Article – Self-Service

Significant events cause change. Sometimes they produce innovation. They can drive new legislation, which has its own effects. Many times, events boost changes already underway, particularly in terms of applying technology. The 21st century has already seen several large-scale events that have impacted business. At the start, accounting scandals were underway at Enron and WorldCom that would bring about the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. SOX, aimed at publicly traded corporations, impacted every organization. Nearly simultaneously, the terrorist attacks on 9/11 led, among other things, not only to a surge in disaster recovery and business continuity planning but also to the Check Clearing for the 21st Century Act. The attacks had led to the grounding of all planes for several days. That caused a major disruption to the country's financial transactions. Checks sat on the ground in the cargo compartments of aircraft. In the days following 9/11, the Fed holdover became an estimated $47 billion, compared to the usual several hundred million. Check truncation, already in the works, got the boost needed to become law two years later. In 2008 the global financial crisis damaged worldwide economies and, in the U.S., led to the Dodd-Frank Act, which dramatically increased regulation of banks. Following on bank...

In Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, the slow character Dogberry has no idea what “tedious” means when the governor of Messina applies the label to him.[1]  Ask your P2P staff, however, and they’ll tell you what “tedious” means: Answering “Has our invoice been paid?” for the hundredth time this month! A central challenge in providing good “customer service” to your vendors includes managing the volume of inquiries. The bulk of those inquiries, upwards of 80 percent, are the same few, straightforward questions. They are about invoice receipt, approval or payment status—easy enough questions to answer with a quick look in the system. But of course, stopping what you are doing to look it up can be a frustrating interruption. While setting aside a block of hours each week to do nothing but look up and reply can be, well, tedious. Despite Dogberry’s good intention, no one particularly enjoys such tediousness bestowed upon them. In the book The AI Advantage, Thomas Davenport writes, "Many human employees don't really enjoy answering the same questions over and over, so they might not mind losing this responsibility." He's talking about applying technology to handle repetitive tasks in the realm of customer interaction. The same applies to vendor interactions....

Dealing with Vendor Inquiries Has your vendor master file decreased in size? Chances are, the answer to that question is no. Not only because it's been a while since you cleansed the vendor master file, but because your organization keeps adding new vendors. With new vendors come the same problems—inquiries about getting paid. Vendor calls and emails may be creeping up, especially as the overall economic outlook is brighter as vaccinations increase. The company has to keep up with those calls and emails to keep vendors happy. But it’s interrupting your procurement staff or keeping accounts payable staff away from actually getting the bills paid! Responding to vendor inquires takes time, which costs money and opportunity. Answering questions and solving problems is part of the process, but not all questions involve problems to be solved. Most vendor inquiries are of a more straightforward kind. Surveys show that a vast majority of vendor inquiries comprise about a half dozen common questions, such as “Did you receive our invoice?” and “When will it be paid?” These are questions that are easy to answer, but they still take time. Meanwhile, the vendor’s AR personnel are busy too. And they’re not crazy about leaving voicemails nor necessarily even...

We may not be out of the pandemic woods, but the way forward is clear. In the upheavals of the Coronavirus, financial officers regret not having invested more in automation, AI and robotics a few years ago, according to a survey by AppZen. Within weeks of shelter-in-place orders last year, experts forecast that automation would accelerate out of the pandemic. Mark Maurer in the Wall Street Journal wrote, “Finance chiefs are considering hastening investments in automation initiatives to better manage their companies’ finances and operations despite facing revenue declines.” Arun Shastri wrote in Forbes, “Lost revenue means leaner workforces. Lean workforces drive the need for automation so that smaller teams can accomplish more with fewer people.” He added that as the economy comes back from the COVID-19 recession, companies will find that automation technology is mature and “ripe for deployment.” Where are we now as we close in on a year of living remotely? The long-term impact of the pandemic remains uncertain. Some predict that work-from-home will continue, despite the challenges and acknowledgment of missing the serendipitous collaboration of the live coffee break. Companies are at least rethinking the physical location of workers. One notable organization has already announced a radical plan. Ninety-six percent...

Unfilled expectations lead to disappointment. Smart companies and individuals work to manage expectations. You can control some expectations but not all. Where do expectations come from? Some we set ourselves. Our organizations claim or promise certain things. Sales & Marketing set expectations of customers all the time. (Then companies work to meet them!) Contracts are supposed to delineate what we actually commit to. In P2P, the purchasing group may set vendors' expectations about interaction with the company. Purchasing, though, might be more focused on their own expectations of vendors. Accounts payable faces expectations that it does not set and often is not prepared to meet. The expectations may spring from a vendor's hopes rather than anything found in an SLA. Some expectations come subconsciously from the vendor's wider experience. Vendors, like everyone, are affected by their personal as well as business experience. As a consequence, they have become accustomed to certain levels of service. Automated self-service has spread to become a part of the service economy. The “prime” example is Amazon. It has set the bar very high. Leaving aside the mastery of managing inventory and logistic systems, Amazon understands the value of convenience, ease and speed. But while we love Amazon, we hate the...

Someone is out to get you. Hackers are working full time. And with your team working from home now, you face greater risk. Cyber-criminals are constantly working to find soft spots or weak links in your organization to exploit. And hackers study human behavior and are good at manipulation. When everyone first started working from home, their organizations addressed security items like VPNs, Wi-Fi security, bolstered passwords and multi-factor authentication. But even if those ducks are lined up, there is a key vulnerability that remains: people. Employees working at home must be alert and cautious to maintain security. Fraudsters employing social-engineered cyber-attacks seek to exploit fear, uncertainty and doubt. People under stress make a good target. The bad guys use common tools to break into systems: email, text messaging and phone calls. As the pandemic spread and the remote working environment was hurriedly set up, attacks that referenced COVID-19 leapt way up. (We are now halfway through autumn, and COVID-19 is on the rise again.) But not all attempts to breach security fly a COVID flag. The common pre-pandemic techniques still work. You might get an email that looks like an internal system-generated notification of a voicemail. It includes a link to access the message. If...

When a vendor does not receive an expected payment, they contact you to find out what’s up. If payment has been late in the past, many vendors will not wait until payment is due. They’ll call to confirm that you got their invoice, or to ask when to expect payment (putting you on record). There are many reasons for vendor inquiries. But there is a correlation between imperfect processes and vendor calls. The most commonly identified challenge to good “customer” service is some aspect of the procure-to-pay (P2P) process itself, says Financial Operations Networks’ 2020 Accounts Payable Customer Service Survey. Get the Big Picture, then Drill Down Vendor calls and emails can point you to problems in your procure-to-pay process. Pay attention to the frequency and type of inquiries you are receiving. Don’t just answer the individual questions. Step back and look at the big picture. It’s tough to do when you are scrambling just to get all the inquiries addressed. But sometimes you have to push back the urgent to focus on the important. What is behind those questions? Have you got a gap, or gaps, in your P2P process? Seek out the root cause of the problems and address them. Maybe it’s sequencing. As...

Disruption happens. And when it does, expectations are replaced by uncertainty. In the case of the Coronavirus, that uncertainty has no apparent endpoint. The consequence is tremendous anxiety. If you are a leader, your staff looks to you for direction. Leaders must manage the anxiety that can lead to bad decisions or behaviors[1], and decreased productivity. In the aftermath of 9/11, businesses realized the importance of disaster recovery and business continuity planning. Many companies without it did not survive. The difficulty of such planning is that it cannot see that for which it is supposed to prepare. Planners draw up plans against best-guess scenarios such as fires, floods and earthquakes. Now those scenarios include terrorist attacks and mass shootings. It's a grim job, and planners labor in the face of the unknown. But who anticipated the possibility of a pandemic shutdown? Very few. Nine months in, there is still a lot of uncertainty. The end is not yet in sight. What can leaders, whose crystal balls are no better than their staffs, do to manage the anxiety and keep things moving? How do you provide direction, inspiration and hope? You don’t have all the answers. But in the face of the uncertainty, you have...

Are you looking to solve a problem through technology? When shopping for IT solutions, the first step is to figure out what functionality you really need. Having identified the problem, it is often helpful to talk through solutions with colleagues in your own and other organizations. Talking to vendors also can be helpful—they have expertise worth tapping. Just be clear about the "discovery" phase versus the shopping phase. When you have a clear idea of what you need and have identified vendors that might offer the solution, here are seven things to think about: full cost, ease of implementation, user accessibility, security, flexibility, scalability, and support. Full cost: Understand how the solution is priced. Don’t ask, “What’s the cost?” but “What’s the total cost? What comes standard and what is extra?” Don’t get surprised by hidden costs. Implementation: How long will it take to implement? What will it require of your internal IT department? What will it require of your staff? Of other users? What is the average ramp-up time to get it working properly? User accessibility: How easy is it to access, and how intuitive is it to use? What kind of training is necessary? Who will handle that? Depending on...

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.


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.


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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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.


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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