Financial Operations Network | Vendor Inquiries/Self-Service
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Vendor Inquiries/Self-Service

Vendor invoices arrive daily in all manner of formats from PDFs to EDI and more. And still you get paper invoices (no two alike). You wrangle these diverse documents into your system for processing. But format is just a part of the story. What about volume? How many invoices do you receive in a month? Did you know that however many you get, an industry survey suggests that on average you should expect to get a vendor inquiry on 11 percent of those invoices? Vendors send invoices; but discontent with merely having sent the invoice, they call or email you about an invoice more than one out ten times. That’s a lot of inquiries. Inquiries take time to address, i.e. time away from processing, or compliance, or analysis, etc. Most of these inquiries — about 80 percent — are simple questions like “Did you get our invoice?” “Has our invoice been paid?” or “When will our invoice be paid?” These questions can be quickly answered once AP staff has stopped what they’re doing to look it up. How long does it take for an AP staffer to handle a vendor inquiry? On average, it takes eight minutes. However, that does...

Opportunities in Payables Process Technologies Don’t look now but digital technology is creeping into every corner of our lives, both personally and professionally. In business, despite the challenges and frustrations of change, it’s really a good thing. The digital age is bringing swifter communications, saving time and increasing productivity. In our personal lives, the change is usually more fun, though not always without some frustration in moving up the learning curve. Perhaps that’s because we’re choosing the technology we want to try — we already believe it will be worth it! At the office, however, it may be a different story. Often it’s someone else choosing the technology for us, so we’re less invested. But if you’re a manager, you have the chance to find and propose digital tools that will help you and your team improve processes, gain time and dollar savings and boost your productivity. The good news there is that CIOs are looking for help in identifying profitable projects that can cut costs or generate revenue. Smart CIOs work closely with CFOs and others in the C-suite to identify and coordinate the company’s IT strategies large and small. That means opportunities for managers in F&A to speak up about opportunities they...

Ever feel like there is not enough time? Probably all of us sometimes find our relationship to time a challenge, whether specifically at work, or just life in general. There are a lot of words written, including not a few songs[1], about time: saving time, capturing time, mastering time or being run over by time. A search of the web will return a number of articles, many of which address particularly the psychological aspect of feeling time pressure — helpful steps to master the feeling of “not enough time.” And there are recommended steps on how to better manage your time. Of course, you probably don’t have enough time to check them out! A big aspect of time worry is your state of mind. And let’s face it, most of us would benefit from tips like getting sufficient sleep, prioritizing and planning, and focused work vs. multi-tasking. But sometimes there actually is something you can do to save time. To be specific, you can eliminate work that is probably taking your staff more time than you realize. Did you know that studies have shown that dealing with supplier inquiries can use up to as much as 24 percent of a staff member’s time? Have you...

Don’t Ignore Human Psychology When your spouse or companion comes to you excited about a new idea, do you immediately accept it? Maybe. Or, maybe — if you have celebrated a few anniversaries — you want to know more first. Your first thought is how this is “good for us” or “good for the family” or just “is this good?” Or maybe — for a few of us — candidly the question is, “How is this idea good for me?” Before we get to meddlin’ too much here, let’s shift the scenario to work. Say a fellow manager of another group puts forward a new idea in a meeting that is great for her team, but is going to impact you and your group. There are a few things you want to know before you sign on, right? Exactly how is it going to impact you? What’s it going to mean in terms of your staff’s time and effort, and how are they likely to perceive it? How does your support make you look? It makes sense for that other group, but what does IT think? What does the controller think? Does it really make sense for the organization? What if the benefits don’t...

What are the most common inquiries you get from your accounts payable (AP) customers? And are those questions the same ones received by other AP departments? InvoiceInfo’s new survey on AP customer service can tell us many things about AP customer service across organizations, including whether our challenges are common or not. One of the many questions this new survey addresses is the kind of inquiries that AP receives. Specifically the survey asked 150 organizations to rank in order of frequency the most common inquiries received from vendors and internal colleagues. The results do not surprise, but it’s always good to get a “reality check” to what we think is so. Two questions vie for the most frequently asked. You probably already know what they are. Narrowly taking the top spot is the question, “Has my invoice been paid?” This is followed closely by, “When will my invoice be paid?” These two questions led all others by a very significant margin. On the flip side, the least frequently asked question is “Why was the invoice short-paid?” Asked more often than the short-pay question but less frequently than all others is: “Which invoices are covered on the payment?” Three questions rank in the middle scores between “most” and “least” frequent: ...

If you do not have a portal to enable self-service by your vendors, you should. Why? Vendor self-service is valuable to your accounts payable group or department in terms of cost to provide customer service to both your internal and external customers. It’s also valuable in regard to your supplier relations. Consider the following three ways vendor self-service is important. First, in what Forrester has dubbed the age of the customer, your customers expect it. That is, they expect ease in doing business — and this includes AP’s customers. The digital revolution has changed the way people transact and interact. The assumption is that information is readily available and easy to get. This notion is reinforced by daily experiences from shopping to banking from our mobile devices. Those consumer experiences bleed over into business expectations: “If I can handle all my personal accounts easily myself, why can’t I handle our business accounts that way?” What’s more, while technology has been revolutionizing the way things are done, generational demographics have been shifting as well, accelerating certain expectations in the workforce. According to Pew Research, in 2015 Millennials are now the largest generation in the work force, with 53.5 million, versus the Gen-Xer’s 52.7 million, and the...

How much does it cost your organization to answer a vendor invoice status inquiry? Don’t feel badly if you don’t have the answer at your fingertips. According to a recent survey by Financial Operations Networks and InvoiceInfo, only 1 out of 10 respondents track AP customer service metrics, making the cost to communicate with vendors the most overlooked AP activity metric. But these costs can really add up as vendors become more cash-flow sensitive. Interestingly, most cost-per-invoice calculations don’t get granular enough to break out the cost of these activities. How much is at stake? Just take payment status inquiries, for example. Statistics show vendor inquiries are made on 3% to 15% of the invoices a company receives and each inquiry takes 3 to 20 minutes to resolve. Of greater concern is that vendor communication activities are increasing. Today’s vendors email and call about invoice payment status with increasing frequency, putting additional strains on already scarce AP resources. Vendor questions can include “Have you received our invoice?” or “Has our invoice been approved?” or “Has our invoice been paid?” The good news is, InvoiceInfo has developed a simple, convenient, effective and easy-to-use tool to track AP customer service costs. The AP Vendor Communication Activity Analysis...

A best practice for accounts payable customer service is to transfer vendor invoice and payment inquiries to a supplier self-service portal where vendors can get the answers themselves — quickly and easily. According to a recent AP Customer Service Survey conducted by Financial Operations Networks and InvoiceInfo, respondents indicated that they receive inquiries from vendors and internal colleagues about payment and approval of invoices. But surprisingly, respondents said that the most important questions asked are questions about which invoices are covered on a payment and why an invoice was short paid. For those that chose “Other,” they stated that statement reconciliation and departments inquiring about what remains on a contract or blanket purchase order to spend are common questions. Questions like these and others can easily be answered with a vendor self-service portal, which helps to improve staff productivity and reduce cost. Who Is Using a Self-Service Option? According to the survey, of those participating, on average only 17.5% responded that they currently have a vendor self-service portal, while 82.5% do not. For participant companies with revenue greater than $1 billion, 46.9% of respondents have a portal, which is an increase of 16.9% from last year’s survey. So it appears that the larger...

Introduction Is responding to supplier calls and emails taking up valuable staff time?  Studies have shown that dealing with basic supplier inquiries, such as payment status and answering suppliers’ calls and emails can use up to as much as 24% of a staff member’s time. Answering and researching vendor calls and emails is often a time-consuming and labor-intensive task. Whether vendors are calling to ask if an invoice has been received or where it is in the payment process, these calls and emails take staff away from other tasks. In addition, they disrupt what the staff member was doing when they were interrupted, which can cause errors to occur in invoice processing. When the caller is upset that an invoice has not been paid and is unpleasant, productivity and morale suffer. Suppliers can’t be faulted for wanting to know when they will be paid. And, it is usually AP’s job to provide customer service between their company and their suppliers, as well as playing an important role in managing the relationships with those suppliers. But, implementing technology to replace the calls and emails can save costs, headaches and increase productivity. This report will explain how a vendor self-service portal, sometimes called Interactive Web Response (IWR), can answer vendor inquiries...

[vc_row css_animation="" row_type="row" use_row_as_full_screen_section="no" type="full_width" angled_section="no" text_align="left" background_image_as_pattern="without_pattern"][vc_column][vc_column_text] The cost to answer vendor and internal invoice inquiries can add up quickly. Whether your organization has a dedicated customer service staff or AP team members are balancing customer service duties with other tasks, there is often a big cost to this that is not always included in the calculation of cost per invoice.But, in reality, it can be an expensive cost of processing invoices. Costs include salaries, benefits, taxes, equipment, supplies and training for the customer service team, plus their manager’s time. When you have AP staffers balancing customer service with other tasks, workflow is interrupted and errors can be made. In addition, dealing with difficult vendors can be upsetting and stressful for the AP team member and wreak havoc in the department. By automating customer service via a self-service portal, as much as 80% of your inquiries can be handled online 24/7 and drastically reduce calls, emails, interruptions and productivity drain. If you want to make a case for a vendor self-service portal in your organization, metrics and benchmarking are vital tools to help you make your case.  You need to understand the metrics (where you are currently) and compare those metrics to what other companies...

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.

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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.

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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.

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!

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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.

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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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