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A Silver Lining in the Vendor-Inquiry Clouds

When a vendor does not receive an expected payment, they contact you to find out what’s up.

If payment has been late in the past, many vendors will not wait until payment is due. They’ll call to confirm that you got their invoice, or to ask when to expect payment (putting you on record).

There are many reasons for vendor inquiries. But there is a correlation between imperfect processes and vendor calls. The most commonly identified challenge to good “customer” service is some aspect of the procure-to-pay (P2P) process itself, says Financial Operations Networks’ 2020 Accounts Payable Customer Service Survey.

Get the Big Picture, then Drill Down

Vendor calls and emails can point you to problems in your procure-to-pay process. Pay attention to the frequency and type of inquiries you are receiving. Don’t just answer the individual questions. Step back and look at the big picture. It’s tough to do when you are scrambling just to get all the inquiries addressed.

But sometimes you have to push back the urgent to focus on the important. What is behind those questions? Have you got a gap, or gaps, in your P2P process? Seek out the root cause of the problems and address them. Maybe it’s sequencing.

As an example, companies should collect, validate and enter vendor information into the master file towards the start of the relationship. But for many organizations, nothing is done until an invoice shows up. That starts a “fire drill” of chasing down the information needed for the payment. In consequence, payment is delayed. A change of process to move proper vendor onboarding to the start of the relationship solves that problem.

Complaints Lead to Process Changes

Analysis of the complaints coming into AP can identify these kinds of issues. Almost half of participants in Financial Operations Networks’ 2020 Accounts Payable Customer Service Survey—47 percent—say problems identified through external and internal inquiries have led them to make changes to their P2P process.

By attending to and analyzing the cloud of complaints, payables can extract silver in the form of process changes. AP gains a better, more efficient process, sees a reduction in the number of calls and emails, and contributes to improved vendor relations. See the free white paper Relationships Count – The Importance of Accounts Payable Customer Service. Also, stay tuned for the release of the 2020 Accounts Payable Customer Service Survey.

To learn more about reducing the impact on staff of internal and external inquiries while providing metrics on “customer” interactions, contact us.

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