Financial Operations Network | Vendor Relations
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Vendor Relations

You interact with vendors every day. You do it in the context of specific, necessary functions like gathering requisite information, processing invoices, issuing payment, and answering inquiries. Your focus may be on just that. Getting those things done as well as your team and conditions allow. Any thought of the actual vendor is merely a second thought. As long as they get paid and don’t cause trouble, they’re fine — and you’re good. But whether they’re having a very good day isn’t really a concern of yours. Understandable. If they have a problem, well it’s theirs, not yours. Here’s another view. Your organization wants vendors that provide on-time delivery of products of consistent quality, with good service and attention to detail; it wants vendors that guarantee their products; vendors that are financially sound, and that will be there in the long run. Your company wants good relations with good vendors it can trust and rely upon. That makes sense, right? That view is the big-picture one, which can sometimes get lost in the day-to-day work that consumes your attention. But that larger view is the context in which the day-to-day should operate. Creating and sustaining good relations with good vendors requires intentionality on your part....

The venerable Tom Nichols [1] once observed, AP believes that their clients don’t understand what it is they do. I tell AP people that it’s your fault because you’re not doing a good job at public relations. You’re not involving the customer in the process.” Nichols understood AP customer service, and also the importance for AP to promote its value, to “tell its story,” communicating confidently to and working with its customers. As part of that, Nichols was a proponent of AP customer surveys. Virtually everyone AP deals with is a customer, both internally and externally. An important but overlooked part of customer service is to understand how your customers view AP. Here Nichols urged AP to be in touch with its customers, surveying them regularly. To what extent has AP embraced the call? A survey by InvoiceInfo provides the insight into what AP departments are doing in the realm of customer service and vendor relations. Among many findings in the report are data on surveying customers and on tracking metrics on customer service activities. Tom, enjoying a well-earned retirement in Florida, would be disappointed in the results. On the question of surveying customers — Nichols recommended a short survey, maybe five questions, like...

Survey Says … A day in the life of procure-to-pay is seldom dull. Perhaps one of its livelier aspects is interaction of the payables team with its “customers,” i.e. those whom accounts payable serves internally and externally. Payables customer service is a necessary part of the job, and depending on a number of variables, can be very challenging. A new survey from InvoiceInfo captures the current state of affairs in accounts payable customer service. The report looks at a number of questions and issues involved in customer service. The identification by respondents of the challenges of customer service is interesting not because it reveals something startlingly new, but because it provides a picture of the current state of affairs. That state is one that will be familiar to anyone with much experience in payables. The survey question on challenges allowed for respondents to write responses in their own words. Quantifying the responses, familiar issues emerge. The results can be divided into two types of answers — those that addressed the larger context of the procure-to-pay (P2P) process, and those focused specifically on customer-service issues related to payables. Taking the former first, roughly half of respondents described some P2P process issue as being their biggest customer service...

Do your experiences as individual consumers affect your expectations back at the office in your business-to-business (B2B) interactions? It seems likely that they would — once you’ve experienced a certain level of service in whatever context, your expectations undergo a reset and the bar of expectation rises across the board. Indeed as reported in Accounts Payable Customer Service and Vendor Relations in the Age of Self-Service, e-commerce expert Scot Wingo coined the term “Amazon Effect” to describe the ever-rising level of customer expectations. A 2017 study brought further confirmation. The study B2B Customer Experience: Winning in the Moments that Matter by KPMG Nunwood, a subsidiary of KPMG, focuses on the B2B customer experience. Customer experience has become increasingly important in business. As the report’s executive summary observes, it is “becoming the prime source of competitive differentiation.” One of the findings of the study is that indeed the rise of consumer expectations for customer experience does spill over from the business-to-consumer (B2C) world to the business-to-business (B2B) world. The study includes a look at the phenomenon of “consumerization,” where consumers carry their continually escalating expectations from the B2C world to their B2B relationships. Whether consciously or unconsciously, people served well in their consumer experiences bring higher...

Such is the reaction of more than a third of participants from ages 18 to 65 in a customer service survey conducted by The Center for Generational Kinetics and Aspect Software. Rather a severe judgment! Granted the study Consumer Experience Revolution 2015: New Research on Millennials and Technology Shows Customer Service Is About to Change Forever was a consumer survey on customer service. But as is argued in Accounts Payable Customer Service and Vendor Relations in the Age of Self-Service, positive experiences in our private (consumer) lives tend to transfer higher expectations over to our business lives. Hey, if Amazon knows exactly what I ordered, why don’t you? (Did you know that UPS now shows you, on an online map real-time, the location of the truck bringing your package to you?) So it is that accounts payable’s customer service faces high expectations in its interactions with its internal and external customers as a result of those customers’ experiences elsewhere in their lives. The survey referenced above, repeated in 2016 and 2017, looks for generational differences. Businesses are trying to learn to serve customers across different generational groups. But the general dissatisfaction with customer service is trans-generational! Patience with waiting for customer service is getting...

In any organization, the accounts payables part of the P2P group touches a wide range of stakeholders, and therefore has a tremendous though often under-recognized impact. The various stakeholders are P2P “customers” and the department’s service to them and how they perceive it are important. How so? The job of P2P customer service is to respond appropriately to resolve a vendor’s issue. But the job of P2P customer service is not simply to answer a particular question. It is to find and solve underlying problems, build strong vendor relations, and maintain a great reputation on behalf of the organization. Some vendor calls are simply informational — when will we get paid? Others are more challenging but can lead to opportunities to improve your procure-to-pay process. Customer service calls can point to process breakdowns that need correction. Ideally, accounts payable does not just solve the immediate concern but looks at the bigger picture, finds underlying causes and fixes them. This approach not only resolves one call but it eliminates further calls while strengthening the vendor relationship. But it’s hard to do when facing a heavy volume of contacts. Payables customer service also impacts vendor relations, positively or negatively. In its customer service interactions, payables...

By: Tom Nichols Accounts payable is unique in that multiple customers rely on outputs from its processes. Two critical customers of AP are internal clients and vendors. In some AP organizations internal clients are treated as fellow employees and not customers, and vendors as suppliers and not strategic business partners. But, an AP best practice is to treat those customers that AP serves as just that – customers. After all, you don’t want any of your customers to take their business elsewhere. The growth of AP outsource providers has provided a competitive factor for in-house AP departments so not serving your customers can result in an outsourced environment. AP’s Internal Customers AP’s internal customers are the organization’s employees – those who purchase goods or services that AP is responsible for paying or employees that are reimbursed for T&E. AP relies on these colleagues to ensure that AP is in receipt of all invoices so they can be paid on time. In addition, the internal customers are often responsible for allocating and approving invoices on a timely basis. Not receiving the invoices and getting approvals on a timely basis prevents AP from doing its job of getting invoices paid accurately and on time. When...

Customer service is an increasingly consequential aspect of accounts payable. And according to a Financial Operations Network survey, most AP departments — 88 percent — rated their own customer service as either good or excellent. Good news? Not so fast. Only one in five had ever asked their internal customers and just one in ten actually surveyed their suppliers for feedback on their service. In any area of consequence it is important to know how well your team is actually performing. Sure, self-assessment is important and common performance metrics will be a major indicator. But there’s more to look at, and asking your customers how you are doing provides a “reality check” you won’t get otherwise! Areas to Measure (You May Be Part Way There Already) Metrics are a tool to help you understand where you stand currently and identify issues you need to address. Don’t think of them as “one more thing” you ought to be doing, but as a handy utensil to make it easier for you to do what you want to get done. Metrics will tell you where you are currently and help you identify and prioritize issues; they are useful in goal setting, and can be used to measure...

[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]By: Chris Doxey, Consultant Customer service is defined as the assistance and advice provided by a company to those people who buy or use its products or services. Customer service can also be defined in terms of the relationship between the customer and the company or service provider. It is the act of taking care of the customer’s needs by providing and delivering professional, helpful, high-quality service and assistance before, during and after the customer’s requirements are met. Accounts Payable has customers and provides customer service internally (within the company) and externally (to vendors). In AP, the customer service process is driven by questions related to the financial status of a transaction and the relationship between a vendor and the company that pays it. Many questions focus on payment status, issue of a credit or the status of a product shipment or return. Other questions might address issues about onboarding. Outstanding customer service leads to both customer satisfaction and loyalty. Poor customer service can cause significant damage to the company’s, the department’s and individual’s reputation. In today’s world of social media, one is able to communicate a personal experience with poor customer service immediately. As a best practice, outstanding...

Managing vendor relationships can be a challenge, especially as organizations make more and more demands on their vendors, such as improved pricing, terms and shipment quality. On the back office side, vendors are being asked to invoice using e-invoicing or EDI, to accept payment via ACH, EFT or credit card and to register and work with with third-parties in order to get paid. What can accounts payable do to help improve relationships with their vendors? [unordered_list style="circle"] Pay invoices accurately and on time per the agreed upon terms of the contract or purchase order. In real estate you often hear that the most important thing is location, location, location. In customer service, the key is communication, communication, communication. It is important for AP to communicate with vendors from the very beginning of the relationship and to set expectations upfront. One way to do this is by sending a welcome packet communicating what is required from the vendor to ensure that they get paid accurately and on time. Some items that could be included: Welcome letter and informational packet; vendor registration form; proper channels for resolving problems; who and where to send invoices and what information needs to be on the invoice; policies regarding...

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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