Vendor Self-Service Portals: A Win-Win for Both AP Departments and Vendors - Financial Operations Network
Basic vendor inquiries, such as payment status and answering vendors’ calls and emails can use up as much as 24% of a P2P staffer’s time. But vendors can’t be faulted for wanting to know when they will be paid …
Vendor Inquiry, vendor self-service, vendor portal
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Vendor Self-Service Portals: A Win-Win for Both AP Departments and Vendors

Vendor Self-Service Portals: A Win-Win for Both AP Departments and Vendors

Introduction

Is responding to supplier calls and emails taking up valuable staff time?  Studies have shown that dealing with basic supplier inquiries, such as payment status and answering suppliers’ calls and emails can use up to as much as 24% of a staff member’s time.

Answering and researching vendor calls and emails is often a time-consuming and labor-intensive task. Whether vendors are calling to ask if an invoice has been received or where it is in the payment process, these calls and emails take staff away from other tasks. In addition, they disrupt what the staff member was doing when they were interrupted, which can cause errors to occur in invoice processing. When the caller is upset that an invoice has not been paid and is unpleasant, productivity and morale suffer.

Suppliers can’t be faulted for wanting to know when they will be paid. And, it is usually AP’s job to provide customer service between their company and their suppliers, as well as playing an important role in managing the relationships with those suppliers. But, implementing technology to replace the calls and emails can save costs, headaches and increase productivity.

This report will explain how a vendor self-service portal, sometimes called Interactive Web Response (IWR), can answer vendor inquiries themselves, saving staff time, money and errors.

What Is IWR or a Vendor Self-Service Portal?

IWR or vendor self-service portals are designed to allow vendors to access data regarding the payment status of their invoices via the Internet. The vendor logs in remotely to check on invoice receipt, payment information and other data online without having to call or email.

Types of Vendor Self-Service Portals

There are three ways to facilitate self-service portals: Build it in-house; buy a module as part of your ERP or AP automation suite or use a specialized provider.

  1. Build It In-House. The build (and maintain) it internally version requires significant IT resources that are often hard to come by. If your company is like many others, the AP department struggles to get IT resources and the concept of a self-service portal often does not rise to the top of their list of priorities – since it takes time and talent away from other critical business initiatives. Companies see the benefits of no required capital investment and cost savings of an internally built portal and push to get IT resources. They often end up with changing IT priorities that impact IT’s availability for the project and it doesn’t always turn out as expected. On top of that, portals need to be maintained which can take more time and effort than anticipated and take IT away from other projects.
  2. Vendor Portal as Part of a Full Suite. Many ERP suites, accounts payable automation and workflow solution providers have a module for vendor portals as part of their software services, which can be licensed separately. These ERP systems are primarily designed for AP departments to get invoices processed and paid on time and accurately. Often the invoice query module is a feature that can be complex to activate, inflexible and expensive. The user might find high upfront costs of licensing and set-up fees. Upgrades and new releases can also be expensive. These companies to date have not found the benefit in marketing or selling this feature as a stand-alone product. The benefit is that it ties into the existing ERP system.
  3. Specialized Providers. The third option is a provider that specializes in vendor self-service portals. It is their core business and they focus 100% of their efforts on building the best portal possible for their clients. These systems can be more feature rich and less expensive. The downside for some companies is that it is not part of their AP automation, although stand-alone vendor portals are designed to easily interact with ERPs, accounting and automation systems.

Benefits of Vendor Self-Service Portals

  • Sharply reduce inbound calls and emails regarding receipt and payment status that your staff previously handled personally
  • Frees up your staff for higher value assignments by transferring the costly chores of responding to vendor invoice and payment inquiries to a secure, online location where vendors can access answers themselves – quickly, conveniently and easily.
  • Reduces salaries, benefits, taxes, equipment, phone lines and more
  • Reduces inbound calls and emails and boosts productivity
  • Greatly enhances supplier services and relationships
  • Eliminates distractions from vendor calls
  • Studies show confidence in data increases when suppliers can access invoice and payment information themselves, eliminating concerns that “the check is in the mail”
  • Used by internal vendor relationship managers for inquired and invoice-related questions
  • From the suppliers point of view, gets answers to invoice inquiries real time 24/7 with no need to leave messages and wait for responses.

What to Look for in a Vendor Self-Service Portal

When making the decision of what sort of automated system you should implement, there are a number of things to consider. As a busy professional, you are balancing a lot of balls, so you want a system that is easy to implement and deploy with the fewest IT resources possible so you can get the program up and running and start reaping the benefits as quickly as possible.

An important question to ask any vendor you are talking with is how they keep invoice data separate from internal AP financial systems to ensure security of the data.

You need to do a cost justification to take to upper management to get buy-in for the technology. For example:

       Including research, response and follow-up queries, each query can take 5 to 30 minutes

       Average cost per hour ranges from $14 to $32

       Total Direct Cost = Time per query

       x Cost per hour

       x Number of queries per day

       x 250 work days per year

       = Annual Cost of Queries

So, if each query takes an average of 12 minutes to answer with an hourly cost of $23, then twenty-five queries a day costs $28,750 annually. Bottom-line savings are generated when the cost of the supplier portal is less than the savings.

Conclusion

According to a study by The Accounts Payable Network, larger organizations with 10,000+ employees are much more likely to have implemented vendor web portals. Large companies tend to have more technology in place than other organizations. Surprisingly, however, the study indicates that smaller organizations typically benefit the most from portals. While large organizations with vendor portals report a 78% reduction in customer service calls, the median organization with less than 500 employees reports an 85% reduction, according to the same study.

Implementing a vendor self-service portal helps both your department and your vendors save time and enjoy improved service at reduced cost – so everyone wins!

To see how InvoiceInfo’s vendor 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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