Tag Archives: accounts payable

Accounts Payable Analytics: How Companies Measure & Report on KPIs

 

In the 2011 movie Moneyball, Brad Pitt plays Billy Beane, real-life General Manager of the Oakland Athletics, a small-market Major League Baseball (MLB) franchise.

The movie — based on the book of the same name — follows Beane’s revolutionary use of “sabermetrics” to assemble a team that could compete with richer ball clubs, despite operating with a significantly lower payroll.

Call it David’s plan to topple Goliath.

Rather than rely on the handful of archaic statistics used by baseball traditionalists for decades, Beane took a more nuanced and analytical approach to gauging player performance — finding value where no one before him had thought to look.

What does all this have to do with accounts payable (AP), you ask?

Based on recent survey results, it seems that the world of AP invoicing could learn some valuable lessons on analytics from the world of sports.

The Current State of Accounts Payable Analytics

Undoubtedly, a lot of cash-strapped companies already feel as though they’ve done everything in their power to minimize costs and maximize efficiency (e.g., reducing staff, adopting lean practices, implementing e-invoicing tools, etc.).

This may be true to some extent, but results from a study by the Institute of Finance & Management, Visibility Into the Accounts Payable Process, indicate there’s still value being left on the table. The survey, which received 129 respondents, found that most AP departments continue to use antiquated tools and techniques to track their key performance indicators (KPIs).

Some of the more eyebrow-raising results of the study include:

  • Out of the AP professionals who responded, a whopping 66% said they track KPIs using Excel spreadsheets, while more than one-quarter rely on whiteboards, checklists and email trails.
  • Over 41% of respondents have no plans to implement a dashboard tool at this time.
  • Nearly 18% of respondents cited resistance to changing established processes as one of the main barriers to deploying new software solutions, while 14% cited cultural unwillingness to test new software.

Outdated strategies. Lack of forward thinking. Resistance to change. Sound familiar?

Much like the pre-Billy Bean era of MLB, a lot of AP decision-makers are clinging to intuition and old-school ways of thinking. In other words, they simply don’t know what they don’t know — and it’s dulling their competitive edge.

Why AP Dashboards Are a Game-Changer

Just like the use of statistics in baseball, the use of KPIs in AP is an effective way to measure performance and take “gut feeling” out of important decision-making processes. But doing it right means using the right tools.

Increasingly, it’s becoming clear that AP dashboards might just be the ideal, complementary tool to make every action smarter and more strategic.

Dashboards allow users to view, organize and manage actionable metrics directly from an easy-to-use interface. Not only do they provide visibility into what’s happening, they also answer the ever-important question, “What’s going to happen?”

Here are just a few examples of the valuable insight each user has access to:

  • accounts-payable-analytics-dashboardCFO
    • Organization spend overview
    • AP cash flow
    • AP process metrics
    • DPO
  • AP Managers
    • Visibility over spend
    • Spend by category, volume and supplier
    • Accrual reporting
    • Payment KPIs
    • Process efficiency
  • Cost center owner/LOB manager
    • Requests pending approval
    • Budget control and forecasts
    • Spend analysis and trend

Let’s face it. Your AP department isn’t as exciting as a MLB team, and no one is ever going to make a movie about AP analytics. But if Billy Beane’s story teaches us anything, it’s that it pays challenge the status quo and re-examine established practices. After all, gaining a competitive edge has never been a spectator sport.

Want to learn more about measuring and reporting on accounts payable analytics? Download the eBook, 5 Accounts Payable KPIs Worth Tracking, and discover how to maximize results with real-time analytics and dashboards.

Esker: Growing the P2P Suite in 2018 and Beyond

Company Background

Esker was founded in 1985 with the vision of helping businesses deliver paper documents electronically. Today, more than 30 years later, they have stayed true to its roots and are now one of the larger document process automation vendors in the market. Over 85% of sales now come from its on-demand (SaaS) solutions for Purchase-to-Pay, Order-to-Cash, and document delivery. Headquartered in Lyon, France, Esker also has operations in North America, Latin America, Europe, and Asia Pacific.

Based on the strong growth of its cloud-based solutions (+21% YOY), Esker’s 2017 sales revenues increased by 15.3% over 2016. Another interesting stat from the earnings release is that the number of employees in R&D increased by 18% in 2017, and now represents an impressive 22% of the total workforce.

During our briefing, Esker spoke to us primarily about the newer solution for Purchasing but also covered the Accounts Payable solution as well. Below is a brief description of each solution.

Accounts Payable

Esker’s sweet spot has always been its AP automation solution for the mid- and large-market. The cloud-based AP solution is designed to eliminate paper, reduce manual processing of invoices, lower costs, and improve efficiency. As you would expect they can easily handle most invoice formats and delivery vehicles. The solution can automate the AP process from invoice receipt to 3-way matching, and through to, and including, approval and transfer for payment. They have also automated the exception handling process, which can automatically be routed around based on customisable workflows and business rules.

Esker offers adapters for a number of ERPs including SAP, Oracle eBusiness Suite, and Microsoft Dynamics NAV. Over 50% of Esker’s AP customers have SAP as their backend ERP, not surprising since Esker has long provided integration to SAP. Two years ago they introduced an adapter for Oracle and this has resulted in good growth in this market segment as well. It is important to point out that Esker’s workflow sits outside of an organisation’s ERP, something they say is one of the major reasons clients select Esker for their AP automation.

Purchasing

Based on requests from its existing customers, and sensing market demand, Esker launched its on-demand Purchasing solution four years ago, in order to be able to offer full P2P functionality. The majority of Esker’s customers utilising the purchasing solution already had Esker’s AP solution or were sold the full P2P suite in the last four years. Esker Purchasing allows enterprises to automate the full P2P cycle, from the purchase request all the way through the payment process. Esker automates purchasing workflow and integrates seamlessly to the Esker AP solution. They provide out-of-the-box, role-based dashboards tailored to the specific needs of the user, and allow for easy switching between the AP and Purchasing solutions. Esker provides functionality to easily manage internal catalogs and is in the process of launching ‘punch-out’ catalog capability that will be available later this spring. Eskers purchasing solution is currently best suited to handle an organisation’s indirect spend but, Dupuy-Holdich said their vision is to possibly handle direct spend as well sometime in the future.

Final Thoughts

After a successful 2017, it was great to get an update from Esker to hear how they achieved such positive results and learn what they are currently working on and plans for the future. They have recently provided integration to SAP S4/Hana, Dynamics NAV 2017, and early payment discounts. Future plans include support for SAP S4/HANA Cloud and NAV 2018, punch-out catalogs, and contract management. They are working to leverage artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning in all of its solutions. The ‘Esker AI Engine’ is currently being used to improve global field recognition, for an intelligent splitting of invoice batches, general ledger auto allocation, and improved supplier recognition on invoices and purchase orders. Esker R&D is looking to utilise AI to improve the functionality of its solutions wherever possible. Esker understands the importance of being able to offer a full P2P suite and is motivated to bring its purchasing solution on par with that of the AP solution. Esker has produced solid revenue growth over the last couple of years and has a plan in place to keep that momentum going in 2018. Ardent Partners is very interested to see where Esker goes from here and the traction they are able to achieve in the full P2P market.

 

Source: http://payablesplace.ardentpartners.com/2018/03/esker-growing-p2p-suite-2018/

 

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.

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

[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.

Property Brokers – Improving supplier invoice processing with cloud-based accounts payable automation

BACKGROUND

Property Brokers, New Zealand’s leading provincial real estate brand, runs its entire accounts payable (AP) process out of its head office in Palmerston North. The company was manually handling the processing and approvals of its 1,200-1,300 monthly supplier invoices (for the head office and all the North Island regional branches). Unfortunately, the process was very paper-heavy and laborious and not a good use of time or resources.

Each invoice was scanned and emailed to the right branch or department for approval, and depending on the approval hierarchy, would sometimes need to go through as many as five approvers in the company. Each recipient printed the invoice, checked and authorised it for payment, applied the correct finance code, then signed and emailed back the re-scanned invoice copy. The accounting team at the head office would then print it out again and match it against the original invoice, before entering the data into the company’s Accredo accounting software. After ticking the invoice off on the master list, the invoice was finally filed.

This time-consuming process was both inefficient and error-prone. Data entry errors and payment duplications were numerous and the accounting team lacked real-time visibility of where an invoice was in the approval/payment cycle. It also made invoice handling slower and costlier than necessary.

The company knew it had to improve its overall invoice management process through automated capture of invoices and electronic matching and routing for approval, as well as reduce time and costs associated with manual matching, distribution of invoices and keying-in of information.

SOLUTION

It was time to modernise. Lee Waller, Property Brokers’ financial controller, was keen to find a better way to manage incoming invoices and expense claims handling. “I wanted an automated, simpler, faster and less labour-intensive system,” he said. So, the search was on. Property Brokers drew up a list of requirements and asked four potential partners to submit proposals.

Fuji Xerox New Zealand recommended Esker’s Accounts Payable automation solution as the perfect fit with the business. And, delighted with both the affordability and functionality of the solution, Property Brokers agreed.

The Fuji Xerox implementation team worked closely with Property Brokers’ finance team to configure Esker’s solution to reflect the company’s internal processes. From day one, Property Brokers were impressed with Fuji Xerox’s approach, which involved taking time to understand the business and get things right. The effort paid off and the go-live was a success.

Automating the invoice and expense approval process delivered instant results. The new level of consistent invoice coding provides an accurate picture of what the company is spending and where. Esker also gives branch and department managers a clearer view of their running expenses, which helps them eliminate unnecessary overheads.

Esker captures invoices from emails and uses intelligent Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to extract data from header and line level detail. It provides users with a friendly interface for invoice review and coding, a workflow engine to handle multi-level approval, reporting with dashboards, as well as archiving of images with the audit trail for further retrieval.

In addition to supporting Property Brokers’ technology strategy, Esker’s cloud-based solution makes invoice and expense information available to managers across New Zealand. Because invoices are now entered into the approval workflow as soon as they arrive, reviewing them has become a more manageable task for managers.

Thanks to AP automation, invoices are no longer scanned, printed, filed and manually matched. The AP team has been able to focus on more value-added tasks and keep pace with the growing business without the need to recruit more staff and monthly invoice close-off date has been reduced.

The Property Brokers team are enthusiastic about their new automated AP solution. Even the staff members who were initially nervous about such a dramatic change are now delighted to use the system. The company knew the project was a
success when they started receiving positive feedback from business users.

“I love Esker. We will see some major improvements to the bottom line in the coming months!”
Greg Kellick | Waikato regional manager

Read more:

Pelican Products, Inc. Improves Sales Order and Invoice Processing with Esker’s SaaS Solutions

Sydney, Australia — March 21, 2018 — Esker, a worldwide leader in document process automation solutions and pioneer in cloud computing, today announced it is working with Pelican Products, Inc., a leader in the design and manufacturing of protective cases, temperature-controlled packaging solutions, portable lighting systems and rugged gear, to automate its order management and accounts payable (AP) processes. 

Pelican chose Esker’s Order Processing and Accounts Payable automation solutions to streamline its processes, fill gaps in productivity, provide higher levels of visibility and allow for scalability within its business. Thanks to SAP-certified integration, orders and invoices are now electronically processed with machine-learning technology and automatically entered into the system.

Optimised order processing

Prior to using Esker, it took Pelican’s Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) up to thirty minutes to enter large, complex sales orders into the company’s SAP® system. Today, Pelican is processing fax, email and electronic data interchange (EDI) orders significantly faster, with order entry cycle times below 5 minutes which is a reduction of more than 80 percent.

“Esker gave us the most bang for the buck,” said Paul Sohn, director of business Applications at Pelican. “It provides a greater level of visibility over both the number of orders in the queue, as well as those entered into SAP. Our goal is same-day order entry, which Esker helps us achieve on a consistent basis.”

EDI order integration

With Esker’s solution, CSRs are now able to process EDI orders in the same workflow as fax and email orders — even those containing exceptions — without needing the IT department to correct issues. Delays due to EDI exceptions previously resulted in financial penalties for late shipments and reduced productivity for IT staff being pulled away to help fix errors. Pelican now benefits from streamlined processing of EDI orders, reducing processing time from what used to be days to just minutes.

Since implementing Esker, Pelican has been able to:

  • Reduce order entry time by more than 80 percent; from 30 minutes for complex orders to about five minutes
  • Maintain headcount; managing growing order volumes without adding staff
  • Accelerate delivery time; getting orders entered up to one day sooner to avoid late delivery fees
  • Improve visibility; custom dashboards and reports allow for 100 percent visibility on every order
  • Streamline order processing; all orders, even EDI, are routed through one shared workflow

Streamlined accounts payable

Like order management, Pelican’s previous AP invoicing process was also hampered by manual touch points. Slow processing times and lack of accountability over authorisations were two of the primary issues the company aimed to resolve. With Esker’s Accounts Payable solution, Pelican now has a more structured and transparent process for the accounting staff and management. This centralisation has allowed Pelican to respond to vendors more quickly and reduce the occurrence of late payments. Instead of searching through email or paper copies for invoices, they are now easily found in Esker’s solution.

“We can accrue invoices entered into Esker and see what’s been approved and what’s still pending,” explained Sohn. “The visibility it has brought to AP has made approvals easier and payments faster. It’s expedited the entire process — a major time-savings tool.”

About Pelican Products, Inc.

Pelican Products, Inc. is the global leader in the design and manufacture of high-performance protective cases, temperature controlled packaging solutions, advanced portable lighting systems and rugged gear for professionals and outdoor enthusiasts. Its products are used by professionals in the most demanding markets including fire/safety, law enforcement, defense/military, aerospace, entertainment, industrial and consumer. The company operates in 21 countries, with 22 international sales offices and six manufacturing facilities around the globe. In Europe, the company does business under the name Peli Products, S.L.U.

 

Center of Gravity

Recently, I came across an excellent blog from one of our partners, Intelestream. The post was about  Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software and some things to consider when implementing a CRM solution. Something that really jumped out to me was what Intelestream referred to as the “Center of Gravity.” By this, they mean that in every business environment the workflow will revolve around two or three key pieces of software that have a huge impact on the business.

Where this can become a problem for a company is if the software being used is the wrong tool for the job. What can make it worse is that the longer employees have been using any software, the more resistant they are trying something new. This is true even if the new software solution is specifically designed for their business process and has obvious advantages. Changing the Center of Gravity within a department is not easy but it is an important consideration when looking to implement any new software application and ultimately improve how a department does business.

Here is an example. Many companies use Outlook for their email. This is a very effective tool for communicating, however, it is not always the right tool for the job. I have seen a number of companies that use a shared inbox to receive and manage orders that their customers send to them via email. Outlook is great but it was never designed to be a queue for processing incoming orders. There are limitations when you have the wrong tool as your department’s center of gravity. In this example, the critical information is on an attachment. It is not easy to search of a specific attachment or priorities orders. You may see hundreds of emails but how many are orders? How many customers asking for express shipping? Besides the limitations with any tool that is not designed for this specific business process, you also have limitations and the communication with other applications or interoperability. To learn more, check out the blog: 5 Reasons You Shouldn’t Manage Your Business Process via Email.

If you are looking to improve operations within your company ask a department what is their Center of Gravity. Then ask yourself is that the right tool for the job? Consider what this department could accomplish if they had the proper tools for the job.

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!