As the former manager of an 85-person accounts payable shared services center, I know first hand that AP’s reputation often gets tarnished for problems that were not caused by AP.
Communicating and consistently delivering results that meet realistic and attainable expectations though, can go a long way toward building and maintaining a powerful shield to protect AP’s reputation.
1. Establish realistic attainable standards
- How do you define great AP customer service?
- What does the deliverable look like?
- What are your organization’s circumstances and culture, and what resources are available that you can access to deliver service?
- Do the available resources support customer service levels that meet the definition of great AP customer service you stated in 1.a. above?
- Create service level standards that can be sustained by the available resources.
2. Set expectations by communicating your standards to your vendors with enough frequency and targeting to get through the clutter they experience.
- Invoice submission, processing cycle and workflow considerations
- Payment processes and options
3. Hire right
- Look for the right skill sets and remember: the skill sets required for a great AP processor are not the same as for a great customer service person
- Look for attitude
- Look for coach-ability
- Train — make sure your team understands the AP process and organization policies and is able to communicate them clearly.
- Practice through role-play exercises
5. Track metrics (request a free inquiry activity analysis form)
- Number of inquiries
- Type of inquiry
- How long it took to research the answer
- How long it took to answer
6. Analyze results
- Compare to standards
- Make changes to process when called for
7. Get a vendor inquiry portal; let the vendors and internal customers answer their own questions
Let me know what you think of these steps and include tips that you would like to share.
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