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AP Work Flow Solution

So we have a small finance team that is getting a bit overwhelmed with volume, with not just payments to process, but also questions to answer. Majority of invoices to be paid come in via email but volume is high enough that some email queries are missed.

We already use an invoice digitization tool (receiptBank) which helps us save time entering the invoice or receipt into our accounting software (Xero).

I am looking for a solution to better manage this volume and ensure we dont miss anything.

I was thinking about Zendesk, as an internal support desk tool, as it would help us mark each 'ticket' that came into our ap email, whether it was an item for payment, or a question, as resolved.

It would also give us better visibility on measuring how much volume we are handling, as well as how long it takes to resolve tickets.

What do you guys think? Any alternatives out there people are trying?

Answers

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
Company: SBAConsulting.com
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, SBAConsulting.com) |

Not quite sure what the exact issues are.

What are the email queries with A/P?

Are you using purchase orders?

Michael S Tan
Title: Director of Finance
Company: Unbounce
LinkedIn Profile
(Director of Finance, Unbounce) |

To clarify:

- some payments/queries are being missed (fairly regularly)
- high volume means its difficult to track our 'time to input' and 'time to pay' vs date of receipt

email queries include:
- when can we pay this?
- has this been paid?
- how can i submit expenses?

We do have a FAQ we send people, but people still fall through the cracks.

Chris Shumate
Title: Accounting Manager
Company: Dominion Development Group, LLC
LinkedIn Profile
(Accounting Manager, Dominion Development Group, LLC) |

Something our company is doing is that we have a dedicated email address where vendors send invoices to. Vendors do not, typically, have our staff's direct email addresses. You state that the majority of invoices come through email. Is it through a dedicated address that has that A/P team has access to?

I recommend quantifying the actual volume and the time spent on addressing questions. It may be beneficial to have a dedicated person answering questions and researching daily. It doesn't have to be the same person but sharing the responsibility is best in my opinion.

I'm not familiar with Zendesk or other alternatives like it.

Michael S Tan
Title: Director of Finance
Company: Unbounce
LinkedIn Profile
(Director of Finance, Unbounce) |

Yes, we are using a dedicated email for all incoming AP related items.

All members of the team have access and will reply to the thread when item is completed.

I would recommend taking a look at Zendesk as a solution. It works great for our 2 person IT team to ensure nothing gets missed.

I regret not looking at Zendesk for our AP process sooner.

Michael S Tan
Title: Director of Finance
Company: Unbounce
LinkedIn Profile
(Director of Finance, Unbounce) |

Thanks for responses guys!

To clarify, the queries we get could be actual questions to just an email asking for something to be paid. Emails come from a mix of internal & external, with or without approval. Sometimes we also chase employees for receipts regarding payments on corp credit cards.

Our process for dealing with each is well defined and staff are well trained.

Problem is that ensuring things dont missed. This is my main painpoint for looking at a solution like Zendesk.

For background, our 32 person Customer Success team supports over 13,000 customers around the globe using Zendesk already, as do our 2 person IT team supporting 170 staff in 3 timezones.

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
Company: SBAConsulting.com
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, SBAConsulting.com) |

Michael,

While not a Zendesk user, shouldn't the software track each ticket and "spit out" an exception report (assuming staff is properly using the software)?

Len Green
Title: Performance Improvement Consultant and E..
Company: Haygarth Consulting LLC
LinkedIn Profile
(Performance Improvement Consultant and ERP Strategist, Haygarth Consulting LLC) |

"So we have a small finance team that is getting a bit overwhelmed with volume, with not just payments to process, but also questions to answer."

Michael, you say the main factors for overload are sheer invoice volume, and queries to answer.

1. Can you/have you looked into why you have queries-are there themes or patterns about these queries? and
2. What are the root causes of the queries in the first place?

How about looking to reduce the need for queries-that should leave you with a "more normal level" of work. Then you can assess/make the case for whether your team is adequately staffed.

Don't throw technology at a process that may have weaknesses; fix the process first:)

Pragya Tandon
Title: Director of Finance
Company: ClearVoice, Inc.
(Director of Finance, ClearVoice, Inc.) |

Perhaps you could introduce KPIs around this process too? For example, % of late payments, % of missing bills, etc? This will drive the right behavior and drive the team to pay more attention to detail.

Susan Boles
Title: Accounting Consultant
Company: Tier One Services, LLC
(Accounting Consultant, Tier One Services, LLC) |

Maybe consider a combination of solutions. If your company is already using ZenDesk for other functions, it seems like an ideal solution to help ensure that queries aren't lost and are tracked all the way to completion. ZenDesk or FreshDesk (my personal favorite) are both great tools to keep accountability and interact really well with Xero.

Using ZenDesk, you'll have some data that can be reported on and you can analyze this to determine why you have so many queries, and potentially use that to reduce the number of queries you're receiving. One solution might be to build a knowledgebase inside ZenDesk to answer common questions, etc.

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