Before: Too Many Systems … Too Much Wasted Time
Julie is a credit manager in the Chicago office of a large wholesale distribution company. Each month, she and her team of five collectors oversee thousands of customer accounts and over $4.5 million in past due payments.
Every Monday at 9:00 a.m., Julie receives a Microsoft Excel report that contains key information on all of her accounts. The massive file contains more than 40 columns, and thousands of rows. The spreadsheet is Julie’s primary way to track aging invoices, payments, and disputes.
But the data gets old – fast.
As soon as someone runs the report, the data is stale…but Julie must rely on it for the entire week.
Julie does the best that she can with the information she has on hand. On Monday morning, she carves up the Excel report into actionable items for the team. She performs the tedious task of importing data from Excel into Crystal Reports. Although some of the data that Julie moves into Crystal Reports is already old, she doesn’t have a better way to show collectors where they need to focus their follow-up efforts.
Julie spends her afternoons acting on the data and making calls to customers. Before each call, she must jump between systems to gather information. She starts by checking a customer’s information in her spreadsheet. Then, she logs into the ERP to cross reference each account. She also refers to Microsoft Access if she needs a historical view of a customer’s data.
Julie has both Excel, and Access open during calls. She also keeps her ERP handy so she can take and review notes.
After each call, Julie updates the Excel report with information on when she can expect a payment or any disputes that are causing delays. The information that Julie records in the spreadsheet may or may not make it to the ERP; it depends on who is working on the account. A new collector who is not as careful as Julie may leave notes all over the place.
With all of these steps and systems, even Julie can forget something. An incoming call can distract her, and cause her to miss a step. And having too many programs open at the same time slows Julie’s computer – forcing her to write notes on the nearest piece of paper. If she doesn’t have time to double-check every note and system, her team won’t have the information they need when they follow up on aging accounts.
As the week goes on, the data gets older and older, which is why they often waste time following up with customers who have already submitted payments. But, since the Excel file is out-of-date, they won’t have a record of the payment until the following Monday. It’s no wonder that both customers and Julie’s team are frustrated.
All of this jumping around also limits the number of customers that Julie can engage with on any given day – along with the amount of money that she can bring in.
After: More Efficient Systems = Faster Payments and Less Effort Needed from Collections
Meet Julie … two months later.
Her CFO approved the purchase of an AR automation system so customers can make payments and manage their accounts online. Customers can log into the online portal at any time and use self-service features to solve problems and get answers without calling Julie’s team for support.
The system stores all AR data – from invoice through to payments – in one location that Julie and her team can access from their desktops and mobile devices. With all of her data centralized, Julie no longer needs the Excel report on Monday mornings. She can log into her AR automation tool at any time for up-to-the-minute data on every account and immediately see which ones need her attention.
Julie stopped using Access, as the new platform contains all of her data and notes. It also integrates with her ERP and syncs receivables data in real time. Now, Julie doesn’t need to refer to ERP data before she calls a customer.
Since Julie’s team has access to real-time data, they no longer waste time calling customers whose accounts are fully-paid. As soon as a customer makes an online or electronic payment, the system reflects it.
The best part? Fewer items are going into collections in the first place. About 85 percent of Julie’s customers use the online portal to submit payments faster. If a customer doesn’t pay on time, the system will automatically send them an email or text notification. Thanks to these alerts, more customers pay invoices before Julie’s team needs to get involved. In fact, her company has moved some collectors to different roles and higher-value projects.
Meanwhile, Julie and her team can focus on later-stage collections. Since she has greater visibility into each account, she can see if a customer logged into the portal, opened a late payment notification, or submitted a dispute. She can also apply incentives to specific accounts – such as discounts and credit card payment options – that make it easier for customers to pay.
The ability to view real-time data in a single, central location has greatly improved Julie’s working experience. Instead of jumping between systems, she can spend more time engaging customers and developing her team.
AR automation allows you to do more with less. You can manage a growing number of invoices and an expanding customer base without needing to scale your team. By automating many low-value and tedious tasks, the right AR automation solution makes your current employees more productive.
Interested in learning more? Download your copy of the Finance Leader’s Ultimate Guide to Digital Transformation in Wholesale Distribution now.