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Why You Need To Digitize Your Accounts Receivable—Even If You Don't Want To

  • 4 min read

To say the world is moving online is an understatement, most of it already has. If your accounts receivable processes are still in the dark ages, reading this is a good first step out.

Is your account receivables (AR) stuck in the dark ages? If so, you’re not alone but in a couple of years you may be. While exhibiting at the Industrial Supply Association (ISA) Convention (largest yearly meeting of distributors, manufacturers and suppliers), it was eye opening to see how many companies are still managing their AR manually and how risky this is with customer appetite shifting to the online world.

It was interesting to hear one attendee describe his AR as “stuck in the 1970s”. He explained how his team is flooded with a lot of “busy work” due to manual tasks, which take time away from high value work like collecting late payments and maintaining customer relationships. Does this sound like some of the issues your AR team faces?

The traditional AR process is inefficient which brings one question to mind, “Why hasn’t it changed?” It’s simply resistance. The answer always is, “this is just how things have always been done.” Companies have become complacent with a process that negatively affects the lifeline of their business, cash flow.

This complacency is detrimental for companies, especially with changing customer expectations. The digital age set a new tone on how buyers and suppliers interact and work with one another. Suppliers who are easiest to work with will have a competitive edge. When companies stay comfortable with their current AR process they are testing their customers’ tolerance for out-dated processes; this tolerance is running thin.

For example, consider how tolerance changed in B2C relationships. As a consumer, would you shop at a store that solely accepts cash, cheque or maybe gold bricks? Your answer is most likely no. The purchasing process has changed and people want to pay with debit, credit card and even near field communications (NFC) (aka "tap"). Consumers also want to purchase what they want, when they want, forcing some industries to adopt the click-and-motar business model - physical and online stores (take Best Buy as an example). It is evident that with new technology, new expectations arise and this is coming into play in B2B relationships, especially with the rise of fintech. New technology, like accounts receivable (AR) automation will affect the way companies want to be invoiced / how they want to pay.

If it hasn't crossed your mind, here are 3 reasons why you need to bring your AR to the 21st century, even if you don’t want to:

1. Your DSO is suffering

An Aberdeen Group study found that 59% of AR executives said that reducing their day’s sales outstanding (DSO) is their top priority. How can you do this? Refocus your team’s efforts on high value work with an accounts receivable (AR) automation tool. Automation allows your team to eliminate manual processes with no value add to focus on those that do: following up and maintaining relationships with customers. Analytics are also a key component of an AR automation tool providing visibility into the true picture of account balances. It allows you to allocate cash faster reducing cycle time, which in turn can help reduce your DSO.

2. Manual processes are costing you time and money

Time is money, so why are we wasting it? An APQC research report revealed that 86% of organizations surveyed submit invoices in paper form, 70% of those reported they send invoices via e-mail or fax. This is a lot of paper handling, envelope stuffing, file uploading and scanning involved. This labor cost is heavy on financial operations and can be reduced by automation. Utilizing an online portal that can pull invoices from your financial management system eliminates manual processes, speeds up invoice delivery, and improves customer experience. We have seen AR processing costs reduced by 40-60%, which is a significant cost savings that companies cannot afford to leave on the table, especially with tight margins.

3. Friction is contributing to late payers

How many times has a customer asked to resend an invoice or mentioned they didn’t receive it in the first place? Sometimes simple friction like this can contribute to late payers. This can be solved with a customer portal provided by an AR automation platform like VersaPay ARC. Providing access to invoices online, allows the customer to view and print invoices at their own convenience. If a customer has a dispute over what was billed, they can open a ticket within the portal, and your AR team is instantaneously notified. All conversations related to the invoice are tracked within the portal taking the pain out of tracking disputes over phone calls / emails. Customers can also settle their accounts by paying securely within the portal with ACH, EFT and credit card, allowing them to say goodbye to the manual process of cutting and mailing cheques. Presenting invoices, managing disputes and accepting payment online significantly improves customer satisfaction, allowing you to get paid faster.

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