Finance automation doesn’t happen in a vacuum
Imagine this scenario: Your purchasing manager reviews inventory, notices stock is low and places an order with the manufacturer. What the manager doesn’t do beforehand is consult the finance department. Not knowing the status of cash flow or accounts receivable, that buyer has no idea if this order will put a temporary strain on the company’s financial resources or not.
One of the challenges of having an increasingly remote workforce is dealing with ineffective methods of communication. Rather than impromptu conversations around the water cooler, much of today’s communication is handled through scheduled video calls or messaging apps. These methods may work within the same department, but what about when you need to collaborate with people in other departments?
Unfortunately, in some companies, finance teams operate in a vacuum. They pay the bills and collect payments, but there is limited input into or from other departments. Even senior executives often don’t realize what a valuable resource finance can be to operations outside its immediate business domain. But when a company uses automated processes for linking all departments, the efficiencies within finance and accounting extend far and wide.
Let’s look at a handful of powerful examples:
Improving order fulfillment accuracy
The traditional order fulfillment method involves an account or customer service representative taking an order from a client and manually entering that information into the system before fulfilling the order.
However, an automated order management system can eliminate that step. The customer simply uses your website or app to place their orders directly, removing the risk of inaccurate manual entry (or re-entry) of information and resulting in more accurate fulfillment. It also allows your CSRs to be more than order takers and focus on delivering exceptional customer service.
Simplifying and optimizing procurement
With a manual system, it’s challenging to keep track of precisely what’s being ordered, when, by whom and the estimated arrival time. All the manual steps and data entry can delay the approval process authorizing these spending requests.
Using an automated solution, you can track the progress of each order from start to finish. You can limit your supply purchases to pre-approved suppliers with whom you have established relationships and authorization and easily match orders with invoices to ensure timely and accurate payment — all while using the data collected along the way to monitor trends such as average delivery time and inventory levels so you can become more efficient with your stock ordering process.
Maintaining excellent relations with suppliers
It’s more than just frustrating when a supplier with a great product and quick delivery times doesn’t prioritize your order because of inefficient processes — including timely payments. In fact, it can lead to supply chain issues, such as delays in receiving the materials and supplies you need can hamper your ability to fulfill your own customers’ orders.
An automated procure-to-pay solution can improve your relationship with suppliers. Not only does it make ordering your supplies easier (as mentioned above), but it can ensure you make your payments on time — and that makes filling your orders a top priority.
In addition, automation can let you collect necessary legal documents from suppliers to speed up the supplier onboarding process by providing them direct access to their information and invoices at any time, reducing the risk of manual data entry errors. And you’ll never miss a contract renewal as the system automatically informs you of upcoming renewal dates.
Ensuring the best customer experience
The life of your business hinges on customer satisfaction. If there are issues with invoicing, collecting payments or refunds, your customer satisfaction level will go down, which could result in them shopping around when it’s time for their next purchase.
Customers appreciate timely invoices and a variety of self-service tools, like online portals that make it easy for them to pay and update their orders and other information. And it benefits you in more ways than just customer satisfaction and loyalty. With the data you’ll be able to collect from the system, you’ll have a clearer picture of each customer’s needs, preferences and how much business they provide. You can then use this information to offer them perks, such as discounts for paying their invoices early, bulk rates and more — even to know what other products might interest them.
Enhancing customer support
Customers who contact you for support are likely already frustrated about something. You’ll want your CSRs not only to resolve the issue quickly, but also to provide an exceptional experience at the same time. To do this, you must first get the issue to the right person without delay. If there’s a single email inbox for all customer service requests, someone has to examine each email and manually route them to the right person, causing long delays with the customer response. It’s also not an effective use of time for your staff.
The solution is to have an automated process of categorizing and routing customer service inquiries to the appropriate CSR or staff member. Predefined email templates that work for most customer requests can be created. Also, your CSR gains visibility into customer accounts, including their orders and payment information, before answering a call or email.
Finally, by analyzing the data the system collects, you can prepare responses for the most common problems and incorporate these insights into your company’s work processes, CSR knowledge base, and even its product updates to eliminate those issues in the future.
Accelerating business development and cash flow
The goal of any company is to grow, and continued growth requires a healthy cash flow. To achieve that, you need an accurate, detailed picture of the company’s finances, including orders, accounts payable, accounts receivable and cashflow — and all the various departments and systems dealing with such data. This can be overwhelming when using a manual system.
With an automated solution, all this data can be readily available to the finance department, allowing them to perform analytics, determine current trends and forecast future spending and growth.
Automation in finance helps the entire company
Automating financial processes (aka financial transformation) creates a ripple effect across an entire company. In addition to making accounts receivable and accounts payable activities more efficient, automation helps with sales, order management and fulfillment, procurement and customer support.
So, when your purchasing manager goes to place that next order for supplies or more inventory, they’ll have a clear picture of sales, trends, projections and cash flow, which optimizes the ordering process. They’ll know if their action might pose a potential problem for others — without having to stop and confer with colleagues from various departments. The data they need to make an informed decision will be right in front of them.
The result will not only be stronger connections internally between departments and employees, but also happier customers enjoying their company experience, better supplier relationships and a healthier cash flow.