Automation Frees CSRs for Customer Care

There are multiple points throughout the supply chain where a company reaches a customer – for example, taking an order, sending out an invoice, confirming an order, receiving payment or settling a dispute – and each point represents an opportunity to create a positive, easy and impactful experience for the customer. In a constantly-changing, highly competitive market like semiconductors, which is undergoing consolidation and facing emerging trends like the Internet of Things (IoT) and digitization, such experiences are important to ensure the customer remains a customer and doesn’t go somewhere else.

Companies are focusing on customer service, and for good reason. Customers are the lifeline of any business. In a recent survey, 75% of companies said their top objective was improving the customer experience, and another study found that by 2020, customer experience will overtake pricing and products as a company’s key differentiator. In addition, there is a $3 return on every $1 invested in the customer experience, and a top cause of customer frustration is feeling undervalued.

Organizations have spent millions over the years on technology to improve their business operations, from Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and CRM, to cloud-based applications like Salesforce.com. However, for many, the business document processes – such as accounts payable, invoicing and sales order processing – have remained a heavily manual operation. That has caused more than its share of challenges. It’s slow, the risk of missed or backlogged orders increases, it’s more error-prone, and orders and product returns are more difficult to track. In such a fast-moving market, these issues can mean lost business.

None of that helps an organization’s relationship with their customers, but the impact goes further. Customer service representatives (CSRs) are the frontline people, the company’s face when dealing with customers and supply chain partners, but in a manual document processing environment, too much of their time is spent with data entry and similar tasks, and when an issue with a customer arises, they don’t always have the information they need to properly address it. This can make a customer feel undervalued and underappreciated.

Automating the business document processes can change all of those inefficiencies, enabling CSRs to do their primary jobs: taking care of the customer. There are numerous direct benefits to using software to automate the document-heavy workloads that are pervasive in business, including lowering the overall cost of order processing, improving order data accuracy, accelerating the process and reducing the number of people needed to get the myriad tasks done.

There also are a slew of indirect benefits, many of which will be felt by the customer. Key among those is enabling CSRs to spend more time on impactful activities like proactively interacting with customers, tracking orders, spotting problems, and cross-selling and upselling, and less time doing data entry and fielding calls about incorrect orders or other problems. Automation software also gives customers more ways to communicate with a CSR, including through a chat tool on an online customer portal that also helps reduce the number of requests coming into the customer service department.

CSRs are more professionally fulfilled and incentivized. The tools available in the in the automation software, such as a dashboard interface that enables them to track orders and address issues before they become problems and gives them the control they need to take care of customers. In addition, managers can more easily push resources to where they are needed most, and key performance indicators (KPIs) allow managers see where credit is due.

CSRs are a crucial yet often underappreciated part of a company’s overall operations. They are often in direct contact with customers and can make or break the experience for those customers. The more time they have to spend on mundane manual tasks like data entry, the less they have to be proactively working with customers, tracking orders, solving problems and upselling. Automating the business document processes can let these people do the job of taking care of customers, which can only benefit the company.

Automated Delivery of Customer Invoices to AP Portals

Options for customer invoice delivery continue to modernize as companies experience the fruits of digital transformation. We have come a long way with invoice delivery methods — things are faster, easier and more cost-effective than ever before. In recent years, companies have been seeking efficiencies within accounts payable (AP) for the buyer, which led to the introduction of AP portals. Accounts payable portals continue to grow in popularity, so much that the U.S. Government, the largest buyer in North America, mandated that vendors must electronically submit invoices within one of their recognized portals by end of 2018. As more and more buyers transition to using AP networks to ease their own technology burdens, it shifts the problem squarely onto the supplier’s accounts receivable (AR) team.

Accommodating customers has been the key to many organization’s success, however, it can come at a cost and may not be an easy task. There are more than 250 complex AP networks used globally. New AP technology means that suppliers increasingly need to submit invoices directly into customers’ AP systems.  To manage this method, AR departments are often:

  • Manually entering each invoice using an online AP portal, one at a time — which is time consuming and resource draining
  • Hogging up already limited IT resources to build custom AP integrations with each system and provide ongoing support
  • Turning away business refusing to accommodate, impacting growth
  • Managing multiple invoice delivery channels, including delivery of statements and invoices via portal, postal mail, EDI, fax and email

Accounts payable networks and private corporate portals are not going away. There are real benefits to submitting invoices online, such as: visibility on payment status, cost savings by lowering or eliminating postal mailings and time savings of sending an email versus postal mail.

With the aid of Artificial Intelligence (AI)-driven technology, suppliers now have the option to automatically deliver invoices to portals — no longer requiring manual data entry or taxing the resources of AR staff. The repetitive processes of data entry and invoicing naturally lend themselves to automation. Artificial intelligence can help companies timely and efficiently post invoices to AP portals, without input from humans. Automation of invoice delivery into AP portals eliminates the burden, giving both parties the efficiencies they want and need.

Esker Enhances Order Processing Connectivity Through Mobile Solution

New functionality achieves greater level of sales order automation in the medical device industry and others

Sydney, Australia — May 14, 2018Esker, a worldwide leader in document process automation solutions and pioneer in cloud computing, today announced the addition of mobile ordering functionality to its Esker Anywhere mobile application. Esker Anywhere provides on-the-road accessibility for sales representatives placing orders directly on behalf of their customers, and customers themselves, and is available on both Apple® and Android™ devices.

Originally launched to enhance the purchase-to-pay (P2P) cycle, the app now supports the sales order process. The new features enable mobile users to retrieve items directly from the product catalog, or to scan a barcode and automatically populate the product and lot number—saving time and increasing the accuracy of orders. Subsequent scans of the same barcode increase the quantity of the order. From there, the order can be completed through the app. Different order types can be placed, including replenishment orders, sample no-charge orders and standard orders.

Sales representatives also have greater visibility into the order process through a mobile dashboard, which displays the number of orders in the queue and their status. All of this integrates seamlessly with Esker’s AI-driven document process automation solutions.

Read the full press release here

How Sales Order Automation Turns Soft Benefits into Tangible ROI

 

Prospects ask this a lot: Does automating sales order processing lead to eliminating staff?

It’s a common misconception. The purpose of automation is not to reduce headcount, but rather to provide staff with tools and smart technology — like Artificial Intelligence (AI) — to supplement their work. While automation does free up staff time to work on more value-added activities, possibly opening the door to re-allocating them within the company, there are numerous soft benefits that should also be considered.

Four Soft Benefits and Tangible Outcomes

  1. Overtime reduction; better work-life balance and lower costs 
    I recently spoke with a pipe manufacturer whose key driver for their automation project was eliminating mandatory overtime. Management was concerned that their Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) were burnt out, more error prone and likely to leave due to excessive overtime. Sales order automation with machine-learning technology would allow the company to eliminate mandatory overtime and avoid new hire costs while giving CSRs a better work-life balance and work enjoyment.
    How close are your CSR’s to being burnt out and moving on?
  2. No more mundane; retaining valuable staff 
    One life science customer explained how they routinely hire MBA level CSRs who tend to be expensive and tough to recruit. After spending all that time and money to recruit them, they were placed in a job full of mundane, manual activities that ultimately killed their drive and ambition. Instead of leveraging their knowledge to benefit the business, they were placed in a position that they will more than likely move on from after a short period of time.
    How many of your educated CSRs are performing mundane order entry tasks?
  3. Encourage high performers; recognising your staff
    Another customer implemented sales order automation, leading staff to reduce order entry time by six minutes per order. Due to this, the company was able to avoid hiring additional employees and focus on encouraging current staff, promoting the top performers to coach others. Some CSRs were even able to be moved to inside sales and IT roles. Automation provided the platform for improvement and visibility into daily activities, allowing the company to recognise and promote employees.
    How many CSRs have you been able to promote internally?
  4. Better customer experience; cutting out competition
    The real win is when the CSRs are able to spend more time serving customers than entering and checking orders. For a furniture manufacturer, it meant they were able to answer customer inquiries in one short call versus three calls. With staff spending more time working with customers, they create a better experience which cuts out competition by creating loyal customers.
    Is your staff able to provide a superior customer experience or are they stuck on manual order entry?

Soft Savings = Big Benefits

When companies invest in their people, process and technology, everybody benefits. Not only are CSRs more fulfilled, they end up sticking around for longer and contributing more. Adrian Posterraro, Director of Customer Success at Integer Holdings Corporation, invested in training, new processes and sales order automation. In return, he was able to avoid hiring more people, dramatically improve morale, increase customer satisfaction by 7.5%, absorb a 16% per year growth, and net a 4.4% profit gain (EBITA).

Soft savings add up. Be sure to vet the sales order automation solutions you consider and look for a solution that can offer more than just buzzwords. Instead, ensure the solution vendor has numerous case studies, video testimonials, and customers who can describe how they utilised the time and effort saved with automation as well as the results that followed.

 

The Benefits of Document Processing Automation in the Food Industry

The exchange of documents is essential to how daily business activities are conducted, especially in manufacturing and distribution. In fact, how well an organisation optimises document processes directly impacts profitability. This is especially true in the food and beverage industry, where FDA regulations and product shelf life make efficiency and accuracy particularly important. It is also true then that the promised gains from automation are often amplified in this space.

The Pitfalls of Manual Processes

Each and every day, warehouse distributors and manufacturers handle faxes, emails and other paper-based supply chain management documents that cause problems such as:

  • Data entry errors associated with the manual rekeying of data, resulting in delayed/incorrect shipments
  • Inefficiency in getting fax/email data into a back-office system, resulting in production delays and overstocks
  • Concerns about the cost for increasing staff and infrastructure to handle high volumes and peak periods

Management Concerns

The struggles associated with manual processing affect a business at multiple levels —, particularly at the managerial level. When document entry cycle times are long, managers cannot grow the business without adding staff. Additionally, there is no easy way to prioritise and monitor document entry, meaning high-priority and time-sensitive processing can be delayed. Document processing errors are also a common problem that causes a domino effect of issues for managers. Errors can lead to delays in fulfillment and cash collection, additional shipping costs, waste (especially with perishables) and repetition. Furthermore, processing errors can cause returns, which a business must pay off in credit notes, restocking or write-offs. Finally, archiving poses a major concern for management. The cost of printing and the space to store documents, combined with the time it takes to file and retrieve records, can hold a company back. Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) are often unable to find documents to answer customer questions, and information is not readily accessible for auditing purposes.

The Promise of Document Management Automation

The more efficient a company’s billing and cash collection methods are, the faster documents are handled, processed and tracked, which accelerates the flow of business cycles. There are then four main expected outcomes from replacing traditional, paper-based processes with document management automation:

  • Cost-effective integration of incoming documents into business processes so they get to the right places/people as quickly and efficiently as possible.
  • Removal of human intervention and manual paper handling from document processes, increasing efficiency and reducing errors from manual touch points.
  • Increase in the efficiency of back-office operations frees staff to focus on higher value, strategic activities.
  • Improvement of supplier and customer relationships by creating a superior, more efficient experience receiving payment or products.

Success Story: Sales Order Processing and Bel Group

If a manufacturer or distributor in any industry makes a mistake with an order, it incurs costs associated with bringing the product back to the warehouse, repackaging it and redistributing it. There are the shipping costs, the time wasted on duplicate processes and the incurred risk to reputation to think of. But when it comes to the food and beverage industry, order processing takes on an even greater importance because in many cases, product cannot simply be reshipped in case of error. Perishable product must be disposed of, which can lead to a total loss of revenue on inventory. That’s a cost no company wants to pay.

The Bel Group is a worldwide leader in branded cheeses with operations in 36 countries and more than 12,000 employees. Its Spanish operations were hamstrung by inefficient, manual processing of customer orders and invoices. Prior to implementation of an automated order processing system, two-thirds of the approximately 25,000 customer orders the division received annually came in via fax, email, and telephone. Processing those orders manually was slow, labor-intensive and much more susceptible to error.

Like many companies with traditional systems and long-standing customer relationships, Bel Spain worried that their customers would balk at submitting orders electronically. Since solution implementation, Bel has taken an active role in helping customers change the way they send documents, moving from telephone and paper to electronic format (fax or email). Within a year, two-thirds of Bel’s orders were being received electronically. Thirty percent of those were processed using optical character recognition (OCR) technology, drastically reducing the number of manual touch points—and opportunities for error—associated with their traditional system. Today, 100 percent of Bel Spain’s document exchange with customers using non-electronic formats is automated and seamlessly integrated with SAP. Orders are now more accurate, and the company has seen significant improvements in the quality of managing order-to-cash and procure-to-pay cycles.

Sales Order Processing Benefits:

  • Achieved significant financial savings by eliminating the costs involved with printing and mailing invoices and manual reception and processing of customer orders.
  • Decreased order and invoice processing time.
  • Eliminated processing errors associated with manual handling.
  • Streamlined relationships with vendors and customers by making communication with both more reliable, resulting in faster sales cycles and increased customer loyalty.
  • Eliminated physical archiving by using 115 fewer filing cabinets every year, resulting in an estimated savings of €4,500 per year based on the average price per square meter.

Bel Spain also automated the sending and archiving of electronic customer invoices. Invoices are now received quicker and easier, and never get lost. Duplicate copies can easily be printed if needed, there is greater invoice traceability and Bel Spain benefits from decreased days sales outstanding (DSO).

Accounts Receivable Benefits:

  • Invoices with electronic signatures are automatically generated from SAP.
  • Signed PDF invoices are automatically sent by email via Lotus Notes.
  • Electronic invoices are archived online, freeing-up physical space and decreasing associated costs.

Success Story: Accounts Payable and Farmland Foods

Increasing industry pressures have many food and beverage companies looking for ways to lower operational costs and gain leverage with suppliers. The expense and inefficiency of keying in, verifying and approving vendor invoices manually make accounts payable automation a popular way to modernise AP processing, reduce costs and improve vendor relations.

International pork processing company Farmland Foods processes about 30,000 invoices every month. That’s an awful lot of paper to push via outdated manual processes. AP operations were frustratingly slow, and the accuracy rate wasn’t where it should have been for a company of Farmland’s standing. Invoices were stored in paper files in an inconvenient storage room, and employees were wasting too many hours printing invoices and manually re-entering them into SAP.

In 2014, the company decided to implement an automated AP system that integrates with SAP. As a result, the Farmland experienced tangible cost-savings.

Benefits:

  • Improved visibility. Managers now have access to key metrics, such as number of invoices to process, how far out they are, payment terms for discounts, etc.
  • Easier access to invoices. Instead of tracking down invoices in a file room, Esker allows users to access them via document numbers to easily email/print a copy online.
  • Faster freight processing. Esker helped Farmland reduce its “out period” for freight invoices from a deadline-pushing 14 days to just two days.
  • Cost savings. Fewer manual processing tasks allowed Farmland to save on costs equal to three FTEs, and reallocate current staff to projects offering greater value.
  • Faster invoice entry time. Where the invoice entry goal for Farmland’s AP staff used to be 150-200 invoices per day, they are now achieving over 400 invoices per day.
  • Fewer outstanding accruals. Faster invoice entry times have enabled Farmland to reduce the number of outstanding AP accruals by $8 million.
  • Increased discounts. When comparing the last six months to the six months prior to automation, Farmland estimates it has gained an additional $29,815 in discounts.

 

EDI Made Easier Through Automation

Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) came onto the scene as an antidote to the traditional cumbersome and error-prone ways of manually moving business documents between partners. Before EDI, documents in the order purchasing process, such as invoices, purchase orders and receipts, were exchanged through emails, faxes or traditional mail. This required human effort on each end inputting the data and handling document transmission. As with most manual systems, order processing was slow, inefficient and costly. Errors in data entry were commonplace and the processing could not keep up with the increasingly fast pace of modern business.

EDI digitized the process, removing most human intervention and paper from the equation. It made the document exchange a computer-to-computer event that accelerated processes, improved accuracy, increased document security and reduced costs. However, while EDI has been a great start in improving order purchasing process, it isn’t a panacea. It comes with its own set of complexities and challenges that can slow the system down and introduce inefficiencies. Businesses can turn to automated order processing management solutions to help address the myriad EDI exceptions that can impact data accuracy, bottom-line costs and business cycles.

This technology has been around for about three decades, and there are multiple EDI formats and standards, including XML, EDIFACT, ANSI and UBL. In order processing, EDI essentially involves taking the data that’s been entered into the system by the buyer and putting it through a series of translation, mapping and processing steps before an invoice is sent to the supplier. Within that process, there are multiple points at which errors and exceptions can occur, affecting accuracy, adding costs and throwing speed bumps into the system. We have found that up to a third of EDI orders can contain exceptions. Errors can range from incorrect pricing or promotion codes to invalid material numbers to missing segments, and addressing them can be time-consuming and expensive. For example, about 30 percent of shipments are received with an advanced shipping notice (ASN), which can cost a company as much as $178 per purchase order to process.

The complexity of EDI means that when an exception occurs, customer service representatives (CSRs) often have to bring in the IT team to figure out the order and fix the problem. Essentially the company is paying two people to handle a single problem.

Those exceptions also have a ripple effect throughout the entire supply chain, where there are so many stakeholders involved — not only the CSR, IT team and management, but everyone from the supplier to the customer. Any slowdown caused by inaccuracies and inefficiencies in any part of the supply chain can have a domino effect throughout. It can damage business partner relationships and result in lost profits or lost business. EDI has helped digitize the entire order purchasing process, but complexity, challenges and exceptions remain.

Automated order processing solutions can help alleviate many of the problems caused by EDI exceptions. It can ensure the accuracy, efficiency and security of the system and remove the need for manual intervention. An order processing automation solution essentially becomes an overlay of the EDI system and the central place where every order is processed. That includes the orders received not only through the EDI system, but also via email, fax, paper or any other route, with the orders sent to the right CSR and all the purchase order data collected and used to create a sales order in the ERP system.

These automated solutions make every order readable to humans and provides full visibility and control over every order. Purchase orders can come to the trading partner through the EDI system, but, at the same time, they can come separately via other avenues. It’s often up to the CSR — and at times the IT staff — to remedy any discrepancies. With a best-of-breed automation solution, the software brings all of that together in one place, can quickly determine if there is a problem with the order and provide feedback to the business partner if the order needs to be reworked and the problem addressed.

The handling of exceptions is also automated, which puts control back into the hands of the CSR and eliminates the need for an expensive IT professional to help resolve the issue. Now, the data from an EDI file is used to create a PDF, where discrepancies are not only quickly and easily flagged, but the automated solution can learn from previous situations to automatically correct recurring issues and remember changes that users have made in the past. This accelerates the process, increases efficiency and reduces the number of exceptions that need to be addressed. An automation solution can reduce EDI processing time by an average of four days over EDI systems where manual intervention is still needed.

Companies also gain greater visibility into the order process through customizable dashboards that enable users to track all orders in real time. For CSRs, this means being able to better manage SLAs, ensure the integrity of priority orders and see what orders are awaiting approvals, rather than having to sort through layers of data or use guesswork. Managers can use the tool to view long-term performance forecasts and anticipate staffing needs.

Relationships with trading partners are further strengthened, in part by enabling CSRs to not only process orders through the automated solution, but also to track and address customer issues through the same interface. Problems are dealt with quickly, strengthening the relationship between the companies and freeing customer service representatives to spend more time working with customers. Automated solutions also include a self-service online portal to ensure instant communication between business partners and give customers an always-available online place to access order information and address issues as they arise.

Onboarding new customers is simplified through an intelligent and easy-to-use mapping tool, and automation solutions can easily be configured to work with existing EDI or ERP infrastructures. Businesses don’t need to rip out and replace any systems in which they’ve already invested. Instead they can bring in an automated solution to improve the overall process.

EDI was a great start to improving the overall order purchase process, which for a long time has been a heavily manual — and thus slow and error-prone — operation. However, as with any process or rule, with EDI there are exceptions that have to be dealt with. Until now, managing EDI exceptions has meant more human intervention, by a CSR with few IT capabilities and by an IT professional without deep experience in business process models. Essentially, two people were needed to fix one problem. An automated order purchasing solution can address exceptions quickly and easily by ensuring that all orders go through a single system regardless of where they originated, granting CSRs full autonomy to EDI exception handling and offering customer-friendly features to build and cement trust in business relationships.

 

AP Automation Strengthens Manufacturer-Supplier Relationships

At its core, the relationship between manufacturers and supplier s in the semiconductor industry is based on how well the two sides can work together and, most importantly, making sure that invoices and payments are made on time. Issues with payments can ripple throughout the relationship. It has the potential to impact not only the financial sheets for the companies but also the trust and faith that make the partnership work. A semiconductor manufacturer needs to have faith that its suppliers will be on time with products; the supplier has to trust that if it sends out invoices, those bills will get paid in full and on time. A breach of trust and loss of faith can have a domino effect, leading to feelings of ill will, lost business or lawsuits.

For many companies, the accounts payable (AP) process has made that much more challenging by the manual nature of the processes. The inherently complex processes of invoicing and receipt of payment that are crucial to making businesses run smoothly and keeping relationships strong are made that much more difficult when those processes are inefficient and error-prone.

Many of the key touchpoints throughout the accounts payable process tend to be manual, which can lead to a range of challenges for organizations. They may run into difficulty retrieving invoice data on a timely basis and have little control or insight into that data. Errors can find their way into many of the points of the process, from incorrectly processing or misplacing invoices to inputting incorrect data or being late getting invoices sent. Even more, those errors can lead to too much time spent on fielding calls wanting to know the status of those invoices or payment, or on resolving disputes arising from those errors.

Such inefficiencies can harm a business. They can lead to late payment fees, low staff productivity, and a larger dissatisfaction in the relationship with vendors. Just as bad, the time spent on dispute resolution takes away from the time company representatives have to do the work of building and improving the relationships with its partners.

Automating the accounts payable processes can make a lot of these challenges go away and can go a long way in improving the relationship between manufacturers and their suppliers. For example, AP automation can enable such programs as dynamic discounting, where manufacturers are given greater flexibility in determining when to pay their suppliers and can receive discounts for products and services when they pay those suppliers earlier. The savings can be significant. We’ve seen customers save as much as $30,000 a month through early payment discounts, and those programs are possible because of the automation of their accounts payable processes.

Automating the AP system from start to finish creates the efficiencies that can lead to programs like early payment discounts, which in turn only strengthens the manufacturer-supplier relationship. AP automation touches every person in the system, from the accounts payable specialist and manager to the controller, treasurer, and CFO, reducing the amount of clerical work, making it easier to monitor team performance and budget compliance, managing payments and gaining visibility into spending.

Data needed for every step in the AP process can more accurately and quickly be collected, invoices can be sent out on a timelier basis and payments can be expedited to ensure that business between manufacturers and suppliers can continue to hum smoothly. Communication between vendors and their suppliers is improved through vendor access to self-service portals, and the archiving of data at every stage of the AP process can allow real-time reporting and analytics, giving buyers the information they need regarding their business relationships, including the vendors they’re buying from and how much they’re spending.

The greater efficiency means that manufacturer representatives can spend less time fielding calls about the status of invoices and payments, and any disputes that do arise can be more quickly resolved. This means more time spent nurturing and strengthening the crucial relationships with their suppliers, ensuring smooth partnerships moving forward.

Be Your Own Field Guide: How to Identify and Cure the Top 5 Pains in Your Accounts Payable Team

Being raised by parents who were nature enthusiasts, our house never had a shortage of books or magazines about the great outdoors. National GeographicOutdoor Life, Mother Earth News — you name it, we had it lying around.

One book that I’ll always remember was the Birds of Wisconsin Field Guide. Admittedly, I never paid much attention to it growing up — I was more of a reptile kid myself — but to my parents, it was their ornithological bible. They used it as a guide to distinguish similar looking species, attract more of their feathered favorites, and even dissuade “bad birds” from making their home in our backyard.

Wouldn’t it be great if those in accounts payable (AP) management roles had a similar guide?

As different as birding and managing an AP department is, both passions could benefit from a resource helping them to avoid the bad and maximize the good.

Top 5 Pains Ailing Your Accounts Payable Team

While AP management doesn’t need to be lectured on how to run a successful department, it’s never a bad idea to stay informed on solutions that can fix pain points in a traditional AP process. With that in mind, use the field notes below to guide you in navigating your AP landscape.

First up, the top 5 pains affecting today’s AP management teams:

  • Manual data entry. With the laundry list of side effects contributed to this top pain, it’s shocking that it remains so prevalent in companies. Each moment your educated AP staff has to spend manually entering data before an invoice can be approved represents lost value for your business. Avoid at all costs.
  • Getting approval. Ah yes, the waiting game that no one ever seems to win. In a manual environment, supplier invoices often get routed for approval only to sit in a state of limbo on someone’s desk or email inbox, slowing the payment cycle down to a crawl. And do you know who passes their competition by crawling? Nobody.
  • Erroneous invoices. Exceptions happen, but that doesn’t mean they should be accepted with no questions asked. Research by Ardent Partners revealed that 17.8% of supplier invoices cause exceptions in a “typical” company, while best-in-class companies average 9.8% exceptions — a stark contrast considering the major impact errors have on AP efficiency.
  • Late payments and missed discounts. These are the worst. Not only does it have the obvious potential of damaging important supplier relationships, forming a habit of late payments makes it impossible for your team to run at peak efficiency.
  • Lots of tracking and reporting. According to the Institute of Finance & Management, only 15% of AP departments currently track their metrics with technology like dashboards that display data. So then how do they do it then? Manually, which makes it harder for staffers to prioritize tasks, managers to measure team performance, and finance executives to get the cash flow visibility they need.

How AP Automation Cures All

Don’t get overwhelmed. After going through all those pains faced by AP teams, fixing them can seem daunting. Nope … not if you’ve got the proper guidance to spot a good solution when you see one. Something like the Birds of Wisconsin Field Guide, but for AP.

And you don’t even have to look far. We’ll be that guide and show you why automation is the single solution to cure your AP woes.

How can one solution put an end to so many problems? It enables businesses to streamline their entire workflow process — from the capture and extraction of invoice data to automatic dispatching for approval to customizable dashboards displaying key metrics. The benefits truly span the entire invoice settlement process and positively impact every user.

Instead of worrying about pains, you can start profiting from:

  • Reduced overall costs
  • Improved supplier satisfaction
  • Increased payment discounts
  • Enhanced reporting and analytics
  • Accelerated payment cycle times
  • Eliminated duplicate payments
  • Strengthened credit rating
  • Greater support for regulatory compliance

AP Field Guide: How to Treat the Top 5 Pains in Your AP Team

EMBRACING DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION

The global marketplace across industries is rapidly becoming more and more complex. Technology is enabling swift momentum in the economy and, like it or not, it’s here to stay. Contrary to the viewpoint of many legacy organisations, technology is intended to make people’s lives easier and more efficient. With so many apps and programs, many organisations find the hardest step is knowing where to start.

Put the customer first.

Companies have seen the most rapid and immediate financial gains by putting customer experience at the forefront of their digital transformation strategy. Design your strategy to give the customer what they want. This often includes:

  • A user-friendly, straightforward interface personalised for their needs
  • Self-service options for quick and easy access to information
  • 24/7 availability and mobile flexibility
  • Proactive engagement from vendors

Why does it matter?

Change can be hard — no one said kicking-off a customer experience initiative that centers on digital transformation would be easy. But here are cold-hard facts to give that extra push:

  • $84 billion is lost annually by American businesses due to mismanaged customer interactions
  • 67% of customer churn is preventable if the customer issue is resolved at the first engagement
  • By 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator

How do you get there?

Successful digital transformations happen with transparent collaboration, thoughtful planning, and diverse stakeholder input. We’ve compiled our ideas on this topic in the white paper: Aligning People, Process & Technology: An Action Plan for Customer Service Excellence.

Be sure to share your thoughts below in the comments section!

  1. 2011 Global Customer Service Barometer: Market Comparison of Findings, (2011). Echo Research.
  2. ThinkJar annual survey and associated ThinkJar research, 2016
  3. Walker Information

PICKING THE WINNING BRACKET (AND AUTOMATION SOLUTION)

basketball floor

It’s bracket time! Millions of people fill out brackets every year with the hopes of getting it right and winning big. Whether it’s for your local office or a national pool, the chance to win big money is too enticing to pass up. As I have been filling out brackets since the age of 6 years old,  I thought I would share the three factors that help me decide on who has the best chance of winning it all — and how to do the same when it comes to picking a winning automation solution for your business.

To start, here’s a little history. The first NCAA tournament was in 1939 and the Oregon Ducks ended up winning the championship. In those days, only eight teams made the big dance. Today, that number has ballooned to over 72 teams in 2017. That’s a lot of unknown factors to account for, leaving the chance of you perfectly predicting the bracket as 1 in 9.2 quintillions. Yup, that’s a real number.

So what factors do I follow to increase my chance of winning (and that companies can follow in their hunt for an automation solution)?

  1. The Point Guard: The most important position come tournament time. Why? Because point guards are the extension of your coach on the floor. They communicate what offense to run, control game tempo and are usually responsible for defending the other team’s point guard.Think of your customer service representatives (CSRs) as your organizational point people. Not only are they responsible for entering orders, CSRs answer customer questions, handle disputes and make sure customers are taken care of. They are an extension of your company’s values, philosophies, and strategies. According to Forrester Research, great work by CSRs (aka point guard play) can translate to over $80 million in additional revenue.
  1. The Coach: One of the most underrated aspects of picking a potential candidate for winning March Madness. Look for a coach with a history of creating a culture of winning. That kind of coach excels at recruiting talent and utilizing that talent to maximize the potential of not only each individual player but of the team as a whole.Organizations that are constantly looking for ways to improve business processes are creating a culture of winning — always improving and never content with last year’s successes. In order to achieve success, they must be willing to invest in their talent by giving them the coaching and tools to meet customer needs in a timely matter.
  1. Defense, Defense, and More Defense. In today’s data-driven world, you can look at statistical splits (+/-) to try and predict how far they will go. Field goal percentages at the rim and the three-point line can all be used to forecast a team’s performance come tourney time. Taking a peek at advanced statistics can also reveal underlying issues that wouldn’t otherwise be noticeable.Visibility into how efficiently your company is processing orders and invoices allows organizations to take advantage of things like early payment discounts, and help the supply chain with demand planning and inventory thanks to the ability to monitor orders before they even hit the ERP system!

Having a winning bracket usually isn’t based on luck … I mean, there are some folks who guess correctly based on uniform color, mascot, or even who sponsors their shoes. Luck isn’t sustainable,  but your organization’s success is — especially once you’ve carefully evaluated your people, process, and technology. Esker can help your organization optimize its business functions with automation, just give us a shout here.