[Infographic] Sit Back and Relax with the Perfect AP Process

If you’re looking for a way to improve productivity, financial management, and overall AP performance, kick back and sip on this perfect AP cocktail.  Afterwards, have a look at our AP Buyer’s Guide and discover the 15 key questions to ask when scoping out an automation solution for vendor invoice processing.

Does Your Process Pass the Sniff Test?

Good order management goes a long way. But here’s the thing: It’s hard to know with certainty if your process is really best-in-class or bottom-of-the-barrel.

A little benchmarking makes a big difference.

Take our brief 10-question quiz to determine once and for all if your current order management process meet today’s standards for timeliness, efficiency, and cost.

Go on, see where you stand and comment or share your results!

7 Reasons to Automate Accounts Payable in an Oracle E-Business Suite Environment

 

 

Do you work in the Oracle® E-Business Suite realm? Are you still looking into automation and how it could fit into your organization? Look no further, Esker has laid out 7 Reasons to Automate Accounts Payable in an Oracle E-Business Suite Environment. That’s right, you heard me: in an Oracle E-Business Suite Environment! Not only does Esker offer accounts payable (AP) automation, we now have a seamless connector for those working in the Oracle space.

What’s Your Reason to Automate?

Do you suffer from lack of visibility into your KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) on a daily basis? Maybe your AP specialists are being stretched thin by manually processing invoices, or you could be looking to take advantage of early payment discounts but don’t have a good way to track them in your current process. Whatever your reason to automate may be, you will want to start putting an action plan in place for automation by laying out how it will benefit your organization. Now, there is no need to rack your brain coming up with reasons to automate, I already did the work for you!

 Reasons to Automate Accounts Payable

  1. Address the Issues
    What pains are you experiencing in AP? I am sure if you have pains, others in your department feel them as well (or additional ones). Take a moment to familiarize yourself with all the procedures, or even give yourself a nice refresher, you might end up pinpointing a few issues automation could fix that you didn’t think of before. You want to make sure you have identified all the pains in your department to make a strong case for automation.
  1. Consider the Big Picture
    What is automation going to bring your organization for years to come? Maybe you are being hit by the lack of visibility, imagine the joy of automation providing total visibility into invoices throughout the process and the ability to track KPIs on a daily basis! Think of all those in your organization that will benefit. Are you looking to improve supplier relations? Automation can give you a vendor portal which gives vendors insight into where their invoice is without needing to pick up the phone! Think of the time that AP specialists could be saving. Can you already imagine a few of your vendor relationships improving? Maybe early payment discounts are a hot topic, think of the money your organization could save by having visibility into the process with real-time tracking. Catch those discounts before they are gone! What does your big picture look like and where do you want automation to take your organization?
  1. Assess Your Situation
    You have pinpointed your issues, taken a look at how automation will benefit your organization, in the long run, now it is time to assess your situation. How well do you rank among your competitors? Do you have easy access to your KPIs and other important data? If you are not happy with where you stand, or you are content with your ranking but know you can improve, it is time to take action with automation!

Get all 7 reasons to automate AP in an Oracle E-Business Suite environment by downloading our guidebook today! You won’t want to miss out — kick start your business case today!

Algoma Chooses Esker’s Cloud-Based Solution to Streamline Its Accounts Payable Processes in an SAP® Environment

Sydney, Australia — June 5, 2017 Esker, a worldwide leader in document process automation solutions and pioneer in cloud computing, today announced it is working with Algoma, a North American steel manufacturer, to automate its accounts payable (AP) processes. Esker’s cloud-based accounts payable automation solution will integrate with Algoma’s SAP® system to bring more speed, accuracy and visibility to the 12,000 incoming documents it processes monthly.

Algoma selected Esker after implementing an SAP system in 2012. One of Algoma’s top priorities was to gain greater real-time visibility into important invoice details. The ability to integrate with SAP applications and sophisticated analytical capabilities of Esker’s solution were exactly what Algoma was looking for. Additionally, Esker will enable Algoma’s team of AP specialists to transition from clerical work to analytical roles, setting the stage for greater productivity and professional growth opportunities.

“Our goal was to not only transact vendor invoices more efficiently, but to also gain rapid insight into the potential bottlenecks and problems in our processes,” said Piper Lee Frech, senior manager – financial accounting, taxation and pensions at Algoma. “Esker’s machine learning technology and real-time dashboards that can be tailored to individual needs of each AP Specialist, gives us the flexibility and user-friendly interface we need to achieve our goal.”

This project signifies a positive step for the organisation, as it is the company’s first venture with a cloud-based solution. Algoma believes they will see real benefits from Esker’s cloud capabilities when it comes to communication with its vendors.

About Algoma

Algoma has been a mainstay of the North American steel industry for more than 100 years. A fully integrated steel producer with a raw steel production capacity of approximately 2.8 million tons per year, Algoma’s size and diverse capabilities enables it to deliver responsive, customer driven product solutions straight from the ladle to direct applications in the automotive, construction, energy, manufacturing and defense industries. Algoma’s operations are based in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario with sales offices in Burlington, Ontario and Calgary, Alberta.

 

[Infographic] A Brief History of Payment Methods

We are excited to share a blog post from SlimPay today. This post features an infographic on the history of payment methods that evolved alongside civilizations.

The Business Case for Automating Stress Out of Your CSRs’ Lives

We all know the feeling. It’s certainly happened to me on more than one occasion.

There you are watching television, flipping through a magazine or checking your online news feed when, suddenly, you come across an urgent message about … [cue loud, menacing music] … THE DANGERS OF STRESS.

Naturally, processing this bit of “helpful” information only makes you more stressed out about how often you’re needlessly stressing out. A slice of deliciously cruel irony if there ever was one.

But let’s be honest: When put in perspective, the stressors of the average person are fairly trivial. Most of us live in general equanimity compared to, say, what a typical Customer Service Representative (CSR) contends with on a daily basis. It’s not a coincidence that the average turnover rate for CSRs in the U.S. is 33% — nearly double what the average turnover rate is among all professions.

These statistics are not lost on today’s forward-thinking companies.

As business leaders shift their focus to more value-added strategies such as customer experience improvement, the link between CSR burnout and business profitability has become painfully clear. After all, it costs a lot of money to find, hire and train new employees. The question is, can anything significant really be done about a department that’s long been synonymous with high-stress and high-turnover rates?

When looking at how order processing automation fits into a customer service environment, the answer appears to be a resounding “Yes.”

Chronic stress & customer service

Although stress can be a positive and motivating force in small doses, the long-term activation of the body’s stress-response system opens the door to some pretty serious health issues: It can alter mood, memory and sleeping patterns; it can contribute to headaches, heart disease, and musculoskeletal disorders; and, it can even affect how a person’s genes express themselves!

Unfortunately for many CSRs, prolonged exposure to stress is all in a day’s work. When they’re not fielding calls from needy customers, CSRs can be found performing the mind-numbing task of hand-entering order data into their department’s ERP system or hunting down a lost document. And, when a mistake is made and the arrows of blame start to fly, you can bet that the biggest targets hang on the backs of CSRs.

These types of stressors are so prevalent in environments that rely on manual and paper-based processes that they’re often just accepted as “part of the deal.” Thankfully, more businesses are waking up to the fact that this is not a sound strategy.

A stressed-out CSR team ultimately leads to larger issues. The big two being:

  1. Higher turnover rates. Included in this is the cost of:
    • Hiring and onboarding a new person
    • Lost productivity in getting new person up to speed
    • Training over a period of 1-3 years, typically
    • Cultural impacts due to constant staff “cycling”
  2. Lower customer satisfaction. Included in this is the cost of:
    • Increasing resources to quell customer contentions
    • Poor customer experience scores; potential loss of existing customers
    • Damaged reputation preventing new business opportunities

Now, I know what you may be thinking: How can automation — something that’s often feared by CSRs as a job replacer — be the key to reducing their tension and avoiding the subsequent fallout? It’s all about equipping them with the right tools to succeed …

4 stress-busting benefits of order processing automation

Too many managers make life harder for their CSRs by setting them up for failure. If a banana was the only tool a team of carpenters had to pound nails with, it’s fair to say that frustration and cynicism would soon follow. The right tools can make all the difference.

Below are the four biggest stress-busting benefits automation offers CSRs:

  1. It reduces repetitive and emotional encounters with customers.
    All of us can picture a helpless CSR being berated by an angry customer over the phone. As stressful as that is, having to manage routine, repeated requests also plays a big role in CSR burnout. It’s key to remember why these interactions are happening in the first place — a customer’s expectations were not met, or, the customer had no other means of performing the desired action. Automated solutions defuse these potentially combustible situations by allowing companies to offer their customers a self-service portal to place orders, track orders and even log disputes. Should a customer want to clarify an issue or ask a question directly, a built-in chat tool enables real-time communication with a CSR. Bottom line: Customers are far less likely to reach for the phone when they’re afforded transparency and control into their orders. That’s a recipe for happier CSRs, happier customers and a healthier bottom line.
  2. It relieves CSRs of unnecessary blame.
    Whether it’s their manager or a customer doing the finger-pointing, being a magnet for blame is huge stressor for CSRs. But humans make mistakes. If manual data entry is part of processing a customer order, at some point, errors are going to occur. It’s the process — not the person — that’s broken. Once again, automation provides a simple and intuitive fix. Machine learning technology embedded in the solution ensures that all the relevant data on an incoming order is extracted and analyzed, regardless of how the order arrived (e.g., EDI, fax, email, etc.). The data is then automatically processed or presented to the CSR for validation and uploaded in the ERP system. Bottom line: Automation eliminates manual data entry — the main source of order processing errors. This relieves CSRs of their burden of blame while avoiding the inevitable downstream costs of righting any wrongs.
  3. It helps CSRs be more organized and proactive.
    Most CSRs would love to get ahead of potential issues and showcase initiative. However, with no centralized system to view and manage all of the orders coming into and out their company on any given day, their hands are often tied. If order volumes spike unexpectedly or a priority customer’s document needs to be retrieved ASAP, the CSR is left scrambling. Here’s the beauty of automated order processing: Best-in-class solutions are equipped with customizable dashboards that display live, visual analytics to help CSRs strategize their day. Whether it’s seeing how many priority orders to validate or even managing open customer issues, CSRs can finally say goodbye to the endless cycle of backlogs and boondoggles. Bottom line: Dashboards empower CSRs, and empowered CSRs are a very low-stress and high-reward investment for any company.
  4. It creates an environment of purpose, fulfillment and upward mobility.
    Career uncertainty is also a major stressor for CSRs, as they can often feel trapped in the daily minutia of performing thankless, low-value tasks. With no clear path for professional growth in sight, their performance inevitably suffers, as does the overall customer experience. Order processing automation addresses this by relieving CSRs from traditional administrative duties so they can perform tasks that are more critical to the business and have greater potential for career-pathing. What’s more, managers can track KPIs in the dashboard to reward those CSRs who are going above and beyond. Bottom line: CSRs who receive recognition and serve a strategic purpose almost always perform better at their jobs and have a lower rate of turnover.

Workplace stress is a serious health issue that we’ve all experienced in varying degrees. And while measures like exercise, meditation and self-affirmation techniques can be employed at an individual level, in specific cases (i.e., CSRs), a more holistic solution is needed. What sets order processing automation apart is its ability to go beyond simply treating the symptoms of CSR stress and actually address the underlying root causes.

So, to all the businesses stressing out over how to solve their customer service problems, relax. Take a deep breath. It’s nothing a little automation can’t solve.

Are You Sabotaging Your Company’s Customer Service?

 

 

If there’s one business aspect that most organizations understand the importance of but don’t spend enough time improving, it’s customer service.

Since my first home-buying experience last year, I have experienced more poor customer service than I could have ever predicted. From smaller instances of companies not responding to requests for information to extremely frustrating occurrences of workers simply not showing when scheduled. Every time left me wondering “do they really not need the business?”

Many companies seem to believe that a single bad customer experience only impacts business with that company or person. Nothing could be further from the truth. The impact of poor customer service is like an iceberg in that it is far greater than what you see at first. Not only do unhappy customers end up going elsewhere with their business, but most report their mishaps to other potential customers — causing companies greater loss of potential revenue.

Biggest Customer Service Blunders

Taking a pro-active approach to customer service is the best way to ensure customer happiness and business prosperity. If your customer service department displays any of the following behaviors, it’s time to rethink the way you do business and the people you hire to communicate with customers.

  • Failure to follow up
    When a customer is waiting to hear back from you, don’t make them wait or contact you again to get the information they are looking for. Follow up early and often to remain in good standing with customers. They’ll appreciate the effort you are making to communicate with them.
  • Lack of flexibility
    You expect your customers to be understanding and flexible when something adverse happens on your side of business dealings, so you should be the same in your dealings with them. That’s not to say you should cater to outlandish needs, but being flexible shows that you value their business — an important component to great customer service.
  • Unfriendly communications
    One of the worst things a company can do when dealing with customers is to not be friendly. In a time where customer service experiences (both good and bad) quickly go viral, companies should know that the best thing they can do to improve customer service is to treat customers with kindness. There are a lot of other businesses they can choose to go to, so don’t think for a second that they won’t go elsewhere after even one poor experience.
  • “Don’t care” demeanor
    Going hand-in-hand with non-friendly communications is the “don’t care” demeanor. It’s human nature to want to feel accepted and valued — make sure your customers feel that way when working with them. Businesses like Zappos have this concept down-pat and, for that reason, receive huge amounts of one of the most trusted types of marketing: word of mouth. After all, in the words of Peter Shankman, “customer service isn’t about telling people how awesome you are, it’s about creating stories that do the talking for you.”

Don’t let poor customer service sink your company. Begin evaluating your customer service efforts and building a plan for improvement. And remember: “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning” (Bill Gates).

Using a Mobile App to Maximize Accessibility & Boost Efficiency in Accounts Payable

If there’s one thing that all accounts payable (AP) departments stand to benefit from, its greater accessibility to invoices and purchase requisitions. We can all agree that work isn’t confined to the office, so why should your AP processes be?

As the integration of business processes and technology grows and strengthens, so do customer expectations when it comes to speed and accuracy. One way AP departments can meet and exceed those expectations is by way of a mobile application. With one, managers are provided on-the-go, always-on access to: invoices, purchase requisitions, invoice approval or hold, document lists, key data, line items, original documents, and the sending of documents back to the AP department or previous approver.

The best part of using a mobile app for purchase requisition and invoice approval? The benefits of one span the entire P2P cycle.

Advantages of a Mobile Requisition & Invoice Approval App

  • 24/7/365 availability
    A mobile app allows managers to access invoices and purchase requisitions at any time and any place. Whether it’s a holiday or during travel, invoice and purchase requisition approval is always just a click away.
  • Work while on the go
    Managers have on-the-go accessibility to invoices and purchase requisitions with a mobile app, enabling continuity and speed in AP processes. During travel, there’s no need to wait for managers to be back in the office for approval — they can approve on their time, from wherever they are.
  • Easy approval
    Approving invoices and purchase requisitions is as simple as hitting a button thanks to mobile applications like Esker Anywhere™, available for both Apple® and Android™ devices.
  • Quickly resolve exceptions
    Rapidly resolve any exceptions and move forward with approvals from a single app. Doing so fosters positive relationships with suppliers and speeds up the invoicing process.
  • Increase efficiency
    With fewer bottlenecks along the way and less effort needed for approval, efficiency in the P2P process is improved.

Learn more about how a mobile requisition and invoice approval app can help your business by watching the video below!

Esker Expands Globally While Achieving Record Sales Growth

Leader in document process automation solutions sees an increase in demand for cloud-based solutions

Sydney, Australia — April 20, 2017 Esker, a worldwide leader in document process automation solutions and pioneer in cloud computing, recently announced that the company achieved record growth in 2016, fueled by an increased demand for cloud-based solutions, the changing regulatory environment in some countries and the company’s commitment to consistently delivering innovative, comprehensive solutions ahead of the curve. Esker’s strategic acquisitions and partnerships have augmented its customer base and facilitated expansion into new regions.

“We are experiencing dynamic, sustainable growth across the board, but especially in cloud-based solutions, where we saw a 20 percent increase last year,” said Steve Smith, U.S. chief operations officer at Esker.

“This represents 77 percent of total company sales revenue and validates the need for automation. Even better, we anticipate double-digit growth again in 2017 in every market where Esker is active,” said Christophe DuMonet, Managing Director of Esker Australia and New Zealand.

2016 Highlights

In order to accommodate such rapid growth while maintaining excellent customer service, Esker invested in additional staff. By late 2016, Esker outgrew its North American headquarters in Madison, relocating to new office space to accommodate new and anticipated future hires. Esker also opened its first U.S. satellite office in Denver to accommodate a growing number of customers in the Rocky Mountains and Pacific states, along with the western region of Canada, especially within the medical device, food production and semi-conductor industries.

Also, Esker expanded its international footprint, beginning with a partnership with Santiago, Chile-based Gosocket Corporation, a leading provider of solutions related to electronic document exchanges with digital signatures, to bring more value to Latin American customers of both companies. Customers in this region can now meet evolving electronic invoicing (e-invoicing) mandates that vary by country. Esker and Gosocket Corporation are working together to bring a more comprehensive set of offerings to the Latin American region beginning this year.

“Esker’s expansion into the Latin American region created an opportunity for both companies,” said Sergio Chaverri, chief marketing officer at Gosocket Corporation. “By partnering with Esker our customers will have access to leading business solutions and Esker’s international customers will have the ability to meet any changing regulations seamlessly.”

Esker also further developed its activities in the Oceania region with the signature of a partnership agreement with Fuji Xerox in New Zealand. “Automation of previously manual tasks and introducing mobile and analytics functionality for insights into the AP process delivers rapid and quantifiable benefits. With the combination of Fuji Xerox’s consulting team and Esker’s cloud Accounts Payable, we’re delivering tools that AP users need, but just haven’t been able to access,” says Cameron Mount, Fuji Xerox New Zealand GM Enterprise Consulting.

Lastly, Esker also put in place its third data center in Singapore, offering its Asia-based customers the best possible response times. This new infrastructure was built on the Microsoft Azure cloud platform.

Solution advancements

Esker is committed to regularly providing customers with new and improved offerings. One of the company’s most notable launches last year was Esker Anywhere, a mobile application that gives managers the ability to review, approve, and reject purchase requisitions and supplier invoices while out of the office. Esker also introduced solution integrations with Oracle JD Edwards EnterpriseOne enterprise resource planning (ERP) software and Oracle E-Business Suite, providing customers with greater operational process efficiency and productivity.

Following the 2015 acquisition of TermSync, Esker has now fully incorporated the solution into its accounts receivable (AR) automation platform, benefiting customers with strengthened reporting and analytics, faster collections and billing processes and decreasing costs. Esker’s new, comprehensive AR solution is designed to alleviate cash flow concerns for companies, especially as interest rates rise and customers demand extended terms. It also completes the order-to-cash (O2C) cycle, allowing Esker to offer customers an enhanced end-to-end solution for document process automation.

Ongoing and future initiatives

Earlier this month Esker finalised its acquisition of e-integration GmbH, the Düsseldorf, Germany-based electronic data interchange (EDI) service provider, which will allow Esker to further grow and develop in Europe’s leading market.
“We recognise that our customers have a global presence with varying needs in every market,” said Eric Bussy, worldwide corporate marketing and product management director at Esker. “We want to increase our international presence to fulfill those needs and offer the most value to our customers.”

Esker anticipates that 2017 will be highlighted by:

  • Double-digit growth and continued exploration of new external growth opportunities.
  • Innovative strategies surrounding Esker’s O2C and purchase-to-pay (P2P) solution offerings, including the launch of the TermSync product in France and a new online payment solution offered through Esker partner, SlimPay.
  • An agile and responsible business approach: Ranked among the top 30 Best Workplaces France 2017 by Great Place to Work®, Esker will continue to develop its Agile methodology and friendly work environment in order to offer its employees a quality, stimulating environment.

When Customer Service Errors Impact Billing And Collections

 

When there’s an error in order entry, it can wreak havoc on your billing and collections team. If one of your customer service representatives makes a mistake, it can disrupt your supply chain, increase returns and complaints, and delay payment. Although customer service may seem a world away from accounts receivable, your organision needs them to work together like a well-oiled machine. Eliminating manual errors at the order step will eliminate unnecessary complications in getting paid.

A miss-entered order creates a cascade of effects on the supply chain:

  • Incorrect tax
  • Incorrect shipping address
  • Wrong material numbers
  • Validation discrepancies

These problems can snowball if they’re not identified early in the fulfillment process, creating potential conflicts with state revenue and regulatory agencies and weak spots in inventory management.

Incorrect order entry has immediate, unpleasant effects on your customers. Not only will you see an increase in returns, with the associated costs of shipping and re-stocking, but your brand reputation will suffer. Dissatisfied customers will be quick to offer negative feedback and reviews, which may dampen future sales. Goods shipped in error may never sell, creating a backlog of waste that must be stored or disposed of. Re-shipping corrected orders increases your costs and creates delays for your customers.

A mistake in order entry doesn’t just annoy customers and jam up your supply chain, it creates problems with payment. Your invoicing process depends on the validity of billing addresses, contact information and credit card/purchase order/account numbers. If these are entered manually and incorrectly, you may not be able to collect payment on your order.

Even if your accounts receivable team is in a different city than your customer service team, you need an integrated, automated system that prevents manual entry errors and allows you to track the progress of an order from start to finish. Such an Order To Cash (OTC) system has 8 primary components, each of which can be customised to fit your organisation’s needs.

  1. Order Management.
    This module allows customers to place orders through a variety of channels (fax, email, online catalog, etc) into a single queue for processing, eliminating duplicates or order loss.
  2. Credit Management.
    A robust credit-checking protocol allows you to check customers’ credit as orders are placed as well as when they ship, protecting your business against fraud and lost revenue.
  3. Order Processing.
    Once orders are received and queue, your team can rely on automated processes to identify duplicates, flag discrepancies and validate product, quantity, address and payment before shipping.
  4. Shipping/Fulfillment.
    This component validates item numbers against your inventory systems, ensuring agile stocking and logistics and accurate reconciliation.
  5. Invoicing.
    Instead of the time-consuming, error-prone process of manual invoicing, a robust OTC system allows customers to receive invoices on paper or online including electronic signatures and built-in compliance with international payment regulations.
  6. Accounts Receivable.
    Following payment, your OTC system will place an entry automatically in the general ledger.
  7. Collections.
    Detailed order tracking allows you to customise your collections practices on aging accounts depending on your relationship with the customer. You can use different contact strategies for specific groups of accounts and tailor your outreach to individual customers.
  8. Reporting.
    This component gives you the capacity to collect and analyse data from all OTC components using a variety of pre-populated and customised reports.

If manual orders are creating problems across your supply chain and revenue cycles, your organisation may benefit from automating these processes using an OTC system.  Are you ready to learn more about the specifics of these systems and how they can support your business? Let us know, and we’ll work with you to design a customised, flexible solution that meets your organisation’s needs.