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Meeting Your Vendors’ Need for Speed

Unfilled expectations lead to disappointment.

Smart companies and individuals work to manage expectations. You can control some expectations but not all.

Where do expectations come from? Some we set ourselves. Our organizations claim or promise certain things. Sales & Marketing set expectations of customers all the time. (Then companies work to meet them!) Contracts are supposed to delineate what we actually commit to. In P2P, the purchasing group may set vendors’ expectations about interaction with the company. Purchasing, though, might be more focused on their own expectations of vendors.

Accounts payable faces expectations that it does not set and often is not prepared to meet. The expectations may spring from a vendor’s hopes rather than anything found in an SLA. Some expectations come subconsciously from the vendor’s wider experience.

Vendors, like everyone, are affected by their personal as well as business experience. As a consequence, they have become accustomed to certain levels of service. Automated self-service has spread to become a part of the service economy. The “prime” example is Amazon. It has set the bar very high. Leaving aside the mastery of managing inventory and logistic systems, Amazon understands the value of convenience, ease and speed.

But while we love Amazon, we hate the expectations it has created of us! People who’ve enjoyed Amazon’s remarkable capabilities suddenly expect to find such capabilities everywhere. Simplicity, speed—what they want, when they want it. They are often disappointed.

So it is with vendors’ expectations. In connection to AP, vendors want to know when they’ll get paid. They contact you to ask if you got the invoice or when payment will be made, etc. They typically have to call or email and very often wait. This goes against their expectations born in other areas of life. “We can watch live-streaming of astronauts taking a space-walk from the International Space Station, but I can’t find out when we’ll get paid.”

A part of expectations is also perception. Chances are your vendors perceive that most accounts payable departments are not on the cutting edge of service. So they moderate their expectations. That does not mean they are happy. They are still wondering why it isn’t easier to find out when they’ll get paid.

It can be easier. Across many applications, automated self-service joins processes with technology to allow people to help themselves. Gideon Rosenblatt of Vital Edge notes, “In the service economy, automation improves the productivity of end-users.” He distinguishes between automation that serves the end-user from that which merely shifts work from internal paid staff to external, unpaid end-users. If there is no value for the end-user, it’s just cost externalization, which the end-user will likely resent.

In the case of vendor inquiry self-service portals, vendors find real value. Vendor-inquiry self-service portals enable vendors to get the answers anytime. They do not have to depend on someone else. There is no phone call, no messages, no wondering when they’ll receive a reply to an email. An online self-service vendor portal allows a vendor to find out what they want to know when they want to know it, which is “now.”

The CMO Council, a marketing executives network, says speed is the most important customer experience attribute. A vendor self-service portal gives that to vendors. It also gives the vendor a sense of control. It allows them to find out what they want to know. And the win for them is a win for you.

To find out more about vendor self-service, contact us.

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