The Paperless Office | Netsend http://netsend.com e-invoicing and e-billing solutions for business Mon, 15 Jan 2018 14:17:50 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 http://netsend.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/cropped-Netsend_Stacked_CMYK_square-1-32x32.png The Paperless Office | Netsend http://netsend.com 32 32 How to beat the Christmas Post (with electronic delivery) http://netsend.com/blog/beat-christmas-post-electronic-delivery/ Wed, 13 Dec 2017 16:15:03 +0000 http://netsend.com/?p=2257 It’s the time of year to be jolly… but actually, when you’re trying to get important documents over to clients, you might be feeling a little less jolly.  The infamous Christmas Post has a lot to answer for.  As millions of cards and presents enter the system for just a few weeks, this throws delivery […]

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It’s the time of year to be jolly… but actually, when you’re trying to get important documents over to clients, you might be feeling a little less jolly.  The infamous Christmas Post has a lot to answer for.  As millions of cards and presents enter the system for just a few weeks, this throws delivery timescales into disarray.

Have you ever tried to get a document to a client urgently on the lead up to Christmas?  What normally takes a couple of days can take weeks.  That level of uncertainty and delay is a problem when waiting for signed documents, and can lead to significant cashflow impact when invoices and payments are directly affected.

With the volume of post increasing massively on the lead up to Christmas (up to 10 million parcels per day at its peak), it’s simply too much for the infrastructure to handle effectively.  This resulted in 4.8 million reported delivery problems over the Xmas period in 2015.  Last year saw £148 million worth of lost or damaged post this Christmas in the UK. And according to Citizens Advice, online shoppers will typically spend two-and-a-half hours sorting out a delivery problem this Christmas – because an item is late, turns up broken or doesn’t arrive at all.

In a survey carried out in December 2016, more than one in five had a parcel go missing*

A third of consumers who receive a damaged parcel don’t take action. For those that did try to complain, more than 40 per cent ran into problems – such as difficulty contacting the retailer or delivery company on the phone.

So, how can you avoid this as a business?

Electronic Document Distribution – for reliability and speed of delivery

As every Christmas shopper knows, the online world is without the queues and traffic of the high-street.  This is also one of the attractions of electronic document distribution, enabling businesses to send documents swiftly and securely irrespective of season.

Furthermore, electronic documents can be produced and sent automatically.  The paradigm of accounts receivable automation has sprung up in response to the demand for more streamlined and cost effective ways to generate and distribute invoices and other AR documents.

In the context of the accounts receivable department, electronic invoicing is growing at a rate of 20% year on year globally.  It’s not hard to see why, when you consider the value of getting invoices out quickly, as this brings the cash into the business sooner; Christmas post, or not.

Know when your documents arrive

Beyond the simple ability to avoid postal traffic, electronic document distribution systems, such as Netsend, afford the sender insight into how the document distribution is progressing at every step of the journey.  There is enormous value in determining who has actually received time-sensitive documents, and even whether they have opened them and, where appropriate, agreed to the content.

With an electronic document distribution system, it’s possible to see at a glance who has not yet responded to documents.  Reports can be generated for direct follow-up, or statements and/or dunning letters can be generated automatically to nudge slow-responders into action.

You’re not just saving time, but saving money too

Electronic documents are not just the fastest and most secure way to ensure business documents are delivered, they also present a significant cost saving.  Reducing the reliance on print and postage for the distribution of business documents brings paper, stamp and printing costs down considerably.

Many businesses go as far as outsourcing the remaining print and postal requirements to be handled through a single document distribution solution, such as Netsend.  This simplifies the process of distribution, as documents are directed to the distribution system and then either sent electronically (in most instances), or automatically printed and posted for recipients who are yet to convert to accepting electronic format documents.

Save throughout the year and be ready for next Christmas

Businesses making the most effective deployments of electronic document distribution are committed to onboarding as many customers to the new process as possible.  When you consider the average saving of €6.60 per invoice sent electronically, rather than by post, it’s clear that efforts to convert recipients are highly valuable.

At Netsend, we achieve an average conversion of over 80% within 6 months.  The industry standard sits a little lower at 60% after 1 year, but there are many techniques, as well as product nuances that can encourage an audience to convert to electronic documents more quickly.

Get in touch today and find out how quickly you can benefit from electronic document distribution, saving all year round and side-stepping postal strikes and seasonal fluctuations like the Christmas post.

 

*Shock figures reveal how many parcels are lost or damaged

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What is Robotic Process Automation (RPA)? http://netsend.com/blog/what-is-robotic-process-automation/ Mon, 20 Nov 2017 16:28:23 +0000 http://netsend.com/?p=3349 A popular question this year has been “What is Robotic Process Automation (RPA)?” and more specifically “What are the benefits of RPA for my business”. The robots are coming.  It’s a fact that businesses need to embrace.  In a typical office, so many day-to-day tasks are completed by following repetitive behaviours, adhering to a strict […]

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A popular question this year has been “What is Robotic Process Automation (RPA)?” and more specifically “What are the benefits of RPA for my business”.

The robots are coming.  It’s a fact that businesses need to embrace.  In a typical office, so many day-to-day tasks are completed by following repetitive behaviours, adhering to a strict set of rules.  How many of us recall the mind-numbing copying, or transcribing, of data from one place to another in our early careers?  As you knew at the time – humans are more valuable than this.

Robotic Process Automation enables businesses to free up staff to focus on valuable problem solving, creative challenges and direct customer or partner interactions – areas where automation simply isn’t possible (at least in this day and age).  Through RPA, tasks that involve repetitive, rules-based, behaviours can be assigned to a robot (typically a software-driven system, rather than an archetypal mechanical robot).

Research by McKinsey & Company indicates that the automation market is likely to be the third most impactful change for businesses over the remainder of the decade (just behind the growth in mobile internet and wireless technologies).  In another report, McKinsey and Company suggest that up to “45 percent of the activities individuals are paid to perform can be automated by adapting currently demonstrated technologies”.  It’s time to consider not whether RPA is relevant to your business, but how it is relevant.

45 percent of the activities individuals are paid to perform can be automated by adapting currently demonstrated technologies

What are the benefits of Robotic Process Automation?

    • Accuracy – once programmed, an RPA ‘bot’ will not deviate from the task, copy-pasting is 100% accurate, information is never miskeyed and quality never wanes due to fatigue.
    • Scalability – bringing more bots online to tackle greater volumes of the same process is a simple task of cloning the original bot, no training required. Modifying a bot’s programme to extend their remit can be just a tweak to a few lines of code.  RPA enables businesses to rapidly scale up, or down, without the need to train, hire or restructure employees to meet changing demands.
    • Speed – working at the speed of a machine, bots can process vast amounts of information, far more quickly than a human. With the advent of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning, RPA paves the way for self-refining processes that improve in efficiency and speed as time goes on.
    • Security – when programmed correctly, RPA presents a reliably secure workforce. Gone are the worries of accidental data leakage, malicious acts, or vulnerabilities from the exploitation of human weaknesses.  Security becomes a matter of encryption of data transfers, hardening of firewalls and something that can be outsourced to an RPA partner, rather than an HR concern.
    • Visibility – every action a bot takes can be recorded for review and auditing at a later date. Total transparency and visibility of all activity is achieved through RPA.

How to implement Robotic Process Automation

There are various ways to bring RPA into your business, typically it is advisable to partner with a specialist for automating whichever aspect of your business you wish to focus on.  Some solutions are driven by code level commands, and some use a full abstraction layer that accesses the user interface of your business systems as a human would.

The initial set up of Robotic Process Automation is key to its success.  Taking the time to ensure all eventualities are covered and any outliers or extremes can trigger a manual checking request will save time later.  Where data is transferred between systems, ensure this cannot be intercepted and establish a protocol for handling breaks in communication.

RPA only works when processes can either be digitised, or are inherently electronic in nature.  In addition to this, automation needs to follow rules.  Without complex AI, it’s hard for RPA solutions to handle tasks which require evaluation or judgement of any kind.  RPA is best suited to repetitive, rules-based, tasks, leaving the decision-making process for humans.

Robotic Process Automation and Accounts Receivable

Accounts Receivable is an area of business ideally suited to Robotic Process Automation.  Many businesses underutilise their AR teams, losing time to repetitive tasks that can be automated via RPA.  Automating repetitive tasks frees up AR teams to focus on the areas that require human expertise, such as dealing with anomalies and answering questions.

At Netsend, we have been helping global businesses automate AR processes for over a decade.  We can help you pinpoint the most repetitive AR processes, establish secure and dependable automation routines for these and roll out automation in a scalable manner – even across multiple countries, business units or brands within a parent company.

Our approach requires minimal time and technical support from your IT department, enabling fast deployment based on proven approaches refined over years of experience.  Netsend integrates with existing Accounts Receivable infrastructure directly – removing the need to export or copy data from one system to another.

With Netsend, the output of the automated processes needn’t be restricted to electronic format communications.  If certain customers still require paper-based communications, Netsend offers a centralised print and postage service to deliver each communication at a fraction of your existing cost.

Talk to us today to find out how we do this for businesses all over the world.

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Improve Accounts Receivable Performance through Better Communications http://netsend.com/blog/improve-ar-performance-better-communication/ Mon, 23 Oct 2017 09:49:18 +0000 http://netsend.com/?p=3273 The post Improve Accounts Receivable Performance through Better Communications appeared first on Netsend.

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Improving Accounts Receivable performance can provide a valuable impact on cash flow for any business.  This improvement can be thought of as spanning a number of focus areas, these are:

  • Communications – types, frequency and content
  • Production – systems and tools to create communications
  • Management – reporting, proactivity and escalation processes

We look at each of these here and outline recommendations to review your existing processes and improve AR performance.


Communication tactics to improve AR performance

The communications process in AR is all about striking the right balance between chasing prompt payments and maintaining good customer relations.  Invoices are sent with plenty of notice, and ideally customers pay promptly with no further reminder.

In reality, many customers require a little extra nudge.  Often this takes the form of a statement – outlining invoice details and reminding of the need to pay.  Or a dunning letter, which is typically sent after progressing from polite reminders and direct contact to the need for a firmer demand for payment.

Conventional wisdom is that if an invoice is not paid within an acceptable period, a statement is sent, followed by direct contact and then, if needed, a dunning letter.  However, it is valuable to identify whether a customer has actually seen the initial invoice, or statement, before sending the next communication.  One of the most common excuses for late payment is ‘not having seen the invoice’, but tools exist to reduce the risk of this now (see the later section on managing AR communications).

In the world of digital communications, many businesses are moving over to electronic invoicing as part of an e-billing intuitive.  This presents many benefits to the business, such as improvements in efficiency and accuracy, but increasingly electronic formats are preferred by customers too.

Consider your customers’ needs, do they have automated Accounts Payable systems, or require invoice submittal to a Value Added Network (VAN)?  In such cases, connectors exist to mesh invoicing systems from AR with their customer-side counterparts.  In some cases, customers will prefer to receive communications by email, or even SMS.

There have been countless studies showing how communication preferences have changed from Generation X, to Y, to Z.  Think carefully about your customer demographics, should you be targeting younger customers with SMS, WhatsApp messages, or other channels?  Where is the sweet spot for email communications, and when do you need to fall-back on sending printed letters by post?


Improve AR performance through better production

Once you have mapped out your customer communication needs and preferences, you need the tools to effectively deliver these communications.  Leading e-billing systems, such as Netsend, offer the ability to send communications in a variety of media types, spanning print and post, to email, to EDI and direct integration with AP systems and VANs.

Where possible, invoicing and other AR communications should be automated – flowing directly from accounting systems to reduce the risk of human error in the copy-paste of information.  Outsourcing to an e-billing specialist, such as Netsend, enables the AR team to deliver accurate communications quickly and efficiently, allowing them to focus on more profitable tasks, such as chasing late payments and dealing with anomalies.

In the era of electronic communications, it makes sense to allow customers access to their invoicing archives – through an online portal.  The use of such a portal can also provide a location for customers to self-service requests for reprints, or even pay invoices online with a card.


Managing AR communications to improve performance

Where modern, electronic, solutions are deployed for AR communications, there is an opportunity to use these to record engagement levels.  Forever removing the risk of customers claiming not to have received, or read, an invoice or similar communication.  Through the advent of such tracking, reports can be generated on a regular basis to understand who has indicated intent to pay, or paid, and who hasn’t even engaged to any degree.

Armed with the insight into who is engaging, or expressing intent to pay, AR teams can more effectively organise proactive communications to remind customers to pay, or identify who they need to pick up the phone to.

Given the linear, procedural, nature of AR communications, it’s not hard to see how many steps in the escalation process can be automated – further improving AR efficiency and performance.


Conclusion

A carefully balanced approach is required to ensure the best communications, production and management practices are in place and aligned to deliver optimal AR performance.  Working with an expert partner to outsource aspects of AR processes, such as electronic invoicing and associated communications is one of the most effective ways to achieve this.

 

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Metrics to analyse Accounts Receivable performance http://netsend.com/blog/metrics-accounts-receivable-performance/ Tue, 01 Aug 2017 08:08:10 +0000 http://netsend.com/?p=3060 The post Metrics to analyse Accounts Receivable performance appeared first on Netsend.

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Measurement is the first step towards improving performance.  And measurement is only valuable in this regard if you’re measuring the right things.  Through the deployment of electronic invoicing, we help clients all over the world improve their accounts receivable performance, so we’ve established a clear list of the metrics that matter to determine performance improvement.

Browse the list below and evaluate your accounts receivable performance.  At Netsend, we can show you how significant improvements can be made in all of these important areas.  For instance, how The Guardian reduced their DSO by 2 days – read their case study here.

Days Sales Outstanding (DSO)

Probably one of the most important, and frequently measured, metrics for judging AR performance.  DSO is the length of time it takes to collect the money owed to the business.  Different industries, and different countries, have different average lengths of DSO.  One of the best resources for determining the average your business should be looking to meet, or improve upon, can be found in the quarterly Atradius Reports.

On average, in the UK, DSO is 31 days.  This is significantly better than the average of 44 days DSO across Europe.  With payment terms typically being in the range of 30 days, this equates to an average delay of just 1 day in the UK, but 14 days across Europe.

It’s important to realise that DSO can fluctuate significantly, so is best averaged over a year at least for general performance, or tracked more closely for regular late-payers and a means to chase sooner and shorten their typical delay time.

DSO is best contrasted against best possible DSO, with the goal of driving DSO down to as close to the best possible DSO as you can.  Best possible DSO is calculated as:

Best possible DSO = (current receivables x number of days in invoicing period) / credit sales for period

How to improve DSO?  One of the easiest ways to drive down DSO is to integrate with buyers’ payment systems and encourage automated payment – perhaps incentivising for payment within an acceptable timeframe.  Additionally, tracking invoice receipt and even intention to pay can provide an early indication of which customers’ payments will need to be chased down, and who is likely to pay on time.  At Netsend, our portal provides an easy route to track payments and our connectors provide deep integration with a vast range of payment systems and Value Added Networks (VANs).

Average Days Delinquent (ADD)

The measure of ADD provides insight into how effective AR processes are in collecting receivables on time.  ADD is calculated as:

ADD = DSO – best possible DSO

As mentioned in the section about DSO, above, it is important to use best possible DSO and actual DSO as comparative metrics – ADD provides exactly this measure.  Plotting ADD and DSO visually, over time, can provide an intuitive handle on performance fluctuations.

Collective Effectiveness Index (CEI)

CEI provides insight into how effective AR process are at collecting all outstanding money in a specific period (often one year).  CEI provides a quantitative handle on collections processes, rather than the more qualitative indication from DSO or ADD.

CEI is calculated as a percentage by:

CEI = (beginning receivables + monthly credit sales – ending total receivables) / (beginning receivables + monthly credit sales – ending current receivables) x 100

100% CEI implies a perfect collection process, so AR teams should strive for as close to this as possible.  Ongoing performance measurement should pick up any significant drops in CEI, as these indicate a problem with the collection processes.

CEI and DSO should move in different directions as performance enhancements are made to AR processes, such as e-invoicing or automation.  CEI provides an overall measure of quality of collection processes, rather than DSO or ADD which are measurements of time and reflect broader AR processes.

Accounts Receivable Turnover ratio (ART)

The ART ratio indicates cash flow and liquidity through a measurement of how frequently accounts receivable are turned into cash.  ART is measured over a period of time, typically a year.  ART is calculated as:

ART = net credit sales / average accounts receivable

As any CFO, CEO or senior financial role will be aware, cash flow is extremely important for the health of a business.  Free cash flow determines how much money is left to reward shareholders, or to reinvest for business growth.  Measuring ART keeps tabs on how effectively AR processes are supporting this.

Number of revised invoices

Whilst this isn’t a standard, formal, metric, the number of revised invoices generated over a given period is valuable to track.  This determines the quality of the outgoing invoices and can help identify needs to improve initial invoice quality through automation or better access to information.

And invoice revision that is required adds additional workload to the AR team, and time to the invoicing process.  AR automation is a proven approach to reducing inaccuracies in invoices and flows well into the wider remit of electronic invoicing.

Improving Accounts Receivable performance after measurement

Whichever metrics (hopefully all) you are measuring, you need to think what you intend to do with the learnings.  Determining that your DSO is well beyond your industry average, but without a plan to address this, measurement is meaningless.

Solutions such as electronic invoicing and AR automation present a popular route to addressing AR performance challenges.  The beauty of these solutions is that they support your existing AR team and processes, enabling AR teams to focus on more valuable work that can’t easily be automated or digitised.  The biggest threat to business success is, often, wasted time – at Netsend, our AR solutions improve productivity and enable you to focus on your business.

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Accounts Receivable Best Practice: 7 Steps for Improving Productivity http://netsend.com/blog/accounts-receivable-best-practice-7-steps-for-improving-productivity/ Mon, 08 May 2017 08:48:31 +0000 http://netsend.com/?p=2617 The post Accounts Receivable Best Practice: 7 Steps for Improving Productivity appeared first on Netsend.

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Accounts Receivable best practice has at least one element in common with virtually any other best practice recommendation for business.  Lose the paper, go digital.  It’s staggering to think that, even in some global businesses, AR teams may be printing, folding and stuffing paper invoices into envelopes for post.

Paper is fast becoming a relic from bygone days, at least in a business sense.  It’s just not efficient enough for the pace of modern business.  Even at a personal level, it’s easy to identify with the inefficiencies of paper-based processes.  How frequently do you write letters these days, when instant communication is but an email away?

Working with global businesses, to improve productivity in Accounts Receivable teams, has enabled us to identity a number of key areas for AR process improvement.

Accounts Receivable Best Practice #1: Efficiency

Best practice in Accounts Receivable is driven by the need for improved business efficiency.  The biggest threat to business success is, often, wasted time.  Replacing paper-based invoice generation with electronic invoicing enables automation of AR processes, freeing up the AR team to focus on more profitable activities that require the nuances of a human touch – such as chasing down late payments and resolving credit issues.

Accounts Receivable Best Practice #2: Visibility of Payment Status

Beyond plain efficiency, AR best practice should include improved visibility of invoicing status.  E-invoicing achieves exactly this, with the ability to identify what was sent to whom, whether it was received, or even read, and when.  With advanced e-invoicing solutions, such as Netsend, customers can even mark an invoice, electronically, to indicate payment intent, or pay directly online there and then.

Improved visibility provides insight that can be acted on, to support credit controllers in reducing late-payments and disputes.

Accounts Receivable Best Practice #3: Chasing Payments

One of the most valuable roles AR teams play is to chase down payments and bring the cash into the business as quickly as possible.  Collecting money fast is always a major competitive edge.

A well-structured e-invoicing solution should be able to provide an at-a-glance view of outstanding payments, or even a pre-emptive list of habitual late payers to chase before they are due.  Sometimes a simple statement can be sent as a timely reminder, encouraging payment.  Automation rules can be set to assist with this process and preserve the AR team’s time for more complex or sensitive payment conversations.

Integrating e-invoicing with credit collection software such as Ero57 enables seamless and secure access to sensitive documents, and messaging workflows, expediting credit collection. Where possible, this should be a consideration for improving productivity in an AR team.

Accounts Receivable Best Practice #4: Security, Compliance and Ease of Auditing

Whilst security doesn’t necessarily enhance productivity, it’s still made it onto this list as an essential consideration for AR best practice.  Given the sensitivity of invoicing information and customer payments, it’s essential that any digital transformation of Accounts Receivable processes – from e-invoicing to automation – complies with industry standards such as ISO 27001:2013.

VAT compliance can be met most efficiently via the use of digital signatures and online record keeping, although many businesses still unnecessarily encumber themselves with paper-based records for the same purpose.

Auditing can prove painful for AR teams when invoice records are stored in paper format.  Modern, electronic, systems enable much faster access to documents via search and present the opportunity to generate reports for auditors at the touch of a button.

Accounts Receivable Best Practice #5: Integration with Accounts Payable

The flip-side of every invoice sent is the payment process.  In a B2B context, Accounts Payable teams, and increasingly automated AP systems, need to process invoices before payments can be made.  Integration of invoice distribution with AP systems is growing in importance as a way to simplify and expedite the payment process.

In some cases, Accounts Receivable teams are manually inputting invoices into customers’ AP systems.  Where possible, AR teams should deploy e-invoicing solutions that have connectors for the payment systems they need to integrate with, saving time on inefficient manual processing.

Accounts Receivable Best Practice #6: Supporting Paper

We do not live in a perfect world, consequently many businesses find the need to support a percentage of customers who still require paper invoices.  Industry average conversion rates for customers to accept electronic format invoices are around 60%, although at Netsend we often achieve in excess of 80% conversion within a matter of months.  To achieve the best efficiency gains from electronic invoicing and AR automation it’s essential to handle the remaining paper-based percentage via the same process.

Best practice in this regard is to process all invoices in the same manner, but directing those who require paper to be printed and posted by an offsite solution partner.  This removes the need to maintain print and postage hardware in-house and for the manual fulfilment of this time-consuming process.  Including within the same invoicing solution enables aggregation of invoicing records and improves reporting, auditing and overall efficiency.

Accounts Receivable Best Practice #7: Outsourcing

Few businesses stop to think about it, but we all outsource postal delivery to the postal service.  It’s simply not efficient to run your own postal service.

Indeed, the point above (#6: Supporting Paper) follows a similar line, in that best practice in supporting paper-based invoices is to outsource the whole print and postage process to enhance efficiency.  For instance, at Netsend, we often leverage print and post at a hub within the destination country for the invoices, saving time and cost on international delivery.  However, these efficiencies are only achievable through economies of scale brought about by the volume of printed invoices we handle for clients on a global scale.

So, printing and posting of invoices are best practice to outsource, but what of the electronic invoicing and AR automation solutions themselves?

As businesses embrace cloud-based and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) solutions, it’s common wisdom that high up-front investment in solutions is often better offset in favour of an as-a-service solution funded through savings in operational expenditure.

Companies who attempt to develop and maintain e-invoicing solutions in-house are faced with a massive task.  Whilst it’s certainly possible to do this, there’s a reason why global corporates such as 21st Century Fox, Pizza Hut and VF Corporation choose to outsource their e-invoicing to Netsend.  It is simply not economically viable for most businesses to develop and maintain an e-invoicing solution in-house, keeping on top of evolving invoicing standards and technology requirements.

Outsourcing may raise questions about control and risk, but these are easily addressed.  The control remains within the business, as you dictate the requirements, and the outsource partner provides assurances by way of contractual obligations and service level agreements.

By delegating the responsibility you’re allowing someone else to take care of the details and address any risks. Outsourcing allows you to tap in to the knowledge, experience and capabilities most suited to successfully realise the task.

 

For more information about the value of outsourcing your e-invoicing take a look at our FAQ document.

 

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Using Customer Portals to Improve Efficiency among Credit Teams http://netsend.com/blog/using-customer-portals-improve-efficiency-among-credit-teams/ Thu, 04 May 2017 08:56:09 +0000 http://netsend.com/?p=2644 By Scott R.Tillesen, Experienced VP in Global Credit  The Three Essentials Credit professionals need to be productive, fast, and consistent in the function they perform. Productivity is the measurement of the effectiveness with which people are applied to the tasks. Being fast is a measurement of the speed in which decisions are made and the speed […]

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By Scott R.Tillesen, Experienced VP in Global Credit 

The Three Essentials

Credit professionals need to be productive, fast, and consistent in the function they perform. Productivity is the measurement of the effectiveness with which people are applied to the tasks. Being fast is a measurement of the speed in which decisions are made and the speed in which the credit staff responds to internal and external customers. Consistency is a measurement of how well credit policies and practices are applied to the customer base.

The main objective is to pull together all of the needed data into one application that is available to anyone on the credit team who is involved with the customer account

The achievement of these three objectives can be greatly improved by using a customer information portal. The main objective is to pull together all of the needed data into one desktop application that is available to anyone on the credit team who is involved with the account. Information will come from your existing ERP system, manual input by the credit staff, information provided by customers, and information obtained from outside sources.

The various types of information gathered fall into various categories:

  • Basic Information includes – name, address, website, risk rating, account origination date, last review date, next review date, credit limit, available credit, and terms of sale.
  • Accounts Receivable Data includes – account balance, ageing, payday history, last payment date, open items, open orders, and orders released but not billed.
  • Security Information includes – credit insurance coverage, personal guarantees, cross corporate guarantees, letters of credit, security filings, or any other kind of security – including expiration dates.
  • Financial Statements includes – images of statements as obtained from customers or public sources, key data stored as data for use in scoring models.
  • Associated Accounts includes – related data for accounts either formally or informally associated with one another, i.e. when credit extension is considered on an aggregate basis.
  • Contacts includes – names, titles physical addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses for owners, officers, and credit contacts.
  • Notes includes – a record of account strategies, customer promises, issues, and customer contact in an ineducable form. Notes should be automatically date stamped with the identification of who made the entry.
  • Documents includes – financial statements, credit applications, legal agreements, security, and customer announcements.

Design and Development

The design of a portal needs to take into consideration the limited space of a computer screen. High priority information needs to be arranged on a summary screen, while information needed for a deeper dive can be on screens accessed from a row of tabs. Care should be taken not to overuse scroll bars that slow down the navigation process.

The development of a portal is dependent on IT resources, and perhaps some out of pocket expenditures, but most importantly it is dependent on the credit management team to have the vision and thought leadership to promote the creation, development, and utilisation of a customer information portal.

An information portal approach to customer account management can improve the consistency of management of accounts in the portfolio, the accuracy of tracking security, the productivity of the staff, the speed of decision making, promptness of customer payments, and a reduction in the amount of bad debt incurred.

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The Future of Customer Service http://netsend.com/blog/future-of-customer-service-guest-post/ Fri, 21 Apr 2017 08:52:57 +0000 http://netsend.com/?p=2608 By Jo Causon, CEO at The Institute of Customer Service A report, published earlier this month, by the International Bar Association suggested that innovation in artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics could compel governments to legislate for quotas of human workers and disrupt traditionally accepted working practices. It goes on to suggest that around a third […]

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By Jo Causon, CEO at The Institute of Customer Service

A report, published earlier this month, by the International Bar Association suggested that innovation in artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics could compel governments to legislate for quotas of human workers and disrupt traditionally accepted working practices.

It goes on to suggest that around a third of graduate level jobs that many individuals and employers take for granted today may be consigned to history because machines or software will be more ‘work ready’ than someone fresh from the education system.  And the report also warns that the idea of creating competition and differentiation between organisations, based on customers’ service experience, could be eroded as robot production lines and intelligent computer systems undermine the need for human activities.

A Force for Good

There is, in my view, no denying that automisation is a force for good where it removes activities which, in reality, are purely transactional.  Imagine someone wanting to purchase a train ticket or pay their Council Tax; both are simple scenarios requiring logic, with little emotion, real problem solving, communication or innovation skills and competences required and there is no reason why a computer cannot be deployed to perform these tasks.  Doing so will free up individuals to undertake what are, in my mind, real customer service roles and activities, creating more job satisfaction – and therefore, engaged employees – as the people in these roles can be retrained for customer-facing roles that require a greater level of interaction.

Automisation will free up individuals’ time, allowing them to undertake real customer service activities thus creating more job satisfaction

The fact is that, with the world of work changing fast, organisations should focus on appropriate people development so that employees have the right skills, competencies, capabilities and training to be able to deliver in their roles and find well-paid, productive work in the future.  The new apprenticeship levy does encourage people development at one level, but good employers will be those exploring ways to upskill their people across the full range of today’s multi-generational workforce.  Put simply, automisation and AI will not just affect new entrants to the labour market and to ensure customers’ experience a seamless and more than satisfactory service across every channel and opportunity, employers should be considering how they ensure the workforce is fit for purpose now and capable of handling tomorrow’s future.

This is because, as more jobs are automated, employees will be redirected into customer roles that robots and machines are unable to fill.  Customer service skills rely on emotional intelligence, problem solving, innovation and empathetic connection and this is especially true given that the latest UK Customer Satisfaction Index shows that behaviour and attitude is more important to customers than price.  The issue with robotics is that they currently lack the sound of authenticity, so there needs to be a blend of human interaction with automation to give customers the experience they crave. Of course, I appreciate that the real opportunity with AI is that it learns and develops and this can only serve to really revolutionise work and interaction.  However there will always be the need for customer experience professionals who have the skills and competences to deliver alongside greater automation and AI.

The real opportunity with AI is that it learns and develops and this can only serve to really revolutionise work and interaction

The Intelligent Economy

That is why it is increasingly essential to provide employees with better customer service qualifications that help make this transfer into the ‘intelligent economy’.  Indeed, a recent Institute of Customer Service report, called ‘The Customer Knows’, highlighted how the skills that will be required will revolve around customers’ desire for both a personal assistant and a trusted advisor, however expanding the range of devices and materials connected to intelligent technologies will transform the way people interact in a personal and professional capacity and this will fuel the demand for greater personalisation.  In other words, whilst technology can address their desire for speed and efficiency, the capabilities that employees require will need to focus on emotional intelligence, with competencies focused on how to read and manage different personality types and emotional states.

There are still some who doubt the benefits that AI and automisation can bring.  Yet both should be embraced, not feared.  Neither can fully replace relationships between customers and suppliers, but with the right skills, the right training and the right balance, both can be used to create more meaningful customer relationships that build trust and loyalty and, ultimately improve organisational performance.

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Getting the best stamp discount for business post http://netsend.com/blog/getting-best-stamp-discount-business-post/ Mon, 27 Mar 2017 08:17:47 +0000 http://netsend.com/?p=2071 The post Getting the best stamp discount for business post appeared first on Netsend.

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Getting the best stamp discount for business post can be a minefield.  Mailing houses all offer some form of stamp discounting for business post.  This presents a day one saving to your business when switching over to their service – something that’s understandably attractive.  But if you’re really searching for the best discount on your business post you need to look at little further…

How much is the best stamp discount for business post?

Let’s give some context to the potential savings from stamp discounts.  The Royal Mail stamp value of a 2nd class Frank rate is 41p, and a downstream access provider will discount around 5p off this, to 36p per stamp.  That’s a saving of 5p per item, forever.  Evaluating this over say 10,000 posted items each month gives an ongoing saving of £500 per month.

Another way to achieve a similar business saving is to convert a percentage of posted items into electronic documents – where there is no cost for their distribution.  To match this example, you would need to convert 1,351 documents to an electronic distribution model.  That’s 13.5% of the 10,000 monthly distribution.

The question you should be asking then is whether a 13.5% conversion to electronic distribution is a realistic figure.  There’s some good news here.  At Netsend we achieve an average conversion of 82% within 3 to 9 months.  So that’s a saving of £3,034 per month on the example given.

So the best stamp discount for business post is actually more than 80% – equivalent to buying stamps for less than 7p!

It’s not just the cost of stamps for business

Okay, so there are some additional costs to consider in the set up and management of electronic document distribution, but there are also additional costs in the printing, folding and envelope stuffing of traditional postage.

If we take a critical view of what’s involved in moving customers over to receive electronic documents, it’s clear that there are a few steps involved.  Each has associated costs, but these can be offset against the saving in both stamp costs and printing/postage process equipment, maintenance and staff time.  Let’s evaluate the main components.

An Electronic Document Distribution System

This is the engine that enables you to send documents electronically.  Think very carefully about how you invest in this.  There are many off-the-shelf solutions that can be tailored to varying degrees for your business needs.  It’s important that you select one that is flexible enough to support your current needs and potential requirements in the future.  Also consider how this will work alongside your need to support a percentage of documents that still have to be printed and posted.  Here’s a handy guide to evaluating document distribution systems – from determining the value and saving for your business, to ensuring you are future-proof and your investment provides long-term returns.

Whilst investing in an off-the-shelf solution may seem like an unpleasant initial outlay to be off-set against savings over time, it’s worth considering the option of shifting this capital expenditure into operational expenditure with a SaaS, or outsourced solution such as Netsend.  Outsourcing presents the fastest way to get up and running, and requires the least initial outlay for the fastest return on investment.

The alternative route of creating an electronic document distribution system in house can actually become more costly than the potential savings, as well as missing out on many of the nuances of established solutions.  It’s wise to carefully evaluate the reasons why you might want to consider developing a solution in-house, and the risks vs. benefits this presents.

Migration of customers to electronic format

In order to maximise savings on business postage, you need to encourage as many customers as possible to accept documents in an electronic format.  The best way to do this is to work with a solution partner who can help you migrate customers, using proven techniques that they can demonstrate the success of.  Talk to potential solution partners about their conversion rate to electronic format, and look for case studies or testimonials to better understand what is involved in this process.

The faster customers are moved over to electronic documents, the more quickly you will experience the return on investment in electronic document distribution.  Within 3 to 6 months, the savings should be far beyond the very best stamp discount for business post.

 

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E-invoicing in Ireland and the Evolution of the Postal Service http://netsend.com/blog/ireland-einvoicing-and-postal-service/ Fri, 17 Mar 2017 14:34:00 +0000 http://netsend.com/?p=2427 As Ireland celebrates another St. Patrick’s Day today, their postal service (An Post) takes a day off from posting what is typically 2.5 million items* each day.  We thought this would make a fitting moment to look back at how the Irish postal service has evolved, and continues to evolve.  We also consider how businesses cope […]

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As Ireland celebrates another St. Patrick’s Day today, their postal service (An Post) takes a day off from posting what is typically 2.5 million items* each day.  We thought this would make a fitting moment to look back at how the Irish postal service has evolved, and continues to evolve.  We also consider how businesses cope with disruptions in postal flow from seasonal events, such as St. Patrick’s Day, particularly the impact on business-critical document deliveries.

The Irish Postal Service

From its humble beginnings in 1660, the Irish postal service (then under the control of the General Post Office) evolved beyond the simple delivery of letters and parcels.  The mid-19th century brought about the advent of the telegram, enabling messages to be communicated (via Morse Code) across cables throughout the country and even across the Irish and Atlantic sea to America.  The telegram could be considered a forerunner of our modern-day emails; with it’s ability to communicate swiftly across vast distances.

The Irish postal service expanded greatly during Victorian times, becoming the principal administrative arm of the Government. It maintained a precious link with growing numbers of emigrants, helped people save and send money as well as bringing the telegraph, and later the telephone, to isolated, rural communities.

The Irish postal service has continued to advance to support the expectations of modern, digital, life.  Since 2015, Eircodes have been in use for every individual address – identifying the address and showing the location exactly**.

Back in 2014, An Post announced the plan*** to supply 80,000 homes and businesses with their DeliveryBox service, to help online shoppers avoid missing their deliveries.  In many other, digitally advanced, societies there is still no equivalent solution.

Whilst the DeliveryBox service has made an impact, there are still approximately 50,000 letters and parcels undelivered by An Post each week****.

How Irish businesses cope with postal disruptions

Celebrations such as St. Patrick’s Day are embraced by many as a time to focus on matters other than work, but businesses still need to distribute important documents on these days, particularly billing documents, quickly and securely.

One of the most popular approaches to ensure fast and secure document delivery is electronic document distribution.  Sending documents electronically places no dependency on postal delivery, avoiding loss or delivery disruptions.

Beyond simply enabling document delivery 24/7/365, electronic document distribution, and in particular electronic invoicing, means that businesses can benefit from notification of successful delivery or specific actions such as confirmed intent to pay an invoice.

Electronic document delivery changes the whole dynamic of the distribution service.  With the more advanced services, recipients are driven to a document portal where they can find their latest documents and access older documents too.  E-Billing solutions, such as Netsend, enable customers to pay bills online, via this portal, improving cashflow for the business and vastly improving customer experience.

“Using Netsend has allowed us to reach many of our customers electronically which speeds up on the ability to provide information on time when it is needed”
Fergal Coultry, Order to Cash Director at MSD EMEA based in Dublin

E-invoicing in Ireland

As e-invoicing grows globally 20% year-on-year, Ireland is embracing this more progressively than much of Europe*****.  The benefits of improved cashflow and accounts receivable process automation create a competitive advantage for businesses who embrace e-invoicing or e-billing.

Ireland businesses have had to fight hard against the economic downturn over the last decade.  Those who have been able to improve efficiency and reduce traditional cost of paper-based document distribution and storage have fared better than most.

E-invoicing or e-billing isn’t just about saving the cost of stamps and paper, although at €1 per stamp, it’s easy to see how going electronic can benefit businesses sending tens of thousands of documents per annum.

The paradigm of e-invoicing is reputed to save €6.60 per invoice generated****** (from an AR perspective), as well as creating competitive advantage.  It’s not hard to understand why Irish businesses are embracing this to compete both nationally and internationally.

So, as the Guinness flows and celebration of St. Patrick gets into full swing today, a growing number of businesses can relax, knowing their invoices and other business-critical documents will reach their destination quickly and efficiently thanks to e-billing and electronic document distribution solutions like Netsend.  All the more reason to celebrate.

 

*http://www.anpost.ie/AnPost/MainContent/About+An+Post/Fast+Facts/

**http://www.dccae.gov.ie/communications/en-ie/Postcodes/Pages/home.aspx

***http://www.independent.ie/irish-news/news/an-post-plans-80000-digital-era-letter-boxes-30456417.html

****http://www.irishexaminer.com/lifestyle/features/50000-letters-and-parcels-undelivered-by-an-post-every-week-266442.html

*****https://www.rte.ie/news/business/2016/0331/778505-morning-business-news/

******http://netsend.com/project/billentis-report-2016/

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What are Digital Signatures http://netsend.com/blog/what-are-digital-signatures/ Tue, 07 Feb 2017 12:37:57 +0000 http://netsend.com/?p=2392 As businesses evolve from using paper documents, to electronic documents, the traditional notion of a signed document is changing.  Pen and ink, or ‘wet’, signatures are being fast replaced by digital signatures in the context of modern business documents. But what are digital signatures?  In essence, a digital signature is a type of electronic signature, […]

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As businesses evolve from using paper documents, to electronic documents, the traditional notion of a signed document is changing.  Pen and ink, or ‘wet’, signatures are being fast replaced by digital signatures in the context of modern business documents.

But what are digital signatures?  In essence, a digital signature is a type of electronic signature, or symbol in an electronic document to validate the sender’s authenticity.  Digital signatures go beyond the inclusion of a symbol, by way of attaching a secure electronic certificate to verify the identity of the signer.

The certificate used manifests as code within the document, using public key infrastructure to permanently embed the legal evidence of the signature within the signed document.  The public key infrastructure includes a certification authority (CA) who issues the certificate and verifies that this was issues for use by a particular business when a recipient check the validity of this.

Are Digital Signatures Legally Valid?

People will look back on ‘wet signatures’ in a few years and laugh about how archaic and insecure they were.  It’s a trivial challenge to forge a written signature (and how often do businesses check?), but digital signatures make the validation process seamless, automatic and very hard to deceive.

Initially, electronic signatures were legally permitted in commercial affairs from 2000 – as per the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce (ESIGN) Act.  However, this did not explicitly include usage in the courts of law.

One of the earliest public proponents of signing documents digitally was Bill Clinton, when he signed the first US bill into law electronically, back in 2000.

More recently, eIDAS (EU Regulation 910/2014) was passed and has meant that the various types of electronic signature (especially digital signatures) are legally valid, and the distinctions between these in a court of law.

However, it wasn’t until July 2016 that the European Union effected new guidelines for electronic signatures, giving them the same legal power as hand-written signatures.

What Problems do Electronic and Digital Signatures Resolve?

Since the passing of eIDAS in 2014, businesses have been able to address the following challenges by way of electronic signatures.

  1. Signatures need to be verified, and verified across borders.
  2. Security and trustworthiness of a legal entity’s signature needs to be clearly understood, and verifiable.
  3. The signing process needs to handle large batches of documents. Where large volumes of documents need to be signed, automated signing is required.

Perceptions of Digital Signatures

To quote a recent article on the topic of digital signatures:

“The benefits of employing digital business processes far outweigh the paper-reliant processes of days gone by and it’s only a matter of time before digital signatures take over from their expiring ink-on-paper counterparts,” says Van der Merwe.

Not only are digital signatures undeniably more secure and unable to be forged, he concludes, they are legally sound. “Importantly, they also create a digital audit trail and they don’t rely on filing, printing, scanning or back-and-forth emailing – paper-based processes that cost companies profoundly, in terms of both time and money.”

Moving from paper, to digital signatures, is important from a customer experience perspective too. A recent Forrester report* quotes a well-known 5-star hotel on their motivations to change.  More than the costs for generating shipping documents, overnight delivery, and staff hours, the move was driven by “being embarrassed that a five-star hotel would have such crappy old processes,” according to an operations executive within the company.

Should your business be considering digital signatures?

As more and more business moves online, particularly mobile, businesses are wising up to the growth in digital signatures to ensure they stay ahead of the competition.  Forrester research shows that there has been a 53% average annual growth in the use of e-signatures since 2011, with the number of transactions settled via e-signatures topping 210 million in 2014 and likely to exceed 700 million in 2017.

With the combination of cost-savings, performance benefits and improvement in customer experience, it’s not a question of whether to consider digital signatures, it’s a question of how.  To better understand the value and options available to your business, take a look at our free white paper on the topic of “Digital Signatures: What, How and Why?”.

*Vendor Landscape: E-Signature, Q4 2016 – Acquisitions, Commoditization, And Growth Reshape The Market

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