2017 AP Customer Service Survey Results: Staff Organization, Policies and Metrics

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.


Staff Organization

When asked how participants handle their customer service, 32% responded that inquiries go to staff members who handle the processing of those invoices, 26% are emailed to a dedicated email box, 21% said that the AP staff takes turns answering inquiries as part of their job, 11% responded that there is a dedicated staff who handle only invoice inquiries and 10% answered other.


In comparison to last year’s results, there was a drop in the number of respondents who said that AP staff takes turns answering inquiries as part of their job from 46% to 21%. This year, 26% of respondents said that inquiries go to a dedicated email box compared to 19% last year.


Of those that replied “Other,” many commented that they use a combination of all of the options offered. Here are some interesting responses:

  • Call center for calls and ticket system for emails
  • A help-desk team handles all AP inquiries that the portal cannot answer
  • External vendors call their business contact or the shared service customer service team but calls are very rare
  • Each vendor has a dedicated AP staff member that handles their account so the vendor always has the same AP contact name and number

For those participants that have a dedicated staff handling invoice inquiries, 77% of the respondents had between 1-5 employees dedicated to handling inquiries — down from 85% last year.


Customer Service Policies 

Of those participants that responded to whether their company has a policy about how long staff has to research and turn around a response to inquiries, 48% responded that they do have a policy and 52% do not.


Of those that do have a policy, the clear majority (55%) requires a response within one day with one-third required to respond within two days.


Customer Service Metrics

When asked if metrics are tracked for customer service inquiries, 12% responded yes while 88% said no. Of those that do track metrics 100% said that they track how many invoices are inquired upon, 92% track the average length of an inquire call or email response and 85% track the average, fully weighted cost of an AP staffer to handle inquiries.


Of those that do track customer service inquiry metrics, 16% of respondents have revenue less than $1 billion and 84% have revenues above $1 billion. Clearly size is dependent on tracking.


It is surprising that most departments do not track the cost of providing accounts payable customer service. Since it’s standard operating procedure to measure on-time payment and cost per invoice, one could argue that handling invoice inquiries should be broken-out when calculating cost-per-invoice.