B2B enterprises are not exempt from customers’ high expectations in the digital age. Customers need information, and when an enterprise can make it easy for customers to get it, customers are happier. Self-service portals are an essential accounts receivable tool to enhance the overall customer experience, making it easy for customers to get clarification, register disputes, and make payments. A self-service portal gives customers a valuable sense of control while freeing accounts receivable resources.
Accounts Receivable in the Age of Rising Customer Expectation
With the advance of the Digital Age, information is at our fingertips. The smart “phone,” only incidentally a phone, is a powerful information device in the palm of our hands. Its ubiquity and power have significantly altered our attitudes and expectations. It is the prime example of the increased ease and convenience the digital age has brought in finding information and getting things done.
Consumer-oriented businesses have led the way in shifting cultural expectations, Amazon being the benchmark organization. E-commerce expert Scot Wingo coined the term “Amazon Effect” to describe the ever-rising level of customer expectations. Those customer expectations have not been confined to consumer-merchant interactions but have bled over into B2B relationships.
A customer thinks, “Amazon knows what I like and recommends what I want before I tell it, then delivers it the next day with one ‘click’. So why can’t you answer my question or solve my problem now, or—better—allow me to find the answer myself and take care of what I want to do now?”
The Criticality of Customer Experience—Especially with Accounts Receivable
The companion understanding is the criticality of customer experience, which has become a key competitive battleground in gaining and retaining business. McKinsey says customer experience is about putting customer needs at the center of what a company does and ensuring that along all the touchpoints and all relevant “customer journeys,” the customers have a flawless experience.
Enhancing customer experience to competitive levels involves all customer touchpoints, including finance in general and accounts receivable specifically. For example, customers need to locate invoices, find account status, register a dispute, or make a payment. And however charming a company’s accounts receivable staff may be, customers would rather serve themselves.
The Customer EIPP Portal’s Key Value
How does accounts receivable make that possible? Through a customer portal featuring capabilities for secure, web-based access to all the information the customer needs to view and make payments online effectively. Emagia’s Electronic Invoice Presentment and Payment (EIPP) portal is a good example.
Customers strongly prefer finding information on their own. A customer self-service portal provides them access 24/7 to their invoices and bills, due dates, and disputes, and it allows them to make payments, all without AR human intervention and its associated delays. A portal meets key customer objectives: 1. Convenience – being able to confirm the information and proceed to payment with little effort or difficulty; 2. speed—achieving their objective without delay.
On the other hand, if doing business with an organization involves much friction, it negatively impacts the relationship, which is bad for business. Poor customer service can damage relationships. A customer that finds it difficult, time-consuming, or frustrating to do business with you will not return, let alone recommend you to others.
Can Portals Eliminate the Need for Personal Touch?
Good customer service sometimes still requires personal interaction, and some organizations excel at “personal touch” customer service. There is a point at which the customer wants or needs to interact with a human being, so AR personnel need to be available, informed, empowered, and pleasant.
Competent personal customer service has gotten away from many businesses. But even good, automated solutions will not solve every issue. Companies that pay attention to personal service score high with customers and win customer loyalty.
When customers experience convenience through digital tools like a good customer portal and feel like they get personal service when needed, they become better customers.
Through the right technology combined with service skills, accounts receivable personnel can create a positive environment to resolve problems quickly, meet customer expectations, facilitate payments, and sustain good relations.