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

Imagine going to a store 100 years ago: you approach a counter and hand over your shopping list to a clerk. Then you wait as the clerk goes about gathering the items on your list from the shelves behind, placing them in a box (while a line of customers gathers behind you, waiting their turn). Finally, the clerk brings the box to the counter and you pay. That was the shopping experience at the start of the 20th century. Then in 1917, an enterprising fellow in Memphis, Tennessee named Clarence Saunders applied for and was granted a patent[1] for a “self-serving” store. The innovative grocer’s idea was that people would enter the store and go to the shelves themselves to select what they wanted, then bring it all to a cashier to pay. Saunders’ stores, called Piggly Wiggly, were a huge success, and Saunders revolutionized the retail industry. We take that approach for granted now. In fact it’s gone further, with self-checkout lanes, and in leading-edge brick-and-mortar retail stores, you simply select what you want from shelves and then head out the door (something Saunders actually envisioned, though the technology did not exist). Computers in the form of personal devices log a...

It’s summer reading time. There is nothing like a good book on vacation. Of course you’re on vacation trying to forget about work. But there may be lessons in the pages of your novel to apply when you get back from vacation, particularly if your reading includes some classic Jane Austen! Though we sometimes know what we want, we hold back because some influencer has dissuaded us. As an example, perhaps you looked at vendor self-service inquiry in the past, maybe several years ago. It made your heart skip—imagine, an affordable application that would save your team a great deal of time answering questions that vendors could get for themselves! But a “Lady Russell” persuaded you that those kinds of applications had insufficient pedigree to warrant your connection — too new, unproven.[1] Or maybe a trusted friend has made observations or comments and held back the endorsement you looked for to the extent that you question your own inclination. Perhaps without looking too closely, they just didn’t think that application was going to help you get where you wanted to go. Like Darcy’s misreading of Jane Bennett and subsequent subtle dissuading of his trusted friend Bingley.[2] “Sure, customer service is important, but...

Don’t Ignore Human Psychology When someone comes to you excited about a new idea, do you immediately accept it? Maybe. Or do you perhaps want to know more first? Your first thought is how this is “good for us” or “good for the team” or just “is this good?” Or maybe — for a few of us — candidly the question is, “How is this idea good for me?” Say a fellow manager of another group puts forward a new idea in a meeting that is great for her group, 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 staffs’ 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 materialize? You naturally must ask: What’s in it for us? And what’s in it for me? The same holds true, of course, when you flip...

We’re familiar with the concept of failure being part of success. “Fail fast, fail often,” we hear, “get comfortable with it.” This is not just because failure is a part of life, but also because we can learn from failure, which can lead to success. Thomas Edison famously said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” But what about when we succeed? After the congratulations and the celebratory party, what do we do? Take a lesson from a huge organization that treats both failures and successes the same — the U.S. Army. It conducts after action reviews (AARs) of every project and event, whether a failure or a success. It’s part of a cycle of intent, planning, preparation, action and review. The AAR process asks what happened, why it happened and how it can be done better. It is obviously necessary to do such an analysis when things go wrong. But it’s important to do it when they go right too. Why? Because if we don’t understand a success, we cannot replicate it or build on it. Success feels good and, says Harvard business professor Francesca Gino, there’s a temptation to think all is well. We oversimplify, assuming...

If you could affordably automate a time-consuming and interruptive task, you would do it, right? “Yes, but.” Solutions are often put to us simply. But our minds immediately go to possible problems in the plan. “It’s not that simple,” we think, and a number of “What-about’s” occur to us. When it comes to automating a targeted process like vendor invoice inquiry, one of those “What-about’s” should be security. How do we allow vendors access to the information they want while protecting our systems and data from compromise? At the same time, we’re concerned with usability. A vendor self-service system needs to be simple. If it’s not easy to use, vendors will skip it and just call — back to costing us time and money. So a useful vendor inquiry system must be simple enough that vendors will use it, but secure enough to guard the organization’s systems and digital assets. These are questions an organization should ask of any vendor portal solution provider: How do you keep our system and data secure? Is it easy to use? Make sure you understand the answers. The answer to the latter question will be evident. You will be able to see and understand whether a solution will...

In every endeavor success entails analyzing problems, finding options to solve them, making decisions, prioritizing actions and execution. Problems come in all shapes and sizes. Complex challenges must be broken down into executable pieces. More serious challenges bring with them additional pressures to find options and make decisions. These days, the broad challenges included in most management performance goals often center on increasing the value of those outcomes for which the manager is responsible. It’s nice, when identifying opportunities and prioritizing steps to reach them, to find some things that can be done quickly to realize benefits or clearly demonstrate movements in the right direction. The old phrase for those things is “low-hanging fruit,” what our grandparents often called “easy pickings.” But that phrase can carry with it a negative tinge. Especially if it refers to things that bring immediate gratification, but do little for long-term gain. If it’s an avoidance of harder work to be done, it might be merely a distraction disguised by momentary gratification, like a grab at the candy bowl. On the other hand, picking the “fruit” in reach may be the most sensible thing to do. Targeted process automation is a case in point. Replacing specific manual processes with...

What comes to mind when you hear that? Maybe a particular gift you’ve received yourself, or one you chose carefully to give. Then again, these days you may be more likely to hear it as a droll comment about something that provides ongoing surprises and frustration (new ERP system anyone?). But the phrase intends to define a gift that is enjoyed continually over time. Commercially, if you’re old enough, you might remember Kodak advertising its camera with that slogan. Your parents or grandparents might associate the phrase with RCA’s color televisions! But its first use in advertising was much earlier than even that. According to YourDictionary.com and other internet sources, the first commercial use was nearly a hundred years ago by the Victor Company advertising its radios. Whoever first coined it was clever. Its application to electronics — radios and televisions — captured a key benefit of investing in those technological advances: the return would be ongoing. Such has been the promise of technology since, and in fact, it has and continues to deliver. In the realm of computing, Moore’s Law has driven an exponential increase in computing capabilities as size and cost fall. Physicists tell us that Moore’s Law cannot continue forever, but...

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...

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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