Financial Operations Networks and InvoiceInfo conducted the 2nd annual survey on AP Customer Service Best Practices. The survey looked at how organizations handle invoice inquiries, vendor onboarding, customer service metrics and self-service portals. The survey results reveal challenges, best practices, processes and tips for improved customer experiences.
Following is an overview of the survey results. More details will be revealed over the next few months.
- When asked how AP customer service is handled, 31.7% responded that the questions go to staff members who handle processing of invoices; 26.1% said emails go to a dedicated email box; 20.5% responded that AP staff takes turns answering inquiries; and 11.2% have a dedicated team to answer inquiries. The trend this year is that more inquiries are going to a dedicated email box.
- When asked what are the most common inquiries received from vendors and internal colleagues, the clear winner was “Has my invoice been paid?” followed by “When will my invoice be paid?” Coming in a distant third was “Has my invoice been received?”
- The majority of organizations that responded (52%) do not have a customer service policy stating how long staff has to research and turn around a response to inquiries.
- Of those that do have a policy, the majority of respondents (55%) have a policy that requires response within one day and 33% are required to respond within two days.
- Only 12% of participants track customer service inquiries. Of those, 100% track how many invoices are inquired upon, 92.3% track the average length of inquiry calls or email responses and 87% track the average, fully weighted cost of an AP staffer to handle inquiries.
- Only 17.5% of participants responded that they have a vendor self-service portal (up from 16% last year) to handle invoice inquiries.
- In making the decision to implement an online self-service portal, the most important factors considered included: Reduce phone calls and emails, move the focus from employees handling inquiries to more productive tasks, provide 24/7 customer service and reduce cost (in that order).
- The clear majority (91.7%) believes that invoice inquiries from vendors and internal staff are distracting for AP staff members. This is up from 68% last year — a 23.7% increase in one year.
- Tracking customer service metrics is not that popular among survey participants. For those that do have a portal, only 31% track how satisfied their customers are with it, which is slightly down from last year’s results. Of those, 75% are extremely satisfied, which is up 5% from last year.
- Only 37.5% of the survey participants that have implemented a portal track to what degree automation reduced the number of vendor and internal inquiries, which is up 2.5% from last year.
- For those participants that do not currently have a portal, 47% have no plans to implement one, while 27% are considering a portal within the next two to five years and 9% are looking to implement one within the next year.
- The vast majority of participants believe that an online self-service portal can deliver the same or better customer service as a live person.