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The Problem with Vendors

Dealing with vendors can be difficult. An unhappy vendor’s call can ruin your day.

Complaints from purchasing just make it worse! If those people had any idea of the volume you’re dealing with! And their calls just interrupt your efforts to find the invoices and get them paid. Half the time you never got the invoice! Or the invoice is held up because there is no PO number on it (again). Or you are still awaiting approval from purchasing!

If they would just do it right — putting the PO on the invoice, sending the invoice to the right place and trying a little patience. Just because payment was late last month (okay the last couple months) doesn’t mean they have to call every day this month. And if purchasing would just shut up…

“Well, but have you tried explaining…?” It’s no use! You don’t know what that guy at X Industries is like; and that crazy person at Y company! And Sally, in purchasing, is just so difficult. There’s no talking to her.

According to InvoiceInfo’s 4th Annual Customer Service Survey, the challenges of customer service uncovered a number of challenging issues. There’s the difficulty of handling customer service queries while keeping up with AP processing; the lack of adequate resources or staff for the volume; providing timely responses; too often finding that invoices have not been received or were never sent to AP; approval delays.

Then there’s getting the same questions from the same vendors; not having time to complete investigation of the question prior to talking with the customer; or a lack of policy for consistency of service. Not to mention a lack of defined responsibilities, failure of other departments to use available tools and the attitude of certain customers. Meeting everyone’s needs and making everyone happy is, well, mission impossible.

Another View

Have you ever talked to your own accounts receivable department? They’re tasked with invoicing customers of your organization and ensuring the cash collection that keeps your organization in business. A conversation with AR provides a different perspective!

Further, consider that several of the customer service challenges the survey identifies have to do with your internal procure-to-pay operation. Approval delays, lack of policy or of defined responsibilities, lack of coordination among internal departments (resulting in, for example, invoices going to the wrong place), lack of receiving documents, inadequate remittance advice — these issues originate on your side, not the vendor’s. (True, they often involve purchasing!)

No doubt there is trouble with vendors, some more than others, and it originates on their side. And a vendor with a perennial bad attitude is a constant sorrow.

You won’t be able to change someone else’s personality. But you can focus on things you can change. You “can’t boil the ocean,” so you have to zero in on one thing that needs fixing and work on that. And when that’s fixed, find another thing. Doing so will provide relief from dwelling on negative vendors while improving processes that in the long term will solve the issues that vendors are calling about.

The best vendor service supports AP’s mission. Perfection isn’t likely. But an AP operation that understands its mission, that works positively to solve problems, and works cooperatively with its stakeholders, will be an AP operation that can respond confidently to vendors. Where any blame lies with you, fix what is in your power to fix. Responsibility yields strength and confidence.

For more survey results, including data on utilization of vendor portals, see InvoiceInfo’s 4th Annual Accounts Payable Customer Service Survey.

And for help in managing AP vendor service, click here to learn more about how InvoiceInfo and VendorInfo self-service portals can benefit your operations. You can also call (678) 335-5735.

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