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Online Invoicing – your customer’s perspective

After the launch of our new online invoicing feature we’ve received a lot of great questions and so we’d like to show you in more detail exactly what your customer’s experience will be when you use this new feature. Below is a step-by-step walk thru of what happens. As always, you can use the free Demo Company to see this in action, without sending anything to your real customers.

We also want to share our thinking about this feature, so please read the full post.

Sending an invoice is still the same. In addition to the PDF there’s now an online invoice link that’s automatically part of the message…

Your customer receives an email as they always have, but now there’s a link to view the invoice online. Our next release is scheduled to include a feature giving you more control over these email templates…

The link takes your customer to a live invoice. If you want the Pay Now option to appear on the invoice you just need to include your PayPal email in the branding theme – otherwise, the Pay Now button won’t appear…

If the customer has outstanding bills, it will be highlighted in the top left of the online invoice.

If your customer wants to see the details of those outstanding bills they will need to create a free login…

The reason we require a login to view outstanding invoices is to give you an audit trail of exactly who has viewed those invoices and when they were viewed.

Once they login, the outstanding bills can be viewed securely online…

 

Our thinking behind online invoices

Thanks for all the feedback everyone. This is a new and different way of invoicing and it’s just the first step as we enhance and refine the feature based on your feedback.

Keep in mind, the primary objective is to get your invoices paid quicker and easier. This is just the first step of using Xero to build an online relationship with your customers. Ultimately, we see this as a way to eliminate the rekeying and double/triple handling of invoice data around the world. For instance, with online invoices your customers can now download a CSV of the invoice data to import into their accounting software.

Connecting with customers

Online invoices is about making a better connection with customers. There are, in fact, advantages to your business if your customers are using Xero as well: your invoice data flows directly into their books without anybody needing to re-type anything, plus they get a hardcopy of the PDF automatically attached to their invoice record. This greatly streamlines the communication between you and your customers. Better communications is better for your cashflow.

We’re currently working on features that will enable you to build an online profile for your customers to connect with. Today was just the very start. We’ve already received tons of great feedback that you can now see when your customers have viewed your invoices.

In case you still have questions about Pay Now and Login, here are the answers you’re looking for:

Pay Now is optional

Pay Now is only available if you choose to make it available. However, if you don’t make it available, your customers can’t pay you with a tap of a button. So you should weigh up the value of getting paid immediately and easily VS. chasing down debtors. If you add up the cost of chasing debtors (time + expenses + opportunity cost) you might find that the small PayPal fee is worth it.

If you want to use the Pay Now option, PayPal is currently the only payment gateway available, but we’re working on adding more payment gateways for you to choose from. Let us know which ones you want (ie, Stripe, eWay, Authorize.net, WorldPay).

A login is optional

Your customers do not need a login to see your online invoice. If you decide you want to use the Pay Now feature your customers won’t need a login either.

They only need a login to save the invoice or see outstanding invoices. The reason we require a login to see outstanding invoices is to give you an audit trail of exactly who has viewed those invoices and when they were viewed.

More formatting options are coming

Our next release is scheduled to include a feature giving you more control over email templates – your messages to customers – how they look and what they say.

More feedback please

Your feedback is extremely useful, and greatly appreciated, so please keep it coming. We know this feature isn’t perfect, yet. We encourage you to join the discussion over in the Xero Community.

Thanks!

 

Read more about Business

 

67 comments

Gayle Buchanan
1 October 2012 #

Super excited @Xero – online invoicing – that is super ground breaking!
thanks for helping us partners shine

Ben Kepes
1 October 2012 #

Phil – kudos for weighing in and clarifying some of this stuff. Key learnings from this (from what I can see) would be to default to NOT sending invoice recipients a link on every invoice that requires them to log in (ie, make the default to be unchecked on the “include a link on online invoices to show all outstanding bills for a contact).

I agree that there is a tension between the benefits that this network creates and customer’s desire to “own” the relationship with their clients. Over time people will become more comfortable with the sort of network functionality you’re introducing, but the large number of comments indicate that this will be a gradual process.

One question – since the reason for needing a log in is for auditing purposes, I’d assume that the link in an email invoice is a one time specific URL that has it’s own auditing path. Can you confirm this is the case, otherwise the original invoice would be un-auditable.

Kylie Short
1 October 2012 #

Just putting my hand up to ask for eWay integration as a payment option. This would make my life so much easier!!!

Philip Fierlinger
1 October 2012 #

@ben thanks for the feedback. There is a unique URL for each invoice – so we can determine when the invoice has been viewed. We need a login to tell you exactly who viewed it.

Andrew
1 October 2012 #

Mailchimp doesn’t require people to login to see status who’s read emails …

Diane Crawford-Errington
1 October 2012 #

Awesome stuff Xero, very happy bookkeeper here! Looking forward to formatting options coming out.

Ben Kinnaird
1 October 2012 #

Nice addition and looking forward to this developing, perhaps with a debt chasing process à la Debtor Daddy.

Dave Silvera
1 October 2012 #

Hi all, i agree with Ben Kepes… great feature, but definitely need the choice of being able to turn it off and on as required, (at least until the proposed email template changes arrive..). We use the email invoice feature extensively and the new link is going to confuse our customers :(
We already offer a link to our payment gateway from within the PDF invoice and do not want to force them into using PayPal (the PayPal option is also available on the PDF invoice for those customers who want to use it)

Instead of the invoice link appearing at the top of the email would it not be be better if a “field label” e.g [invoice link] could be inserted by the person writing the email.

I hoping we will be able to integrate our own payment gateway via API integration?

Gary Turner
1 October 2012 #

@ Dave – good feedback, thanks.

We certainly plan to build out additional payment options beyond just PayPal, today’s release is the first step towards that.

James R
1 October 2012 #

I can’t believe I feel so violated over this but I think a subtle line has been crossed.
You’ve communicated a new process to my customers without asking. It should have been an opt-in feature.The awesomeness and thinking behind the feature is irrelevant to this point.
We are in control our customer’s experience of our company and product. You have no right to jump in on this without asking. I’m one of Xero’s biggest fans but I need to let you know how I feel on this one.
Now that I’ve got that off my chest… Looks like a great feature. Thanks.

Gary Turner
1 October 2012 #

@ James – thanks.

I think the consensus is that there’s a definitely nugget of awesomeness in this new feature but that it’s up to Xero to polish it to perfection based on today’s feedback which – as you would expect from us – we are already working on doing.

Earl Rudolfo
2 October 2012 #

Philip, thanks for the timely, detailed explanation of this new feature – online invoicing. For me, the key takeaways here are “User friendly, value added Options” and “Optional” If Xero focuses on these ingredients when developing new features, they will continue to “wow” users.

Stephen Quay
2 October 2012 #

I put our repeating sales invoices on hold last night hoping for the email templates. Alas did not materialise – next time perhaps. Have emailed out our repeating invoices manually today after reading all the notes and blogs. Repeating sales invoices are all paid by bank standing order so kept the Paypal details off the invoices. However we have three invoice themes and have copied all of them and added our Paypal details. Now we have our three invoice layouts with and without Paypal (six in total) so it’s easy to decide at invoice creation time whether we want to offer it or not – depends on the client. Simple really.

Roger
2 October 2012 #

Kudos Xero to responding directly to all the feedback. I think an email template will greatly improve things. And they’re already pretty good.

I do ask that you keep in mind in all of this networking, invoice importing mumbo jumbo, that 99% of my customers are individuals that do not import any invoice into any accounting system ever. I’m probably not the only Xero user that does not primarily bill other companies. Please keep that in mind as the refining moves along. It would be nice to be able to differentiate the experience and features a little.

Brad Fraser
2 October 2012 #

@Gary and Phillip – Perhaps I’m missing something, but how can I turn the “Save” button off? This also generates a login box that will confuse my customers

Is their a way to not show the online link in the email if we want the “legacy” functionality?

Trevor Smith
2 October 2012 #

@Philip Great follow-up blog. Kudos to Xero for this important step forward, and providing additional clarifications based on user feedback. This level of responsiveness and focus on the customer are why we picked Xero over other online accounting options.

RE: Payment Gateways – I know Xero is working on a voting feature, but please +1 for Authorize.Net as a payment gateway. Several of our clients love using Authorize.Net, and we’ve only had good experiences with it as an e-commerce solution.

[...] to Xero head of design Phil Fierlinger who quickly wrote a post that detailed some of the thinking behind the functionality. There’s an interesting thing to look [...]

Mike
2 October 2012 #

Can we have an option to turn off online invoices please?

I’ve just sent an invoice to a client and checked the link. It states they have 5 more outstanding invoices.

This is not true, I just haven’t reconciled last month’s payments yet (which I do it manually as my bank isn’t supported yet).

This is going to lead to confusion.

Chris
2 October 2012 #

I agree that we need to be able to turn this feature off. I find it extremely inapprorpiate for Xero to place themselves between businesses and their customers without any consultation with the businesses first.

David Kime
2 October 2012 #

I have to say that this is awesome and the fact that there are so many negative comments, is, in fact a positive. It shows it has sparked thought and people are trying to find all the problems their clients will throw at them which to me means that they really want to use it, but don’t want to come across issues rolling it put.

Ground breaking and we will look back at this day and remember – where were you when Xero changed the way we interact with customers?

John
2 October 2012 #

I am very disappointed that Xero has chosen to sell their “Brand” to my clients by adding a link to my invoices that shows the Xero Brand and I
Did NOT give permission
Have NOT got ability to remove
I belive Xero should Immediately remove their logo from the bottom of the invoices being viewed online (replace woth a blank image) and ASAP remove the link (or make it an option to add it) from the bottom of invoices being sent out.
When this is implemented it should also be “off” by default.

Matt Binz
2 October 2012 #

I like the concept for the feature, but the execution has been rushed and I think its completely unacceptable that you automatically included this link on my recent invoices without any prior warning. This should have been disabled by default – even if I have PayPal as an option for my customers – and only shown if I turned it on.

Very disappointed with a product I have really liked.

Martin
2 October 2012 #

Nothing new to say, just adding weight to the existing comments: great feature, but needs to be optional and controllable.

I’m not actually too worried about the mixed branding (possibly because I’m a shareholder too). I think Xero’s great and don’t mind telling people I’m using it, but I do feel this is something the user should be able to easily replace or remove. Vendor branding is only really acceptable in free products.

Jill V
2 October 2012 #

Okay…here’s an example of how it goes for my client.
Their beloved horse has just unexpectedly died and they call me, weeping or holding back the tears, with the request to pick up their horse. I tell them that to make it easier for them to pay and not have to even be present, I will send them an online invoice so they can pay from the comfort of their home.
They receive my invoice and find a link that they assume they must click on. They do, and they are taken thru several steps to “Sign Up” and “Agree” to “Terms of Use” that include a clause that payments may be necessary as some point (either now or in the future) and …..on and on and on.
REALLY? What were you thinking? That all the businesses that use Xero are just dealing with tech savvy customers who are just itching to have one more thing to do on a computer?
Please make this optional for those of us who do not have the right kind of business with the right kind of customers who would consider this an improvement. For now, online invoicing isn’t even an option for me. Guess I’m going to have to switch to mailing them with a stamp or switching to a different online invoicing service.
By the way. The Main reason I switched from Intuit products to Xero was that Intuit was like a constant “commercial” and ceaselessly promoting their business and their product while I was trying to just do my accounting. Please don’t follow in their footsteps.

James R
2 October 2012 #

Thanks @Gary,
But I think my point has been missed. I have no issue with the design or implementation of this feature. It looks great.
My issue is that Xero has made a conscious decision to reach out to my customers by default on this release and provide them with a new service on my behalf without asking me.
I was not given an opportunity to introduce this to my customers, document the process, communicate the new process internally or decide if it will improve my customer’s overall experience.
What if an invoice is sent when payments have not been reconciled? What if a customer calls to ask how to use the system and our people don’t even know about it? What if we already have a portal for our customers to check on orders and invoices?
Imagine if Rackspace contacted me about a new service to improve my interaction with Xero and invited me to sign in to their portal.
I’m happy to see that this can easily be turned off. My issue is purely the fact it was set by default in the latest release.

Nigel
2 October 2012 #

There’s a pretty strong consensus here that Xero have overstepped a line. I imagine only a small proportion of the 100,000 Xero customers read and post here – and suspect those that do are the most pro Xero. And if we feel used and inconvenienced how are the other customers?

I have to explain to some of my customers very carefully how to access an emailed PDF invoice. This is not going to make things easier or better.

I think it’s time for an on/off switch for the feature whilst it gets refined – and for a Tim Cook / Apple Maps moment.

Ashley
2 October 2012 #

I think it’s a great start. I would really like to see descriptions in there though. Are there any plans?

Philip Bridgen
2 October 2012 #

I sadly have to agree with all the comments above, that Xero got ahead of themselves by introducing the Online Invoices feature without really thinking the implementation through properly and *from the clients’ (practitioners) perspective*. I would double-underline and bold those words within the asterisks if I could! I am really disappointed with Xero’s behaviour: 1. rushing the implementation without proper thought and, especially, without fully consulting practitioners on the procedures involved; 2. making the user experience look like a blatant Xero marketing exercise that is confusing to ordinary users; and 3. so far apparently not being prepared to admit they have stuffed up significantly – @Nigel “a Tim Cook / Apple Maps moment.”

James R
2 October 2012 #

Actually I take some of my comment back. I can’t work out how to remove the link on the email? Is this possible? To rub salt into the wound this invoice update occurred at our busiest time of month for sending invoices. Can someone please explain how to remove the link from the email? We really need to send out our invoices today.

Luke Rooney
2 October 2012 #

+1 vote for eWay integration w/ pay now feature

Ray
2 October 2012 #

Awesome features! My feedback…

- Remove login features for customers. No need and just complicates things.

- Definitely need email templates asap. (mail almost looks like spam)

- Fresh new invoice templates to choose and tweak. Sure you can create and customise (and we’re designers btw) but I know it can be a hassle for average Joe.

- Possible to include direct internet banking / online credit card payment? Probably the best feature to have. Customers will love it and we’ll get paid faster.

- Lastly, listen to your customers… : )

Ray
2 October 2012 #

^^^^
PS. Regarding direct internet banking / online credit card payment..
I don’t mean using third party, I actually mean creating and embedding into system somehow???

For me to dream I guess…

Nick Crossman
2 October 2012 #

I agree with all others who say that Xero has crossed the line here. Listen Xero, we PAY YOU to supply us with an accounting service, and that means that you don’t get to brand my invoice or harvest my clients for your business – I’ll refer you if I want to. The online invoice idea is great, but seriously, you have to sign in to Xero to manage it ? you could white label it for us. Option to turn off would be the least you could roll out ASAP. I’m not buying the tracking argument either, this could be achieved within the URL link.

Also, the second image is a little dis-ingeniousness. Unless you personalise the invoice message, this is what you get in an email body
“View your bill online: https://in.xero.com/…”.

My raving of Xero has just dropped down a peg or two after this episode.

Matt Green
2 October 2012 #

“the primary objective is to get your invoices paid quicker and easier”

Clearly the secondary objective is eyeballs on Xero and using our network of customers to increase your market share.

I expect this behaviour from Facebook but not my accounting software. Paid cloud solutions rely on consumer trust. This change makes me question whether you take your role in my business seriously.

I’m pro the overall concept but the implementation and compulsion is flawed.

Invoicing is not an advertising channel for Xero. I don’t pay a monthly fee for you to spam my customers on my behalf. I don’t expect to see Xero branding/sign-ups anywhere on any invoice unless you are giving me a cut of the fees when they sign up.

I cannot believe you opted all your customers into this, and then worse, left them no way to disable it.

Email templates sound promising but there is no hint that this will allow for complete removal of Online Invoicing. Can you please clear that up?

There’s an simple solution to win my trust back: Add a tick box for “Send as Online Invoice” under “Mark as Sent”.

Mark Stuart
3 October 2012 #

Very Good. Worldpay payment gateway please!!!!

Peter Spencer
3 October 2012 #

If a customer of mine signs-up for Xero because of all this branding, logging-in etc, what is my cut of their subscription? :-)

Dan Gerard
3 October 2012 #

Hmmm. Xero I think the consensus is right on this. You have overstepped the mark and undone a lot of your previously good work on this one. People should switch to Xero because it is a genuinely good product at a good price. However you’re overtly trying to get people to sign up by stepping in between a business (your customer) and their customer by introducing your brand when they send their invoices. Clearly this should be an option, and the option should be turned off initially, and YOUR customer who has paid for Xero should have the option to turn on this feature if they want. I’d also suggest a lack of user acceptance testing in this process, which for an online based company is a touch lax. Personally I’d have thought Xero would introduce some of the features that customers have actually been asking for such as Invoice EMAIL TEMPLATES! Hey guys, it’s not too late to back down and introduce an opt out function.

Jonathan Rata
3 October 2012 #

You could build a footnote into the live statement that states when the bank is reconciled up to? That would give a quick indication of how up to date the statement is.

Josh
4 October 2012 #
Boston
5 October 2012 #

Would love to have Stripe as an alternative to PayPal! Great to hear you’re considering it.

Michael T
5 October 2012 #

why not add a field in the Customer’s details data fields to indicate preferred way of invoicing for each customer : online or snail mail?
then the process can still be automated

Rod Drury
5 October 2012 #

@Stewart, you have always been able to manually print the invoice to email directly or print and mail. We haven’t changed that.

We did get the automate include of the Online Invoicing URL right and are changing that as soon as we can. http://blog.xero.com/2012/10/sorry-we-scared-the-horses/

Cheers

Rod

jon
5 October 2012 #

Idea great, introduction a real let down and the typical MAJOR flaw of using an online based system. It is really annoying to appear on the first line of an email I have written. It should at be optional, nice bit of free advertising for xero until it is though…

Feature request… I would like to mask the url

Tony
6 October 2012 #

With some more refinement and controls this is going to be a great addition…my wish list would incl; a more integrated invoice/statement view would help payments, multiple contact/email send addresses in the contact record to speed up approvals, scheduled statements and reminders based on easily defined rules, flexibility to better manage online payment options and early payment discounts

Selina
26 October 2012 #

I would like to be able to ‘Pay Now’ direct with our bank (Bendigo Bank) merchant facility and cut out the middle guys all together. Can we pay to have this set up or can we be given access to necessary coding to allow one of our own developers able to do this?

Craig Walker
27 October 2012 #

@Selina We are going to be offering more gateway solutions in the near future. However these will be generic gateways to begin with. We may be able to allow you to add a custom url that’s not a true gateway integration (this would allow you to direct your customer to a merchant gateway) – this is not something we’ve specifically talked about. We’ll keep that in mind (the biggest barrier to that is that we wouldn’t want that url to be hijacked into a spamming, phishing or other style of attack). Another approach would be to allow payment gateways to be set up through our API in some way. So that’s not a no – but we want to add more generic gateway options first.

Rhiannon
3 December 2012 #

I dislike this feature and want to be able to have the option to select a PDF only option in the repeating invoices. This selection was introduced, however not for repeating invoices. When can we expect to be able to select PDF only option for repeating invoices?

Philip Fierlinger
3 December 2012 #

@Rhiannon that’s scheduled for the next release.

Mandi
6 February 2013 #

Integration with SwipeHQ would be vunderbar!

Tevya
5 March 2013 #

I know I’m late to comment, but Stripe integration might just get us to switch from Wave to Xero. Their invoicing is integrated with Stripe. But otherwise it seems Xero is easier to use and less-based in traditional accounting.

Amitaf
17 April 2013 #

Paypal Pro integration would be great. It would provide our clients with a seamless credit card payment experience.

Cassandra
23 April 2013 #

Chiming in to add a request for integration with Authorize.net, or more ideally with Stripe! This is the last thing keeping us from being able to switch over – we refuse to work with PayPal.

Dustin
10 May 2013 #

Please add Stripe payments. They’re the best processor and have the easiest integration path.

As soon as you have that, we can cancel Freshbooks. :)

James Grimsey
31 May 2013 #

Catastrophic that paying through Paypal means you can’t mark the invoice as paid, or did I just get that wrong, this doesn’t seem like it can be rocket science, wasn’t this available before?

Luke Rooney
3 June 2013 #

the co-branding on the invoicing should be optional… i’ve had a couple of customers say to me ” I don’t want to JOIN xero just to pay the invoice” …or they have to ‘investigate’ if they are in the right webpage to pay the bill & are confused when MY branding is nowhere to be found…hmm

Anthony Nelson
11 July 2013 #

Hi, can I ask where worldpay API is in the work stack for Zero?

Charlie Ramirez
3 September 2013 #

Hi. I was wondering if you were contemplating integration with authorize.net

Thanks!

Martin
29 December 2013 #

Actually the so called reason that a trustworthy brand/domain has to be used is exactly why xero should not interfere

My customer trust my domain and my logo, so if the real goal was trust and getting paid more quickly then we would be able to use our logo instead of xero and be able to mask the xero URL into our own via DNS or a cool trick.

Anyway I love xero, just started with it, but was reading and surprised that the explanation was that they wanted to create trust with our customers by presenting them a logo and website they may never have heard about, and what’re not expecting to see when reading an email from me

Martin
29 December 2013 #

Oh…… I would love integration with multisafepay and (no payments). Basecamp

We use the WHMCS plugin so we are covered for now

Martin
3 February 2014 #

Why are we not able to use this function for statements sent out, I.e. If a customer wants to settle 3 invoices at once and doesn’t want to click on each invoice to enter payment details each time. Imagine the inconvenience of 5+ invoices?

Andrew Tokeley
3 February 2014 #

@Martin – when your customers receive an online invoice they can select to see all outstanding invoices (link at the top left of the invoice) and pay them all in one go. While you can’t send an online statement directly from Xero you could resend any one of the outstanding invoices, include the online invoice link, and write something into the body of the email to let them know how to view and pay all invoices in one go – you could even set this up as a standard “slow payers” email template :-)

Will
18 February 2014 #

Hey shouldn’t the invoice be marked as “paid” after a customer pays throughout he invoice? Im using paypal and after three invoices I have yet to see a “paid” update. Otherwise great feature! Love Xero!

Rebecca
3 May 2014 #

Hello,
our company has just switched to xero and we are having some problems with emailing invoices to our customers. When we email directly out of xero the email will entails the name xero which let’s customers know that we are using this system. To avoid that we download the PDF and email it out of outlook which creates unnecessary steps. Is there anyway to avoid the issue?

Catherine
3 May 2014 #

@Will – yes this would be sensible and in fact that’s how Xero works with other payment services. Right now the PayPal integration is missing this and the ‘paid’ point is once you apply the funds received via your bank feed to the invoice.

@Rebecca – you can change the name that appears as the ‘From’ name on emails you send as well as the ‘Reply-to’ email address that a customer might respond back to. Here’s how to make these changes in our Help Center.

Ken
5 June 2014 #

This is a great feature, I am currently in the free trial mode before I decide on making the switch. Are there plans so that the invoice URL can be a custom domain? I am wondering why it doesn’t exist already. I would think you could do something like bit.ly has done with custom domain usage. The less I have to display another website/brand during my customer interactions, the better.

Denise
4 September 2014 #

Once a customer receives their invoice, will the customer be about to pay a partial amount towards the invoice?

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