Your finance department probably has some trading partners that are fairly hands-off … and others that require more attention from A/P and A/R.
The latter want your company at their beck and call, ready to help them and calm their worries at the drop of a hat.
And in these tumultuous times, with cash flow being such a major concern, you know that some vendors and customers may need even more reassurance and hand-holding than normal.
That said, your finance team’s time is precious, and you don’t want constant calls and queries from trading partners to hinder their productivity. To help, share these tips adapted in part from accounting pro Nellie Akal on how A/P and A/R can manage more high-maintenance vendors and customers without shelling out too much time:
1. Establish clear standards
If your company doesn’t provide specific working hours, communication methods or turnaround times, especially when so many people are still working from home, your trading partners won’t know you have any restrictions or expectations.
Listing details in contract terms, onboarding packets or an FAQ web page could help keep communication controlled. And if vendors or customers ignore your standards, your team has something they can quickly refer them to (e.g., a page number in the contract, a link to your FAQ page).
2. Define what ‘urgent’ means
Some queries are as simple as “When will my invoice be paid?” Others may be more urgent, like “There was a huge pricing error on the invoice we sent!”
But A/P and A/R shouldn’t leave it up to your trading partners to decide what constitutes an emergency, Akal says. For some more worrisome vendors or customers, it could help to spell it out with concrete examples.
Also, your finance department may want to set varying communication standards for nonurgent versus urgent situations. For example, you could encourage trading partners to send a query in the portal if it’s not an urgent issue and to make a direct call or email to a supervisor if it is an urgent issue. That way, your team can tackle the most pressing queries in a timely matter and address additional queries as time permits.
3. Track your activity
Once you have clear standards and communication methods outlined, you want to verify that they’re being put to good use in A/P and A/R. By tracking customer service metrics, your finance team can see how effective their rules and habits are – and where they may need some work. You could encourage your team to track things like:
- how many queries A/P and A/R each receive (and how many are urgent)
- the most common types of queries, and
- the average time it takes to resolve a basic query.
With that data, plus evidence of how things change over time, your team’s ability to manage its trading partners will continuously improve.