Category Archives: Accounts Receivable

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.

 

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.

Trek Bicycle Reduces DSO Thanks to Esker’s Global Collections Management Solution

Sydney, Australia — April 10, 2018 — Esker, a worldwide leader in document process automation solutions and pioneer in cloud computing, today announced that Trek Bicycle, the largest bicycle company in the United States, has automated its global collections management process using Esker’s cloud-based solution powered by TermSync technology. The initiative went live in March 2017 and is currently being released to Trek customers in Europe and the United Kingdom. 

Trek has 16 international distribution centers and 5,000 independent bicycle dealers around the world, with 60 percent of its business coming from abroad. With Esker, the company finally has a global collections management solution, utilised by 32 collectors in 18 offices worldwide, to streamline critical accounts receivable (AR) activities such as payment reminders, account lookups, call logging, customer portal payments, collections forecasting, root-cause analysis and task management collaboration.

“We didn’t have a standardised collections tool before Esker,” said Andrew St Clair, global director of financial services at Trek Bicycle. “Everyday tasks, like sending reminder letters, were all done manually. We made it work, but there was no real consistency in our process. It was crucial that we had a true global solution and the other credit and collections vendors just didn’t have Esker’s international expertise.”

In an effort to meet its customer’s needs, Esker partnered closely with Trek to translate the interface into 14 different languages and even helpedin the design of a more user-friendly statement to send to customers. “Our worldwide rollout was a huge deal, and Esker kept up with us every step of the way,” added St Clair. “It was a true partnership.”

Benefits of automated collections management

Following the implementation of Esker, Trek has achieved numerous benefits, including:

  1. Reduced past-due percentage by 4 percent
  2. Reduced Days Sales Outstanding (DSO)
  3. Improved collaboration — users can now go into
    dashboards have helped in my day-to-day work, giving me access to indicators that greatly facilitate my daily monitoring.”
  4. Enhanced visibility — customisable monthly management reports can be accessed directly from the dashboard
  5. Increased productivity — several staff members were able to be reallocated to more business-critical positons
  6. Higher satisfaction — customers now have access to a self-service portal to make payments, manage preferences and more

“The discipline that Esker drives in the credit and collections process is phenomenal,” said St Clair. “In my 20-plus years, it’s the best product I’ve ever used based on its simplicity and ease of navigating. Esker has been extremely well-received within the walls of Trek and even with our customers. Everything we thought we were doing right before … Esker’s simply made it better.”

About Trek Bicycle

Trek Bicycle is a global leader in the design and manufacture of bicycles and bicycling-related products and accessories. From Tour de France-winning road bikes to tricycles designed to introduce the next generation of riders to the possibilities of pedal-power, Trek has a bike for nearly every rider. Trek believes the bicycle can be a simple solution to many of the world’s most complex problems, including obesity, traffic congestion, and climate change, and is committed to breaking down the barriers that prevent people from using bicycles more often for daily transportation, recreation, and inspiration.

You’re Trying to Manage What With Your Email System?

automated business process

3,352

That’s how many messages currently reside in my inbox at the start of this blog. I am not ashamed nor proud of this stat, but it’s a fact. I’m envious of those that can manage their mailbox like it’s a task or to-do list but, as much as I’ve tried, this simply hasn’t worked for me for a variety of reasons. And I know I’m not alone in this.

Many strategies have evolved over the years for me to efficiently find and manage my inbox. Key word in that last sentence…evolved.

New technology is great, but as it becomes more established in our everyday lives, both personally and professionally, it can morph into a solution it was never intended to address.

Email is not a workflow tool, business automation or document repository.

Organizations have come to me to optimize a variety of business processes that currently reside in their email system…sales order management, help desk tickets, master data requests, invoice approval, customer issue resolution — the list goes on and on.

Regardless of the process, where’s the visibility? Who has it, when did they receive it, what is the status, where does it need to go to next, how long did it take and why isn’t it completed?

No matter what industry you are in or department you report to you probably have encountered something similar.

As more and more emails are received, the potential for information being lost, misplaced, accidentally deleted, or unintentionally ignored increases.

This post is not a magic pill that is going to solve your overwhelming inbox. It is simply a statement that there are many great tools developed to help streamline business processes such as:

  • Accounts Payable Automation
    Allows businesses to eliminate the manual pains of traditional AP invoice processing thanks to intelligent capture, touchless processing and electronic workflow capabilities. The end result? A simpler, more efficient way to manage cash flow and generate new revenue.
  • Order Processing Automation
    Automation with workflow tools, customizable dashboards and self-service portals allowing customer service leaders to bring accuracy and security to every order processed and can eliminate backlogs from one day to the next.
  • Accounts Receivable Automation
    Completely automates the sending and archiving of invoices according to customer preferences and regardless of media type – postal mail, fax, email, EDI and publication on a web portal.

Now, it’s just a matter of doing your research to find the right automation tool for what you are trying to manage that best suits your organization’s requirements.

3,361…time to get back my email.

How Technology Plays a Role in Order-to-Cash Success

Whether its customers calling in about late shipments or your warehouse accidentally shipping incorrect items, sales order disputes can impact customer satisfaction. Order disputes can arise as a result of several different situations, such as:

  • Price variations of the goods that appear on the order vs. the invoice
  • Sales tax and shipping costs inaccuracies
  • Keystroke errors from manually entering orders
  • Differences in the terms of sale on the PO and the invoice

As a consequence, payment delays occur because customer service teams have to reprocess the orders and exceptions. Customer service is strapped for time as it is, and it’s challenging to take the time needed to adequately review all customer purchase orders for accuracy before processing.

Unfortunately, inaccurate orders result in inaccurate customer billing. If customer service had the time to manually review orders line by line for accuracy, there would be any number of exceptions found (e.g., PO with the wrong price or unacceptable terms and conditions of sale). No matter the exception so begins the tedious task of rejecting or reprocessing the order. Emails back and forth, requests made for an updated order to be re-sent, inventory put on hold, credits applied, verification for price adjustments … and this can go on and on for weeks.

Getting orders entered right the first time shortens the timeline to billing. By streamlining your entire procedure for customer communication, order processing, invoicing, and collecting payment for an order you’ll speed up cash flow, cut costs and serve your customers better in the long run. So, where is this Utopia found?

In the world of inbound customer sales order automation. From having visibility of all received sales orders into a single queue (by email, EDI, fax orders) to automatically extracting data from the document (e.g., customer name, PO number, ship to address, quantity, etc.) and comparing the data against information stored in your ERP, automation provides customer service a streamlined approach to approve orders or handle exceptions.

Technology like sales order automation has a role to play in implementing best-in-class strategies for order-to-cash (O2C) success. No need to avoid new technology from fear of costs, effort or change — these investments are necessary to remain competitive. Order automation can be implemented at a reasonable cost for companies processing as few as 500 orders a month and scalable to handle over 500,000. Speeding up the overall O2C process means speeding up your cash flow, reducing costs and running your business more efficiently overall.

Efficient O2C processes play a large role in the customer experience and company success —  unfortunately, they can be a challenge to attain when you have different teams working towards different goals. Download your copy of this eBook to start creating a positive customer experience with a proactive solution.

 

How to Start Building a Successful Customer Experience Program

By the year 2020, customer experience will overtake price and quality as the key brand differentiator. In other words, brands that don’t work on improving their customer experience will be left behind.

Customer experience is more than a trend or buzzword — it will play a pivotal role in the future of marketing and has an insightful ability to predict where a company will be 5-10 years down the line. What should you be doing, if anything to prepare for this change?

First, what is customer experience?

On a basic level, customer experience (CX) refers to how a customer perceives their interactions with your company. How does your customer feel at every touchpoint they have with you, from marketing to sales to support? CX is ultimately defined by the consumer, which means businesses need to actively adapt and set themselves up to exceed expectations.

Should you be investing in this?

Joe Hanousek, Esker’s Customer Experience Manager, believes that every company needs to be tracking their customer touchpoints and working towards continually improving that process. He often says that: “Seventy percent of senior executives in companies believe that CX is important. In my opinion, the other 30 percent shouldn’t be executives.” So much of the B2B focus is on lead generation instead of improving customer experience, although most people are well aware that it is less expensive to keep existing customers than it is to acquire new ones. Companies mistakenly start looking into customer experience as a last resort once they’re suffering, but customer experience is best as a proactive approach, taken when business is growing versus lagging behind. The graph below shows just how valuable an investment in improving customer experience could be.

How do you begin?

If you’re just getting ready to work on improving customer experience, aim for C-level sponsorship. It won’t go very far unless there are people at the top behind it, so do the research you need to convince someone to back you up. Most executives are aware of the importance of CX, but still aren’t taking active steps to improve upon it. If you haven’t already started in a few years, it’ll be too late.

Next, be sure you’re ready to invest a significant amount of time and human resources into building a solid customer experience program. At Esker, the process took a full year to go from conception to having a Customer Experience manager and a team in place. It’s a good idea to have at least one person fully devoted to customer experience and multiple people from different departments committed to being a part of the CX improvement process; otherwise, CX can easily become a task that is swept away on an already busy to-do list. This will also depend on executive buy-in, as far as whether the need to have a customer experience manager or team is understood.

Finally, it is important to communicate the goals of the customer experience program throughout the organizationEveryone should be on board and kept up to date. As Joe puts it: “It’s not C-Level people or managers that make customer experience better — it’s the staff working directly with them.” Educate, train and update all those who interact with customers at any level on what needs to be done to improve those important touchpoints.

The beginning stages of our customer experience journey.

Joe’s biggest recommendation for those starting to work in CX? Change your perspective. “It is not an area for problem customers to go to, but rather a way to prevent customers from ever having the problem in the first place,” he explained. As staff focus on offering solutions to immediate problems, the CX team should be looking into why those problems happened in the first place, and if there is anything that could be done to fix that.

Customer experience goes beyond customer satisfaction or happiness. A successful customer experience program will work to prevent problems before they arise, delighting your clients past the point of mere satisfaction. CX has become more of a trend in the past two years, but it is definitely here to stay for the long haul. If you have any questions about the process we went through to build our customer experience program at Esker, or about customer experience in general, leave a comment below and we will respond to you!

eCommerce and the Digital Journey

With spending 15 years of my career in the eCommerce space, I’ve learned a lot along the way. One thing that has stuck with me is no matter how much a company believes the business case that this is going to be the only solution they need, you can’t force it.

You see, there is another entity involved that the company doesn’t control — its customers. For example, one of my chemical industry clients created a whole eCommerce site to sell its low-margin products. If a customer wanted that product they would have to buy through that portal. Other companies create significant campaigns to transition their customers to eCommerce, highlighting the benefits to the customer and offering discounts if they buy from their site. All of these are legitimate strategies, because, in today’s world, an eCommerce channel is a must.

The problem is an eCommerce channel is not going to work for all customers. Some of them are large, drive a majority of revenue, and want to buy through EDI so that the systems can talk to each other with no human intervention. Other customers have ERP systems that are spitting out their POs and they don’t want to re-key orders, or upload a spreadsheet to a website. Some industries have customers that don’t have the capabilities, nor do they want to deviate from what’s been working during the course of their relationship with you: sending their orders via email or fax (yes, there is still a lot of faxing going on).

Digital transformation usually begins with EDI and eCommerce sites, but it doesn’t end there. If neither of those channels work, email and fax orders can be placed into your ERP after validation checks for accuracy — all without manual intervention. This gives companies cross-departmental visibility to everything in the order pipeline, the ability to easily measure KPIs, and the actionable intelligence necessary to address priorities or concerns in real-time before they become big issues.

In today’s world, the customer experience is king. Figuring out how to efficiently cater to them is every companies’ challenge. Sometimes the easiest paths are overlooked for those more glamorous. It reminds me of a song I learned in Girl Scouts that says “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold.” Every channel is important in its own way and can co-exist to provide a truly exceptional approach to business.

Promega France Enters the E-Commerce Era with Esker’s Accounts Receivable Solution

Sydney, Australia — February 27, 2018 — Esker, a worldwide leader in document process automation solutions and pioneer in cloud computing, today announced it is working with Promega France, a leader in providing innovative solutions and technical support to the life sciences industry, to automate its accounts receivable (AR) process in anticipation for the e-invoicing to public administration requirements scheduled to take affect in 2019. Thanks to Esker’s cloud-based Accounts Receivable solution, Promega France has been able to modernize its invoice processing process and improve customer service efficiency.

“By automating our AR process, we have taken an essential step into the era of e-commerce,” said Annick Dahlem, customer service manager at Promega France. “Esker has not only enabled us to improve and simplify our accounting process, but has also allowed us to prepare for upcoming changes. We particularly appreciate the collaboration with Esker France which facilitates our relationship with the support team.”

Benefits of AR automation

The solution was implemented in just six weeks and has enabled Promega France to send customer invoices as soon as they are prepared by email (in PDF format) or postal mail from Esker’s production facility. Fully integrated with Promega France’s SAP® ERP system, Esker’s solution also facilitates invoice tracking and archiving via an intuitive web interface available to all company stakeholders.

Since implementing Esker’s solution, Promega France has achieved numerous benefits, including:

  • Improved customer service representative (CSR) performance, freeing them up to spend more time on higher-value tasks
  • Increased efficiency when searching for invoices thanks to electronic archiving
  • Better information sharing — everyone involved in the process can collaborate on the same invoice
  • Improved activity tracking through customizable dashboards
  • Implemented sustainable development in the invoice routing process

“Over a quarter of our private sector customers now receive their invoices in PDF format, a welcomed approach that will most certainly continue to increase,” said Dahlem. “Esker’s customizable dashboards have helped in my day-to-day work, giving me access to indicators that greatly facilitate my daily monitoring.”

Thanks to Esker’s solution interoperability with Chorus Pro, the French public administration platform, Promega France can confidently anticipate mandatory e-invoicing to public administrations in January 2019. The public sector represents close to 70 percent of Promega France’s order volume.

About Promega

Promega Corporation is a leader in providing innovative solutions and technical support to the life sciences industry. The company’s 3,500 products enable scientists worldwide to advance their knowledge in genomics, proteomics, cellular analysis, drug discovery and human identification. Founded in 1978, the company is headquartered in Madison, WI, USA, with branches in 16 countries and over 50 global distributors. Promega France has been present in the Lyon region since 1992 with 45 employees, and many distributors in overseas France, Maghreb, Egypt, Greece and sub-Saharan Africa.

 

8 Accounts Receivable Management Strategies That Might Just Get You Promoted

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!

5 Mind-Numbing Tasks Your Accounts Receivable Team Never Has To Do Again

Money moves fast, from you to your vendors and from your customers to you. So why are Accounts Receivable (AR) departments so often stuck in outdated, time sucking practices that create unnecessary errors, waste time and prevent your valuable talent from focusing on their essential work? Why not automate those practices and make it easy for your staff to do what they do best–help your customers pay you!  You can revolutionize your AR operation by automating these 5 tasks:

1) Sending Snail-Mail Invoices. This is the 21st century. Last year 60% of companies preferred electronic invoicing, and for obvious reasons…it’s easy to track, lightning-fast to process and very more likely to be paid than a paper invoice that can be misplaced or simply thrown away. If you are reading this, your organization almost certainly already has the digital tools to distribute invoices by e-mail, including clickable links to allow for instant payment.

2) Sending One-Off Payment Reminder Emails. Customers sometimes need to be reminded to make their payments, but it can be confusing to figure out who gets the reminders and how to prioritize them.  Should you be reminding people with the highest balances or the ones that have been outstanding the longest? How can you tell if someone is overlooked? Automating your reminder list with customized messaging makes sure everyone gets an appropriate reminder at the appropriate time, and no one gets accidentally added or left out.

3) Prioritizing Collection Calls Manually. Collection calls are as tricky to prioritize as payment reminders, and your customers like them even less.  If you can generate collection call lists automatically, along with personalized call scripts, your AR team will be more successful and your revenue stream will flow more abundantly. Automated AR systems also allow you to track balances from purchase through the late payment and collection process with a minimum of manual intervention, which reduces the risks of billing errors and payment disputes.

4) Fielding Every Single Customer Inquiry In Person. While your organization is right to pride itself on its personal touch, your customers don’t have time to wait on hold while your staff rushes to answer phones. Automating your AR service options so that customers can use an online portal to resolve simple problems shows that you value your customers’ time and that you have highly-trained people on the phones when they’re needed. Tasks that your customers may be able to complete using an automated portal include:

  • Update contact and account information
  • Review account and order history
  • Simple troubleshooting, guided by online manuals
  • Register non-urgent questions and concerns via email

5) Compiling Data to Generate And Send Reports. AR isn’t just about collecting money, it’s about reporting how you get it and where it came from. Compiling reports manually not only takes an enormous amount of time, it’s very easy to make a mistake.  Converting your AR reporting from manual compilation to an automated reporting tool will give you more control over the accuracy and timeliness of your reporting, as well as the option of creating and revising reports far more quickly.

You hired your Accounts Receivable team to manage your company’s central revenue stream.  When you automate their purely administrative tasks so that they can focus on building customer relationships, you invest in their success and yours.  When your customers encounter problems with their invoicing or their payments, it reflects badly on your organization.