislature to accelerate the digitization of the billing phase.
On closer inspection, this is only natural, given that electronic invoicing is one of the most important requirements for ensuring full European fiscal integration and for giving all companies the chance to truly move within a unified market.
After all, the transparency, simplification, and traceability guaranteed by electronic invoicing are the three pillars of support that companies need if they want to expand internationally, in order to support them in interfacing with customers in different countries.
From this point of view, the transition to electronic invoicing marks a turning point, as it makes it faster to transmit documents in an easy and secure way; this also represents a significant driver for business.
In conclusion, you can digitize your company, expand its boundaries and improve the relationship with your customers, all starting from a simple electronic invoice. If this is not progress…