I was horrified when I found out what a high proportion of one of our client’s invoices were queried. Around 25% of the many thousands of invoices, they issue per month prompted lengthy calls, long email chains and a high number of escalated or drawn-out queries that ended up causing an even bigger headache: discounts, rebates and credit notes. Luckily, I’ve seen other clients talk about the sharp fall in queries that came about immediately after they went live on the Corrivo invoice to cash platform and I was confident that our solution and highly experienced team could help.
Here are the top strategies we employed to crush those query numbers and calm the chaotic lives of the credit team who were eternally juggling the complicated application of credit notes to already issued and new invoices.
1. Automate for accuracy
It may seem obvious but many people think they are doing electronic invoicing just because they send a PDF attachment with an email. Very few systems that create PDF invoices produce them automatically at scale – think 15,000 in a day for some energy companies we help. As long as your order taking systems (online, in-store or by phone) capture the order accurately in sync with stock availability, eInvoicing automation like Corrivo can create invoices accurately. Getting that first step right – accurate and automated invoice creation is the big win for many companies, who find that the number of queries drops off and their teams have fewer angry or irritated customers to deal with.
2. Add evidence and terms to invoices
One of our large builders merchant and specialist supplier companies has a lot of split deliveries. They also have different styles of delivery notes in use across their hundreds of sites. Making sure all the Proof of Delivery notes are attached to orders is more than half the battle in reducing queries, and when that is under control, there is less chance of payments being delayed. Again, this may all seem obvious but what you may not know is that despite the various types of POD in use Corrivo cleverly interrogates what are effectively human-readable- and not machine-readable documents, and automatically matches PODs and ePODs to invoices and combines them into one document. EPODs are saved and sent as data whereas the old-style delivery notes are often sent as PDF images. If your invoice total is in the thousands or millions of pounds then having payment held up over one errant POD can be disastrous for your DSO metrics.
3. Give Customers a Paperwork Portal
Customers that click a secure link and retrieve their invoices from self-service invoice portals get a free archive along with their invoice. Past orders, terms and conditions, statements and all the PODs and even POs can be there for them to check against. They effectively see a customer-specific version of what you do, so if they query an invoice you can immediately check if the problem is just one of not having seen what was there all along. It often is. The paperwork portal can save your AR team a great deal of time answering queries servicing and copy invoice requests. This is the age of Amazon and eCommerce and customers are well used to having account details and order histories available to interrogate. If you are still answering emails about missing documents, you have to ask what century your Accounts team is in!
4. Create Customer Specific or Proactive Chase Paths
Cleverly disguised as customer care or customer service emails, automated emails before due dates checking that the customer was happy with their order can be just the nudge a customer needs to check, approve and pay on time. Last-minute rushes, unfortunately, can result in queries and quibbles that are really stalling tactics designed to buy the customer time. The Corrivo Collections module lets you design reminders or chase paths your way, putting in emails, letters and calls at any intervals from invoice delivery, not just when invoices are overdue.
One client has used this with high value and repeat late-paying customers and has a code red chase path specifically for those customers that meet their criteria for proactive reminders. The Collections specialists also have a degree of license to amend the language and tone based on their specific understanding of the customer AP team. The remarkable improvement in their collections activity means that they actually have fewer people full time in Collections and they now have a strategy of using job sharers who work from home for half days to juggle work and parenting.
5. Redesign your invoice for readability
Invoices can be dull in appearance and don’t always make it easy for the customer to see the important elements. Redesigning your invoices not just to make them look more modern, but to signpost the most important facts like totals, issue date and due by date can have a positive effect and you may be surprised at the pleasant comments you get back from customers. While they probably wouldn’t tell you the invoices are hard to read they will confess as much by saying what an improvement the new look and layout is. Remember, printing and filing are not your issues so add colour and style that makes your invoice memorable and stand out from the dull old pro forma invoices of your competitors. Make key dates, payment terms, totals and payment details bold and unmissable and make invoice reference numbers stand out to help customers carry them through to bank to bank payments for easy reconciliation.