Financial Operations Network | P2P Vendor Relations Survey and Metrics
An important but overlooked part of accounts payable customer service is to understand how your customers view your AP group.
Vendor Relations, Vendor Portal, AP Customer Service, Payables Metrics
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On P2P Customer Service Surveys and Metrics

On P2P Customer Service Surveys and Metrics

The venerable Tom Nichols [1] once observed, AP believes that their clients don’t understand what it is they do. I tell AP people that it’s your fault because you’re not doing a good job at public relations. You’re not involving the customer in the process.”

Nichols understood AP customer service, and also the importance for AP to promote its value, to “tell its story,” communicating confidently to and working with its customers. As part of that, Nichols was a proponent of AP customer surveys.

Virtually everyone AP deals with is a customer, both internally and externally. An important but overlooked part of customer service is to understand how your customers view AP. Here Nichols urged AP to be in touch with its customers, surveying them regularly.

To what extent has AP embraced the call? A survey by InvoiceInfo provides the insight into what AP departments are doing in the realm of customer service and vendor relations. Among many findings in the report are data on surveying customers and on tracking metrics on customer service activities.

Tom, enjoying a well-earned retirement in Florida, would be disappointed in the results. On the question of surveying customers — Nichols recommended a short survey, maybe five questions, like the example found on the APP2P Network — just 13 percent of AP departments do. This is unchanged from what The Accounts Payable Network found five years ago.

Why? Possibly, as AP expert Pam Miller suggests, AP just “doesn’t want to know!”

Nichols and Miller both warn, however, of the danger of assuming you know what others think. In fact it’s hard to understand on the inside of any operation how those on the outside perceive you. Take procedures for example — a perfectly logical procedure from your perspective may be seen as unnecessarily difficult or simply incomprehensible by outsiders who do not have the full picture that you have. Learning how they view things can help you to communicate better.

Another reason to survey your customers is that your assumptions may be off the mark. There is another important benefit to asking: their surprise and satisfaction in learning you want their feedback.

Sure, comments may be critical, but they provide you valuable intelligence, while your solicitation of them demonstrates your interest in serving customers and making things better. A survey alone is not all you need. It can be a part of a broader open-door policy and attitude toward working with customers for improvement in service.

What about customer service metrics? According to the InvoiceInfo survey, just 12 percent of organizations track metrics on their customer service inquiries. Of that 12 percent, all track number of invoices generating inquiries, 83 percent track length of time of phone or email responses, and that same percent track cost of AP staff handling inquiries.

The percentage of organizations tracking their customer service metrics is low — slightly more than one out of ten. Yet there are great benefits to doing so. (See the InvoiceInfo white paper Relationships Count — The Importance of Accounts Payable Customer Service.)

In a real sense, tracking customer service metrics, including the reasons for the inquiries, is like surveying customers but better insofar as you are able to see the specific causes and issues that such inquiries reveal. Tracking them, even in a simple spreadsheet, is very valuable in identifying, attacking and resolving problems.

There is good news in the Customer Service Survey as well. For one example, more AP departments now have a policy or service level agreement setting goals for AP staff research and turn-around time in response to customer service inquiries. The survey finds that 54 percent of AP departments have a policy regarding inquiry turnaround time. This is a positive reversal of the numbers from InvoiceInfo’s prior survey a year ago, when 54 percent did not have such a policy. Of those a majority, 53 percent, require a response within one day or less.

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


[1] Long-time P2P consultant, winner of Lifetime Achievement award from The Accounts Payable Network and namesake of IOFM’s Excellence in AP Award, former head of AT&T payroll and payables, and a leader in moving accounts payable forward into the 21st century.



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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.

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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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