Financial Operations Network | P2P’s Payables Customer Service Challenges
A survey from Invoice Info captures the current state of affairs in accounts payable customer service. The report looks at a number of questions and issues involved in customer service.
vendor relations, payables customer service, vendor inquiry, vendor portal
15698
post-template-default,single,single-post,postid-15698,single-format-standard,ajax_fade,page_not_loaded,,qode_grid_1300,footer_responsive_adv,hide_top_bar_on_mobile_header,qode-theme-ver-16.8,qode-theme-bridge,qode_header_in_grid,wpb-js-composer js-comp-ver-6.1,vc_responsive
 
Article

P2P’s Payables Customer Service Challenges

P2P’s Payables Customer Service Challenges

Survey Says …

A day in the life of procure-to-pay is seldom dull. Perhaps one of its livelier aspects is interaction of the payables team with its “customers,” i.e. those whom accounts payable serves internally and externally. Payables customer service is a necessary part of the job, and depending on a number of variables, can be very challenging.

A new survey from InvoiceInfo captures the current state of affairs in accounts payable customer service. The report looks at a number of questions and issues involved in customer service.

The identification by respondents of the challenges of customer service is interesting not because it reveals something startlingly new, but because it provides a picture of the current state of affairs. That state is one that will be familiar to anyone with much experience in payables.

The survey question on challenges allowed for respondents to write responses in their own words. Quantifying the responses, familiar issues emerge.

The results can be divided into two types of answers — those that addressed the larger context of the procure-to-pay (P2P) process, and those focused specifically on customer-service issues related to payables.

Taking the former first, roughly half of respondents described some P2P process issue as being their biggest customer service challenge. This is eminently sensible. After all, if you have trouble in your P2P process, then you have trouble fulfilling payables’ mission of paying accurately and on time and bing! — you’ve got customer service issues.

What are the broader issues? The usual suspects: invoices that don’t go directly to AP, causing delays; missing invoices, i.e. the ones that didn’t get to AP at all; internal noncompliance with P2P procedures; process inefficiencies; lack of supporting documentation such as approvals, PO numbers and receiving documentation (oft cited by consultant Judy Bicking as problema numero uno!).

The point has been made before, but good customer service begins with paying invoices accurately and on time. But that remains dependent on a host of process variables.

Those underlying problems that lead to late, unclear or inaccurate payments result in customers, both internal and external, contacting AP. But even if AP has its processes mostly under control, there’s still a need for customer service, particularly since a lot of contacts are simple questions like “Did you get our invoice?” “When will it be paid?” or “When was it paid?”

So what are the challenges of AP customer service more narrowly defined?

By far the primary issue AP faces is volume — the sheer number of inquiries, together with insufficient staff and time to deal with them. Some version of this response is repeated in the majority of responses that focus more narrowly on customer service.

And the problem is compounded when AP receives calls from different people about the same problem.

Other challenges include:

  • Lack of technology to help,
  • Personnel turnover,
  • Urgency on the part of the customers, “wanting everything done NOW!”
  • Customer service process — e.g. tracking inquiries and confirming closure,
  • ‘Invalid’ or unnecessary inquiries, where a customer calls before doing their own due diligence, which would have shown that the invoice was already paid,
  • In the case of large shared service centers, matching up locations and customers,
  • And (surprise) keeping that up-beat, positive attitude!

A few also pointed to vendor AR cash application problems as a root problem, and two mentioned getting customers to use the company’s portal was a challenge.

The prescription? Also familiar: Continue to work diligently on P2P process improvement. Look for a supplier portal that can handle and therefore remove 60 to 85 percent of the inquiries through easy vendor self-service. And for the small percentage remaining, answer them with a smile!

For more results, see InvoiceInfo’s 3rd Annual Accounts Payable Customer Service Survey.



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.

VIEW ALL BENEFITS
close-link

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.

VIEW ALL BENEFITS
close-link

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!

VIEW ALL BENEFITS
close-link

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.

VIEW ALL BENEFITS
close-link

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.

VIEW ALL BENEFITS
close-link

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.

VIEW ALL BENEFITS
close-link

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.

VIEW ALL BENEFITS
close-link

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!

VIEW ALL BENEFITS
close-link

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.

VIEW ALL BENEFITS
close-link


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.

VIEW ALL BENEFITS
close-link