Article – Relations

Managing vendor information entails risk. The vendor master file is the key to vendor payments. Errors in the vendor master can lead to costly mistakes, and the master file is a prime target for fraud. There is also a risk of non-compliance with particular government tax, sanction and exclusion programs. Further, some of the vendor information, such as social security numbers and bank account numbers, is sensitive and subject to theft and exploitation. Policies, processes including internal controls, technical protocols and encryption, and staff awareness and understanding are all necessary to mitigate the risks. The breadth of vendor information and vendor onboarding represents a challenge to risk management. Guardianship of the processes and information falls to frontline staff—most commonly accounts payable staff. All this raises two questions. The first is: Does your organization have adequate controls? The second is: Do the people responsible for managing vendor information understand the control policies, their reasons and do they follow them? Like many things, what looks simple on the surface is not. The list of controls and precautions is longer than one might suppose. How well does your organization manage the risks associated with vendor information management? Financial Operations Networks (FON) wants to help you find...

A broken P2P process generates vendor inquiries. When a vendor contacts your organization about an invoice, AP has an opportunity to do more than solve the immediate question or problem. Vendor interactions offer AP a chance to fix process problems, reduce inquiries, and improve vendor relations. But in customer service, AP often can’t see the forest for the trees. Accounts payable customer service staff are focused on the immediate call or email. There is an appropriate urgency to it. But in failing to take a broader perspective, AP misses the opportunity to resolve underlying problems, which would better serve the vendor and eliminate future inquiries. The 2020 Accounts Payable Customer Service by Financial Operations Networks finds that 53 percent of organizations have a response-time policy that governs vendor inquiries. Certainly, if you want good vendor relations, you want your team to be responsive to your vendors. But there is a potential problem lurking in a “response time” policy. Be careful what you ask for. Commonly, AP faces a slew of emails or phone messages. The response-time metric reinforces the notion of "getting through them." The person focuses on answering the inquiry and moving on to the next. But if there is a process-related problem,...

If ever there was a time you want good relations with vendors, it’s now. The impact of the pandemic on the economy is presenting a tremendous challenge if not crisis to many businesses, opportunities to others. As businesses work to survive the storm of change brought on by COVID-19, it is critical they have supply partners they can trust. “Money is the currency of transactions," says Rachel Botsman, author of Who Can You Trust? "Trust is the currency of interactions.” Studies have shown the importance and value of good supplier-customer relationships to success. A 2014 Gallup study was designed to help companies understand how to do it. Gallup identified five elements in gaining supplier engagement and commitment: clarity, simplicity, integrity, reciprocity and connectivity. Clarity involves expectations of the two parties and open and honest communications. Simplicity is defined as being “easy to do business with.” Integrity means organizations can count on each doing what they say they will do, and when problems occur, working to resolve them fairly. Reciprocity means parties trade considerations with each other, it’s not one-way. Connectivity means they are set up well for easy exchange of information. Those are the things suppliers want from customers and customers want from suppliers in regular...

Coronavirus is now officially a pandemic. In the U.S. a massive effort is on to limit the speed of the spread of the virus, to “flatten the curve” so as not to overwhelm medical facilities as is happening in other countries. “Social distancing” has entered our vocabulary. All kinds of event cancellations and school closings are now widespread. If anyone is skeptical about all this, call someone in Italy. They’ll sing you a song from the window. An immediate concern after employees is the supply chain. It is critical to know what your suppliers are doing and to what extent supply might be interrupted. Businesses are trying to protect employees and customers while sustaining operations. Because this type of challenge is new, businesses are scrambling.  “No one has a playbook for this,” Dan Levin tells The New York Times. Levin runs a small millwork company outside Chicago. Mindful health practices have been put into place everywhere, starting with the basic and critical admonition to wash hands. Hand sanitizer is ubiquitous. Health monitoring is being put in place and testing is rolling out. Deep cleaning and quarantine programs are being implemented. Large companies, especially consumer companies, are in the spotlight and have declared changes to HR...

The spread of COVID-19 has emerged as a serious event and if not yet officially a pandemic, it has governments worried and newspersons breathless. With new information coming out daily, it’s still unclear what is ahead. But the question organizations have to ask is how it could affect their business. In descriptive reports, COVID-19 sounds like any other flu virus—particularly dangerous to the elderly, but for the rest perhaps just an uncomfortable illness. However, the virus spreads rapidly and has a high mortality rate (2%) compared to influenza (just 0.13%), though much lower than that of SARS (10%) or MERS (34%), according to the World Health Organization. The stock market was sobering last week. Whatever this virus is, it’s already disruptive. Warnings began to sound in early February about supply chain disruption and by the last week of the month markets got the message. This week the Federal Reserve in a rare inter-meeting action has cut the benchmark rate by half a point. The question is how big and prolonged a disruption this may be. Will it mean a two-month slowdown of the economy with a return to growth after? Or will it be much longer and more serious? That is unknown at this...

In January 2020, commercial bankruptcy filings jumped up compared to January 2019. Commercial Chapter 11 filings, in particular, saw a big jump over last year. How are your vendors doing? In 2019, overall bankruptcy filings increased only slightly over 2018. Filings are still way below the number of filings at the peak of the Great Recession, but who wants to use that as the benchmark?  If it is one of your vendors that suddenly files next month, you won’t care what happened in 2010. The performance of your suppliers is critical to your organization. So too is the financial condition of your vendors. The state of their financial health represents an area of risk to your operations, and those in purchasing and specifically vendor management need to keep abreast of the financial health of your suppliers, along with product quality and timeliness of delivery. Of course, keeping an eye on vendor risk of bankruptcy is much easier said than done. Vendors that are public companies have financial reporting obligations, though those financial reports typically put the best face on things. Companies tend not to divulge things like credit constraints and poor cash flow to their customers. Buyers have limited control over their vendor’s circumstances,...

November is the gratitude month in the U.S. A little over a week into it comes Veterans Day, when we remember and thank those who have served or are serving in the military for their service and sacrifice on our behalf. Then towards the end, of course, comes Thanksgiving, when we take time off to reflect on the good things in life we enjoy. Psychologists and doctors tell us that gratitude is good for our physical and psychological health. In terms of body chemistry, acknowledging and expressing gratitude has the opposite effect that stress has on us, and who couldn’t benefit from countering that once in a while! It’s also good for relationships. And that applies not only to individual and personal relationships but business relationships as well. Before doctors started studying the virtues of gratitude, poets told us gratitude is a virtue. “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others,” wrote Cicero. Closer to our own time, G.K. Chesterton wrote, “I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” Being grateful is good. Expressing that gratitude is better. It’s the next logical step, though it...

Passwords. Can’t live without them. Now that we have moved our personal and professional lives online, passwords are an essential part of life. And the line between personal and professional applications is often blurred (think Dropbox, Google, Evernote …). The problem is there are so many passwords! There’s way more to IT and cyber security (two different things, the latter really being a subcategory of the former) than just passwords, but passwords are often where security starts with us daily. So do you use the same password in more than one place? In both personal and business applications and email systems? Stop! It should be no surprise by now that “hacks” are a fact of life. Revelations of huge data breaches are so common we hardly notice anymore. Chances are some of your data — including your password — has been part of at least one, maybe several such breaches. If not, it’s only a matter of time. A Password Expose study by LastPass, cited by (part of Information Week) found that employees use an average of 27 passwords. The number of personal passwords people use is similar. That’s a lot of unique passwords to remember, particularly given the nature of password protocols...

Enlightened self-interest says looking out for others is a good way to look out for us. Fundamentally a business is created to meet someone else’s needs in order to meet its stakeholders’ own, and is successful when it does so. However, occasionally we get lucky. Something we must do to look out for ourselves also brings direct benefit to our customers. In the realm of accounts payable, our “customers” are those we serve, including managers, purchasers, the tax department, and of course, vendors. Vendor relations are an important aspect of vendor management, and accounts payable (AP) has a significant part to play. But a tension exists between AP’s competing demands, including its role in supporting good vendor relations. Into the execution of AP’s multiple responsibilities come interruptions. Inquiries from vendors about their invoices and payment status take AP away from the very work of moving invoices forward to payment. And vendor inquiries often come via purchasing — creating a double interruption from the company standpoint. On one hand, AP has a need and responsibility to reply to the vendors. But on the other, the calls or emails and the responses to them interrupt AP’s work of actually getting vendors paid, at significant cost. So suppose AP can...

Have you made resolutions for the New Year? Good for you! Though statistics may be against the majority of us seeing them through, make them anyway. We all need a reset from time to time. Take the New Year as a fresh start. Make at least a modest change and gain will result (even if you aren’t still doing next November what you start this January). In our personal lives, there are a host of possible resolutions — lists 50 resolutions for the New Year! No doubt they don’t intend for every reader to adopt the entire list, but there’s no better way to guarantee failure than having too many resolutions. Resolutions require change and who finds that easy? Scaling that back to just a few — hey, even one — seems a better route to success. One pundit proposes resolving in three areas: health, happiness and character. Do something for your health. Do something that makes you happy. Do something to grow your character. Don’t do 50 things; but do something. In our work lives the New Year offers a new start as well. At the end of the year, we stand back to look at how things went. Hopefully the year...

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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