Here at Billforward, we take a long term approach to customer success. That means making sure that we can solve our customers’ billing problems before we try and sell our solution to them. If the fit is not right, we would rather not waste both our and that customer’s time.
So let’s see how Chargebee stacks up against Billforward…
Depending on your goals and where you are trying to take your subscription strategy, both Chargebee and Billforward can offer a powerful platform for managing subscriptions, billing and invoicing.
Both are full featured and reasonably priced (we’d like to think!), however, when you look under the hood there are important differences that would make one or the other more suitable for your business.
Chargebee has great market presence and will often be the first subscription platform that a SaaS company will find and use. It is easy to get up and running, has a great feature set and supports the majority of basic use cases – with a focus on SaaS.
Billforward is more geared towards longer established companies in a broader range of industries, and those that are coming out of the start-up phase and growing rapidly. The flexibility that Billforward offers can sometimes allow companies to differentiate themselves in ways that Chargebee cannot support.
API-first – or not!
One of the key differences between the two platforms is the use of API’s. Whilst both use API’s, Billfoward’s platform is “API-first”, which means it is designed with the goal of primarily allowing customers to connect via the API. Chargebee also has an API but this does not give access to all the functionality of the platform and a lot of Chargebee’s functionality is only accessible through the UI.
Bottom line – although Charbebee has several out-of the-box integrations with CRM and accounting packages, not being API-first means that depending on what other software you are using in your backend, you may end up needing to do time-consuming server-side development work to implement Chargebee.
Ease of Use
Chargebee has a comprehensive UI which allows you to access every feature of the platform. This is great for less technical users, however, the trade off is that some customers have reported that it is confusing and basic stuff is hard to do.
Billforward has trodden a fine line between keeping the UI simple and intuitive, and giving access to enough functionality. The flip side of this is that the Billforward UI only gives users access to the most commonly used functions. Billforward’s solution is to have a well written API which gives you access to all the other features on the back end.
Both approaches have their advantages, but if you already have a core software platform, which most of your team use, you will want to be able manage your billing and subscriptions without having to log in to your billing provider’s UI.
Both platforms have a full feature set that covers a large range of what you would expect from a billing platform; subscription management, billing and invoicing, multi-period contracts, support with multiple payment gateways, reporting and analytics, and revenue recognition.
However, there are some key differences which could make one or the other platform a better fit;
Self-Service Portal – Chargebee has a hosted customer self-service portal. This means, your customers can add, edit, pause, cancel subscriptions and manage payment methods and their shipping/billing address. Billforward’s checkout solution runs in the background as an addition to your current check out flow, so you get to keep your brand’s look and feel, while benefiting from the added functionalities of a billing platform.
Account Hierarchy – Chargebee gives you the ability to create an organizational structure of your customers by their line of business or geography or a chain of outlets. It allows you to establish a parent-child relationship among your customers.
There are also a few features that Billforward offers that are not available in Chargebee;
Affiliate marketplace – this feature allows you to link one account in Billforward with another. This can be used in two ways – first for keeping track of internal sales team commissions or resellers if you have (or are planning to have them). It can also be used for managing a loyalty scheme – by calculating rewards for one customer based on the value of purchases of another.
Aggregation – multiple subscriptions can be aggregated into a single customer invoice. This is essential for enterprise customers, where multiple subscriptions may be starting and finishing in the same billing period and accurate pro-rata invoices need to be calculated.
Units of time – Billforward supports a billing cycle down to a single second and up to multiple years – Chargebee only supports day, week, month and year.
Coupons and Discounts – although Chargebee offers some coupon features, Billforward takes the concept a few steps further and really allows you to leverage the many different ways that discounting can be used to drive sales.
For example –
- Do you want different discounts for different subscription components?
- Do you want to limit the number of times a coupon can be redeemed?
- Do you want to give each coupon a unique code?
- Do you want the coupon to apply a percentage, fixed amount or service in kind?
It may be that you don’t need this level of granular control, but if you do, the high level of flexibility offered by Billforward could be important.
Customer Support and Aftercare
As you would expect for a company with a large number of small SMB customers, Chargebee’s support model is mainly self-service. They have a comprehensive set of user documentation and FAQs, however for all but enterprise customers the only active support channel is chat.
Billforward takes a more hands on approach to support. All customers are automatically given a Slack channel, which gives them direct access into the Billforward dev team, as well as a dedicated Customer Success Manager.
So – which platform is best for me?
That really depends on your strategy and what direction you want to take your product. If you are sticking with a relatively straightforward subscription, in a B2C or B2B context, where you do not expect to go much outside a standard monthly recurring invoice – then Chargebee would be a good fit.
If you expect to do something a little bit different, like usage-based or pay-as-you-go billing or have more than one element to what you offer, and you think you might need some help getting these set up, you would be better off going for Billforward.