Dealing with Vendor Inquiries
Has your vendor master file decreased in size? Chances are, the answer to that question is no. Not only because it’s been a while since you cleansed the vendor master file, but because your organization keeps adding new vendors.
With new vendors come the same problems—inquiries about getting paid. Vendor calls and emails may be creeping up, especially as the overall economic outlook is brighter as vaccinations increase. The company has to keep up with those calls and emails to keep vendors happy. But it’s interrupting your procurement staff or keeping accounts payable staff away from actually getting the bills paid! Responding to vendor inquires takes time, which costs money and opportunity.
Answering questions and solving problems is part of the process, but not all questions involve problems to be solved. Most vendor inquiries are of a more straightforward kind. Surveys show that a vast majority of vendor inquiries comprise about a half dozen common questions, such as “Did you receive our invoice?” and “When will it be paid?” These are questions that are easy to answer, but they still take time.
Meanwhile, the vendor’s AR personnel are busy too. And they’re not crazy about leaving voicemails nor necessarily even wild about talking to your P2P staff before the latter has had their coffee. If there were a way for the vendors to find the answers to the bulk of their questions for themselves, they would do it.
In an increasingly digital world, we’ve become accustomed to walking around with mobile devices in our pockets that have a million times more processing capability than the computer that first took humans to the moon. But it is not just technology that has advanced. Our expectations have proceeded apace, aided by the excellent customer interfaces of consumer market leaders. (Whatever you think of the behemoth, what Amazon has done is fantastic. Customers can solve issues quickly and to their complete satisfaction with a few mouse clicks. Why would they want to call or email?)
The point is, we all have increasingly high expectations of what is possible. And we often don’t react well when denied something that should be easy. So much for the vendor’s perspective.
From your organization’s point of view, it sure would be nice to be able to focus on improving P2P processes and paid-on-time rates instead of plowing through the email inbox and returning vendor voice mails.
Which leads to this question: What’s better than solving a problem? Solving two problems. And in fact, the technology exists to do that. In the Philippines, the saying (translated from Tagalog) is, “In just one strike, there is a solution for two.”
That’s what a vendor self-service portal offers: a quick, easy way to solve two problems at once. Vendors can get the information they want. Procurement and AP avoid the interruption of phone calls or setting aside time to answer emails. Vendors are happy to get what they want with no waiting. P2P staff free up a hefty portion of time by not having to answer the bulk of vendor inquiries.
Of course, there are times when a vendor issue is more complicated, and procurement or AP can provide good customer service in trouble-shooting it (and maybe benefitting everyone in the process—see A Silver Lining in the Vendor Inquiry Clouds). But for up to 80 percent of the time, a self-service vendor portal solves problems on both sides of the relationship—one stone, two birds.
To find out more about vendor self-service, contact us.