Customer Service: A Core Competency for Accounts Payable - Financial Operations Network
Outstanding "customer service" leads to vendor satisfaction and loyalty. Poor customer service can cause significant damage to the company’s reputation. Tracking service metrics within your AP department can help.
vendor relations, AP customer service, metrics
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Customer Service: A Core Competency for Accounts Payable

Customer Service: A Core Competency for Accounts Payable

By: Chris Doxey, Consultant

Customer service is defined as the assistance and advice provided by a company to those people who buy or use its products or services.

Customer service can also be defined in terms of the relationship between the customer and the company or service provider.

It is the act of taking care of the customer’s needs by providing and delivering professional, helpful, high-quality service and assistance before, during and after the customer’s requirements are met. Accounts Payable has customers and provides customer service internally (within the company) and externally (to vendors).

In AP, the customer service process is driven by questions related to the financial status of a transaction and the relationship between a vendor and the company that pays it. Many questions focus on payment status, issue of a credit or the status of a product shipment or return. Other questions might address issues about onboarding.

Outstanding customer service leads to both customer satisfaction and loyalty. Poor customer service can cause significant damage to the company’s, the department’s and individual’s reputation. In today’s world of social media, one is able to communicate a personal experience with poor customer service immediately.

As a best practice, outstanding AP customer service is consistent with adherence to high service levels for both internal and external customers. Historically, providing outstanding AP customer service has required trained, skilled staff. But it can be challenging to find and keep people who can provide both great customer service and deliver excellent AP processing productivity. As many experienced accounts payable leaders will attest, the skillsets required to be a great AP staffer are different from those required to deliver great customer service, and finding both skillsets in one person can be a tough job.

As a result, many AP departments have established goals of implementing an AP self-service portal where vendors can get immediate answers to payment status and new vendors can be onboarded. This approach also helps ensure that correct and consistent answers are given and accurate information is collected.

Implementing customer service metrics within your AP department can help you ascertain whether a self-service portal can help your AP department reduce costs and improve productivity. Below you will find a series of metrics to help you determine the state of your customer service process and to see the potential impact of an accounts payable vendor self-service portal.

Developing a monthly customer service scorecard can help AP track the real issues and focus on root-cause analysis. Your scorecard can be incorporated into a set of operating metrics. This approach will help communicate and track all the services that AP provides.

AP Customer Service Metrics

1. General Customer Service

  • Number of AP Staff Supporting Customer Service
  • Number of Calls (Call Volume)
  • — Cost Per Resolved Call
    — Calls Answered
    — Calls Abandoned
    — Average Wait Time

  • Number of Queries (Email, Via Website)
  • — Cost Per Resolved Query

  • Percentage of Vendors Using Customer Service Website

2. Customer Service Query Analysis

  • Percentage of External Vendor Payment Status
  • — Payment Information Provided
    — Invoice Not Received
    — Duplicate Invoice
    — Credit Memo Problem

  • Percentage of Internal Company Payment Status
  • — Queries by Business Unit
    — Emergency Payment Requests

3. Vendor Master Maintenance Issues

  • W-8 and W-9
  • Compliance Screening
  • Incorrect Tax Information
  • Invalid Address
  • Invalid Phone Number
  • Invalid Email Address
  • Duplicate Vendor

Conclusion 

High transaction volumes, increased levels of operational complexity and an often diverse range of AP processes and systems make managing AP operations challenging. AP executives and professionals are often focused on internal controls and regulatory compliance. If resources are scarce, AP customer service can be overlooked until there is a crisis. Defining customer service as a core competency for the AP process can provide recurring benefits for cost savings and process improvements with the proper tools, approach and metrics

To see how InvoiceInfo’s self-service solutions can benefit your operations and your company click here to request more information or call (678) 335-5735.



Stop Calls and Emails, Enhance
Service and Increase Profit!

InvoiceInfo saves labor hours and cost by helping suppliers and internal staff easily and instantly get answers online to their invoice-payment questions.

If you are like many finance leaders today, you are being challenged to reduce costs more quickly. InvoiceInfo delivers real bottom-line results almost immediately, allowing you to deploy your customer service staff to focus on more productive, bottom-line oriented tasks.

Let us show you how InvoiceInfo's vendor self-service portal can help your organization eliminate invoice inquiry emails and calls while enhancing service to your accounts payable customers.

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Get Up and Running Quickly and Seamlessly

InvoiceInfo and VendorInfo are standalone applications that can be up and running in as little as two weeks, with little or no IT resources required.

The faster your online portal is up and running, the sooner you will start reaping the benefits. InvoiceInfo and VendorInfo are dedicated solely to helping AP and procurement departments slash the time and expense of servicing vendors, while improving customer service for their suppliers.

InvoiceInfo and VendorInfo are simple solutions with big results. They are easy to implement and easy to use. Here’s how one customer described the process: “You give vendors a URL, provide instructions about what they need to know and tell them to go use it.” It really is that easy.

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Improve Productivity with a Self-Service Solution

For most organizations, deploying a technology solution is a significant investment, and like most investments, the decision point ultimately comes down to the expected return on that investment.

According to a recent benchmark study by The Accounts Payable Network, 60% of AP customer service calls are from vendors while 40% are from internal customers. Vendor issues actually make up even more of the AP call volume than the 60% identified. Many times when a vendor has an issue, the vendor contacts their buyer or purchasing representative, who in turn contacts AP. Even though the call comes from an internal customer, the question originated with the vendor.

Vendor calls affect productivity in your organization exponentially. When vendors call the requisitioner, they are affecting that person’s productivity. Your internal customer’s productivity shrinks when fielding the vendor’s call and again when making the follow up call to AP and getting back to the vendor. Finally, AP’s productivity suffers as a result of the internal customer’s call, the payment status research and the follow-up communication.

With a minimal investment of IT time and talent, you can start reducing customer service calls and expense in a matter of weeks. In addition, you improve vendor relations since you are giving your vendors what they want — answers to their questions immediately — a win-win for everyone involved!

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Easy and Economical Solution to Serve Vendors Around the World

InvoiceInfo can help you provide best-in-class customer service to your vendors around the world at a fraction of the cost.

Many organizations today have offices and operations throughout the world and are dealing with many time zones, different languages, and in some cases multiple ERP systems. InvoiceInfo currently supports different languages and can easily work with multiple ERP systems in different locations.

The key to good customer service is to provide the information that the customer wants when they want it. Whether your customer is a vendor waiting for a payment or a colleague that needs information on payment status, they want their information right away. If your organization has vendors and offices in other countries, they can be challenging and expensive to serve. But, with InvoiceInfo, your international vendors and internal customers can access the information they need when they need it.

With InvoiceInfo, you won’t have to staff your customer service team with 24-hour coverage in multiple languages to provide high-quality customer service around the world.

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Enhance AP’s Role As a Strategic Partner

Learn how InvoiceInfo can help AP do more with less while continuously improving productivity and bottom-line results.

Many automation technologies such as scanning, workflow, e-invoicing, ACH, and electronic invoicing require significant investments of money, time and talent, making it difficult to get buy-in from upper management. Not InvoiceInfo!

If your goal for your AP department is to reduce costs quickly, call or email us today to learn more about how InvoiceInfo can help you achieve this goal through a quick, inexpensive and easy implementation of a vendor self-service portal.

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Enhance Vendor Relationships

InvoiceInfo helps suppliers’ AR departments with simple and convenient access to invoice payment status online at a cost savings for all involved.

It may seem that the organization paying the vendor should hold all the cards in the relationship. But sometimes the opposite is true. Past-due payments and customer service perceptions can harm supplier relationships and disrupt the supply chain.

Your vendors and vendor relationship managers are living in a dynamic, fast-paced environment, so when invoice information is required, it is needed quickly and expected to be of high quality. With InvoiceInfo, your suppliers get answers to invoice inquiries real time, 24/7 with no need to leave messages and wait for responses. Studies show that confidence in data increases when suppliers access invoice and payment information themselves.

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Give Procurement and Buyers the Tool They
Need to Respond to Vendors Quickly

Not only can InvoiceInfo be used by suppliers to learn the status of invoice payments, it can also be used internally within your organization.

In addition to reducing calls from vendors regarding invoice status, you can also reduce internal emails and calls from co-workers wanting to learn the status of invoice payment, and save time and effort and boost efficiency and productivity across the organization. Studies show that 40% of AP customer service calls are from internal customers. Many of these are from requisitioners who have received calls or emails from the supplier checking on payment status. These calls are often more expensive for the company because the internal staff member has taken the call or received an email from the supplier, contacted AP for the payment status and had to return the call or email the supplier.

By providing the vendor with a convenient and credible online option to get the answers it needs regarding payment status, you can eliminate multiple calls/emails between the vendor and the requisitioner saving time and money.

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Eliminate Difficult Vendor Calls and See
Productivity and Staff Morale Soar

Reduce invoice payment inquiries and “promote” your vendor service team to more satisfying and profit-producing tasks.

By sharply reducing inbound calls and emails regarding receipt and payment status that your AP staff must handle individually, your staff can focus their efforts on more productive, cost-saving activities, learn new tasks, feel more confident and boost their careers.

According to a recent American Express survey on customer service, more than one-third of consumers have lost their temper with a customer service professional in the past year. Of those who lost their temper, three in ten “hung up the phone.” Your staff will no longer have to deal with difficult collectors who can be upsetting and disruptive. Your staff will feel that their time and talents are being put to better use and will feel better about themselves, their jobs and their organization. Reducing these calls can be a real productivity and morale booster for your AP department!

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Simplify and Streamline Vendor Onboarding

According to Price Waterhouse Coopers, the average organization spends about $20 in labor to file each paper document, approximately $120 in labor searching for each misfiled document and $220 in re-creation of a document.

Wouldn’t it be great to have all your W-9’s, W-8’s and other registration documents completed online and instantly filed online for easy access when needed? With Vendor Self-Service Onboarding Module, VendorInfo, you can onboard your new vendors in one convenient location and eliminate paperwork and hassles.

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Verify the Accuracy of Vendor Information and Stay in Compliance with IRS and Treasury Department Regulations

Government regulators are increasing the complexity of regulations and penalties associated with vendor-related non-compliance.

Penalties for incorrect 1099’s have more than doubled in recent years. Over the last several years, OFAC has levied more than $1 billion in fines against American companies or subsidiaries that did business with restricted businesses, organizations and individuals on its SDN list. In addition to fining these companies, the Treasury Department posts the names of infringing organizations along with fines paid.

VendorInfo Onboarding Module verifies the accuracy of vendor information and helps protect your organization by avoiding embarrassing penalties and fines.

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