This blog is part of our Ask the Expert series on improving the customer journey by evaluating and improving customer interactions across various touch points within your organization.
I sat down with Robert Nix, a finance expert on our Business Consulting team. Robert has more than 25 years' experience in the financial and accounting field; he has served as an investment banker and also held several CFO roles. Robert is a CPA, CMA, MBA and Lean Six Sigma Certified.
Q: Who has more customer interaction than an organization's sales team?
A: Throughout my career, I’ve found that in many B2B organizations, accounts receivable interacts with customers as often as the sales team.
Poorly designed accounting processes can lead to challenging accounts receivable interactions. These interactions often negatively impact sales and increase customer defection. It is critical in an increasingly competitive environment to have the accounts receivable department act as brand ambassadors.
Q: What are some of the most common ways accounts receivable can be a source of friction in the customer experience?
A: There are many ways:
- Inaccuracies in customers’ account balances are a common source of frustration. Delays in posting customers’ payments can lead to inaccurate balances and statements. Poor posting procedures, such as applying checks to oldest invoices instead of correct invoices, also have a negative impact.
- Handling customer account disputes outside of the ERP system can result in slower response times when tracking down disputed items on an invoice. Lack of visibility into fulfillment, shipping and other important delivery documents can also delay responses.
- Delays delivering invoices leaves customers with limited time to pay within terms.
- Lack of self-service functionality allowing customers to view real-time information and documents.
- Difficulty providing copies of previous invoices because they are filed paper copies or need to be printed, scanned, and emailed.
- No authority (or limited) given to accounts receivable clerks to waive nuisance fees or make small corrections for customers.
Q: Are there opportunities in accounts receivable to enhance customer experience?
Make each interaction an extension of your brand – it needs to be a personal experience, not just another transaction.
You can do this by:
- Keeping track of customer's AP counterpart. Note birthdays, family members and other items that make dialogue more personable.
- Noting the method they prefer to be contacted: phone, email, text, mail, etc.
- Keeping tickler files for timely follow-up on payment arrangements, submission of requested documents, explanation of charges, etc.
Be proactive with friendly communications to customers. Maintain positive communications with customers, even when they are not behind on payments, to keep you at the top of their pay list and to keep their account current.
Finally, you should perform customer surveys to find out from your customers (internal and external) what your department is doing well and what are points of frustration.
Good business processes are the cornerstone to a well-run accounts receivable group and a positive experience for your customers. Making accounts receivable a customer friendly experience will pay back big dividends.
Through Tribridge's operational excellence solutions, we identify, implement and integrate the right business process improvements with the right technologies in the most effective way to drive business performance, yielding meaningful and measurable business value.
To learn more about how your organization can improve its customer experience, reach out to Tribridge for help.