AP Customer Service Survey Results: Vendor Self-Service Portals - Financial Operations Network
A survey on vendor inquiries, payables “customer service” and use of vendor portals in addressing inquiries
vendor inquiry, vendor portal, vendor self-service, survey
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AP Customer Service Survey Results: Vendor Self-Service Portals

AP Customer Service Survey Results: Vendor Self-Service Portals

A best practice for accounts payable customer service is to transfer vendor invoice and payment inquiries to a supplier self-service portal where vendors can get the answers themselves — quickly and easily.

According to a recent AP Customer Service Survey conducted by Financial Operations Networks and InvoiceInfo, respondents indicated that they receive inquiries from vendors and internal colleagues about payment and approval of invoices. But surprisingly, respondents said that the most important questions asked are questions about which invoices are covered on a payment and why an invoice was short paid. For those that chose “Other,” they stated that statement reconciliation and departments inquiring about what remains on a contract or blanket purchase order to spend are common questions.

Questions like these and others can easily be answered with a vendor self-service portal, which helps to improve staff productivity and reduce cost.

Who Is Using a Self-Service Option? According to the survey, of those participating, on average only 17.5% responded that they currently have a vendor self-service portal, while 82.5% do not. For participant companies with revenue greater than $1 billion, 46.9% of respondents have a portal, which is an increase of 16.9% from last year’s survey. So it appears that the larger the organization, the more likely they are to utilize a self-service option.

Self-Service Portal Uses. Of those that do have a vendor portal, the main reason they made the decision to get a vendor portal was to reduce phone calls and emails, followed by moving the focus from employees handling inquiries to more productive tasks, to provide 24/7 customer service and fourth on the list was to reduce cost. When asked whether the handling of invoice inquiries from vendors and internal staff members is distracting for AP staff, the clear majority (91.7%) said yes, with the remaining 8.3% saying no. Those saying yes went up dramatically from last year’s survey results when 68% said that inquiries were distracting.

Surprisingly, only 43% of those that responded were motivated by cost reduction. And of those, 46% of the respondents were companies with revenue greater than $1 billion. Larger companies appear to be more focused on cost reduction as a motivator to implement a self-service portal.

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 inquiry 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.

We at InvoiceInfo are always asking AP professionals if they track customer service metrics and are always surprised that most don’t have any idea how much customer service is costing. If you asked the same questions about whether AP tracks on-time payment or cost per invoice, you would probably get a very different answer. Although, couldn’t one argue that handling invoice inquiries should be included when calculating cost-per-invoice?

Since implementing a portal, only 31% of those that have a portal track to what degree automation has helped reduce the number of vendor and internal staff emails and calls, while the majority (69%) does not.

Portal Uses. When asked what functions participants are using a self-service portal for, nearly all (96%) answered invoice payment status. Invoice submission was also popular at 56%. Other uses for a vendor self-service portal showed 36% use a portal to onboard vendors and 44% use the portal for vendors to submit W-9s.

Are Portals Considered Good Customer Service? The clear majority of participants (82%) believe that a secure, online self-service portal can deliver the same or better customer service as manually responding to calls and emails. This is up from 77% last year.

With so many benefits to AP departments, it is not surprising that 47% of the respondents plan to implement a portal within the next five years.

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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