Let’s say you’ve just implemented or are considering a customer-facing portal for your order-to-cash process. Good choice! It’s a great way to give customers the convenience of self-service on their time. On the purchasing side, we see companies with significant purchasing power make their purchase orders (POs) available automatically on their portal which is tied to their purchasing system — voilà!
Where it gets complicated
Every customer and supplier has their own portal. This came up on two recent conversations for me on the order management side. A medical device supplier sells to large group purchasing organizations (GPOs) which consolidate smaller hospitals so they have greater purchasing power. It’s a win-win for everyone: Suppliers get large order volumes and the customers consolidate their purchasing power.
Unfortunately, here’s what ends up happening to my medical device friends. After they get a notification that a PO is available, they log into a portal, view the open POs, pull down the PDF, save it, and process it from there. It’s tedious, time-consuming, and very, very manual. Now multiply this by the rest of your customer base!
Another automotive parts manufacturer sells directly to the large automotive manufacturers around the world. Ford, GM, and FCA, given their purchasing power, saved themselves a headache and essentially said, “If you want our orders, come and get ’em.” Ugh.
On the “to-cash” side of the business, we’re seeing a major uptick in customers say things like, “If you want to get paid, upload them to our AR portal.” Customers get the control and visibility of all their outstanding invoices in one platform yet, the supplier is supposed to manage logins and domains for every single one of their customers. My colleague Aaron LeHew wrote an eloquent piece that digs into this topic, which you can read here.
How robotic process automation can help
From AP folks pulling down invoices to pay, customer service teams trying to manage and not miss orders, and even AR teams trying to get paid in a decent time frame, we’ve seen and heard first-hand from customers about the “portal fatigue” in the market.
Esker’s developed Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to a level where it can mimic a human and actually log into a portal and push/pull an order or invoice into said portal.
RPA is great technology for repetitive, constant tasks. Combine that with Esker’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) engine? Now we’re cooking. Allow me to illustrate.
A notification comes in from your customer’s purchasing portal to your central email inbox, firstname.lastname@example.org. Esker’s AI technology extracts the data on the order and understands that you’ve got a new order waiting in the customer portal. Meanwhile, in the portal, the RPA bot is monitoring for a new order and automatically downloads that order to a network folder. From there, it’s automatically picked up, pulled into Esker’s Order Processing solution, routed to the correct CSR, and automatically entered into the ERP system. The Esker AI engine then cross-references those orders pulled down from a portal vs. email notifications to make sure that no orders were missed. This process happens automatically, all the time, in a matter of seconds.
Now that is fresh tech.