Despite what a lot of accounts receivable (AR) leaders may still believe, “We have an ERP/accounting system” is not a viable credit and collections management strategy. Not in 2018, anyway.
Other departments (sales, marketing and accounts payable to name a few) have been more open to adopting complementary digitized solutions that provide added value beyond the traditional systems. It’s no great wonder why: They’ve proven to be effective tools for maximizing time, money and resources while creating a more transparent and collaborative work environment.
Nevertheless, AR appears content to settle for the status quo. Manual invoice delivery. Using sticky notes and spreadsheets for post-sale collections. No real analytical analysis. To put it in style terms, AR is out here in 2018 still rocking a mullet and mustache — and not in some hip ironic way, either.
Want to be the savior your behind-the-times AR department so rightly deserves? Here are 8 simple and sensible strategies that will get your team on the path to improved AR performance and maybe, just maybe, lead to a well-deserved promotion in the process.
Strategy #1: Greet technology as a friend.
Contrary to what’s commonly believed, automation is not some technological wrecking ball designed to wipe out and replace all of your existing people, processes and technology. AR can’t and shouldn’t be fully automated. The idea is to automate what should be automated.
Think of today’s best-in-class AR solutions more like a highly specialized team member. Except, this employee not only helps you get paid faster, keep costs down and improve customer relationships, it doesn’t take any time off. If that’s not an idea to get behind, I don’t know what is.
Strategy #2: Think beyond DSO.
Using metrics to improve performance is not a new or radical concept. But in AR, besides “DSO” and “Amount written off” the data analysis pool is laughably shallow. AR departments that find ways to go beyond DSO are able to effectively track performance, hold their teams accountable, and ultimately get the results they desire.
Want specific examples of these key metrics? Download the eBook found at the end of this blog post.
Strategy #3: Make e-invoicing a priority.
Switching to e-invoicing is in everyone’s best interests — both company and customers alike. It’s just a matter of creating a specific plan to facilitate the transition to e-invoicing. This can include strategies as simple as:
- Setting defined goals (e.g., increasing e-invoice delivery via email by 20% over four months)
- Collecting accounts payable (AP) email addresses from all new customers
- Reaching out to existing customers in order to convert them from paper to email
Strategy #4: Confirm invoice receipts.
“I never received the invoice.” How many times have you heard this from a late-paying customer? With the right AR automation solution in place, this problem disappears. Users can track invoices from beginning to end and know exactly when the document was received.
Taking it a step further, the solution gathers data that your team can also use to set up workflow rules. For example, your team could be altered to any unopened invoice (based on when it was sent, dollar amount, customer group, etc.) and reach out to the customer. Simple, easy and effective.
Strategy #5: Get a clear follow-up plan.
Most companies would love to contact their customers before 15-20 days past the due date. In reality, that’s a tough ask … especially in a manual environment that’s strewn with bottlenecks. Automated AR solutions have a better way of doing it. Their slick payment reminder capabilities ensure that friendly emails are sent out automatically to notify slow-paying customers. No human intervention necessary. No manual headaches or hassles.
Strategy #6: Focus on team efficiency.
It’s not uncommon for as much as one-third of an AR rep’s time to be spent on prioritizing contacts and searching for contact-related information. That’s a lot of time/money/production lost, my friends. Automated AR management solutions have an elegant solution to this problem — giving staff members a clear snapshot of their day via customized to-do lists. Not only will they know what to do and when to do it, managers are also aware, and can make decisions accordingly.
Strategy #7: Evolve with your customers.
You may have noticed that people nowadays seem to prefer interacting with small, glowing rectangles than actual human beings. Your customers are no different. Instead of speaking to a rep or getting put on hold, they would rather make an invoice payment or get a question answered online, often from their mobile device, and on their own time.
Self-service tools offered through automated AR solutions help customers do things like:
- View invoice information online
- Make payments electronically
- Apply credits to open invoices
- Sign up for auto-pay functionality
- Get questions answered rapidly
Strategy #8: Use root-cause analysis.
How do problems like late payments, customer disputes and deductions happen in the first place? Good question. With an automated AR solution, you can finally get the answer. Users can identify, track and categorize the root causes of some of the most common payment-related issues, and over time, even help them pinpoint customer patterns as to help avoid them in the future.
Care to learn more about these 8 AR management strategies? Download the eBook, 8 Accounts Receivable Management Strategies to Make Your Process Best-in-Class. It goes over the same strategies covered here … just in a bit more detail. If you liked this blog post, you’ll love the eBook. Enjoy!