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. 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. Of course, some inquiries are not simple. They require contact with someone with problem-solving and customer service skills to research the problem. But if your staff had to deal only with those, it would considerably lessen the tedium! That’s part of the value of automating vendor inquiries. It not only saves time and cost. It also keeps your staff from the monotony that can negatively impact morale.
Freeing staff from tedious tasks supports employee engagement. The benefits of engagement include better quality of work and greater commitment to the team and organization. Now there is more to generating employee engagement than relieving tedium. But replacing monotony with more valuable and challenging work is a good start!
The technology to free staff from the bulk of vendor inquiries is mature and available. Vendor self-service portals allow vendors to check on invoice and payment status directly. They can look up what they want to know and get the answer immediately without going through a P2P staffer. It saves your team time while making the vendor happy since they get what they want quickly.
Our friend Dogberry wants to bring a couple of apprehended offenders to Governor Leonato for examination. But Leonato urges Dogberry to examine them himself, “… for you see it is a busy time with me.” So it is with you and your team, though you want to put it more diplomatically. You can allow your vendors—who are certainly much sharper than Dogberry—to find answers for themselves. It saves everyone from tediousness.
To find out more about vendor self-service, contact us.