In this series, we’ve covered the basics of usage-based pricing, consumption-based pricing models for enterprises and how to approach overages. In this next installment, we explore how effective billing strategies can significantly impact revenue growth, customer satisfaction and overall business success.  

By aligning billing practices with customer usage patterns, software as a service (SaaS) companies can optimize cash flow, improve revenue recognition, enhance upsell and cross-sell opportunities, and build stronger customer relationships. This article will cover key strategies, including various billing options and the role of automation.

Billing strategies and considerations

The most basic SaaS billing structures are time-based, with monthly, quarterly and annual billing options — each with its own set of advantages and drawbacks. 




MonthlySteady cash flow, aligns with budgeting practices Additional billing process for both vendor and customers 
Quarterly Predictable revenue, aligns with reporting cycles Delayed cash flow, complex tracking 
AnnualStable revenue, long-term commitments Requires up-front customer investment, may not reflect actual usage 

In the context of consumption-based pricing models, these traditional time-based cycles can still apply, but the impact on revenue fluctuations and cash flow becomes more pronounced due to variable usage patterns. The right billing model will depend on customer preference and need.

Real-time billing

This model charges customers based on their usage in real time. Revenue is tied directly to how much the customer uses the service at any given moment. While this ensures highly accurate billing that reflects actual usage, it can be complex to implement and may confuse customers not used to seeing variable charges. Real-time billing requires robust systems to track and bill usage as it occurs.

Volume-based/tiered billing

Credit-based billing

This approach provides customers with a flexible way to manage their usage. Customers purchase credits up front, which they can use as needed. This model helps smooth out fluctuations in usage and spending, allowing customers to budget more effectively. However, it requires robust systems to manage and track the usage of credits and ensure that they are applied correctly. Credit-based billing can be advantageous for customers that prefer to prepay for services and use them over time at their own pace.

Hybrid billing approach

Many enterprises adopt a hybrid billing approach that blends aspects of time-based and usage-based models to balance predictability with precise consumption tracking. Common hybrid structures include:

  • Annual or multiyear subscription commitments with a defined baseline usage, supplemented by additional metered usage charges
  • Monthly billing with tiered flat-rate pricing bands based on usage levels, updated each cycle based on the previous month’s consumption

Renewal options

A further consideration is renewal options. Automatic renewals with opt-out clauses streamline billing and reduce churn by ensuring continuous service. Offering renewal incentives such as discounts or additional features can encourage long-term commitments. Flexibility in renewal terms and proactive engagement by customer success teams help address changing customer needs and enhance satisfaction.

Sales rep incentivization

Aligning sales incentives with billing cycles is crucial in consumption-based pricing models. Effective strategies include tiered commissions to reward initial contract value and ongoing revenue growth and multiyear contract sales performance incentive funds for securing longer commitments. Other strategies to consider include retention bonuses linked to customer satisfaction and thoughtfully balanced quotas for new and existing account growth.

Customer relationships and billing flexibility

While internal strategies such as sales incentivization are essential for growth, maintaining strong customer relationships is equally critical. Enterprise-level relationships require transparency and flexibility.  

Transparency can be achieved by providing real-time consumption metrics through detailed reporting and dashboards. Automating customer touchpoints such as activations, upgrades and payments further ensures a seamless experience. Additional support helps deepen the customer relationship, including:

  • Flexible contracts with penalty-free adjustments to scale usage up or down
  • Transparent per-unit pricing with the ability to roll over unused credits
  • Dedicated customer success managers

Efficiently executing these tactics at scale requires a centralized, automated billing platform. These platforms seamlessly manage the complexities of flexible contracts, pricing permutations, rollover credits and more.

Automation and future trends

Automation and technology are crucial in SaaS billing, enabling efficient, accurate and compliant processes that enhance customer satisfaction and internal efficiency. Key technologies and popular examples include:

Several emerging trends will shape the future landscape. Predictive analytics and machine learning will enable accurate forecasting of customer usage and costs, while blockchain and smart contracts may revolutionize billing processes with automated, secure transactions.

Regulatory changes, such as data privacy and financial reporting standards, will influence billing practices, as will customer demand for flexibility and transparency. Providers may need to offer more diverse options such as prepaid plans and hybrid models to keep up with evolving preferences.  

Navigating billing in an evolving landscape

Developing an effective billing strategy is crucial for enterprise SaaS success. By understanding billing options, aligning sales incentives, prioritizing customer relationships and leveraging automation and technology, SaaS companies can optimize revenue, ensure compliance and drive customer satisfaction.  

To discuss how L.E.K. Consulting can help devise enterprise-specific billing strategies for your dynamic subscription business, contact us.

L.E.K. Consulting is a registered trademark of L.E.K. Consulting LLC. All other products and brands mentioned in this document are properties of their respective owners. © 2024 L.E.K. Consulting LLC 

Navigating Consumption-Based Pricing Models for Enterprise Customers
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