3 min read

Managing Problem Vendors Through AP Automation Changes

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Yoooooo...Mr. White!

As we’ve discussed in this earlier post, change is difficult albeit necessary to improve.  No one likes going through a few hundred crunches, just go the gym around January 2nd every year, and you’ll see plenty of subject matter experts on this…we guarantee.  So how do you go about getting your vendors to embrace the changes that you create for them when you embrace a wholesale Accounts Payable automation initiative, especially one that integrates a vendor portal approach.  

We’ve repeatedly seen that certain vendors, and typically smaller organizations, can tend to be a bit more zealous to their approach to checking on transaction details and getting paid fat stacks (for all you Breaking Bad fans yoooooooo!).  But seriously, how do you help the problem children get over the hump of new technology adoption.  
Here’s a few of our thoughts:  

  1. Make your system easy to use.  This should be a pre-requisite for anyone attempting any level of software development or systems implementation.  However, it’s amazing that many software organizations do a fantastic job of making a simple process overly complex through confusing UI (user interface) and by doing so, blow their UX (user experience).  If you blow that….good luck getting them back on the bandwagon to use it again.  People have a short shelf life for being receptive to trying new technologies, so make sure however you present the system to them, that it doesn’t look like the  cockpit of an F-16.  From our perspective, by the way, the point of a vendor portal is to facilitate faster invoice processing through instantaneous invoice upload, as well as providing a search and retrieval component that is inclusive of the supplier so they can participate in the chain of custody of their invoice and unlike Mick Jagger get some satisfaction!
  2. Give your vendors options. Nobody likes being backed in between a rock and a hard place.  In sales that is typically called a hard-angle close, and it’s typically a tactic that is deployed to elicit an immediate action or decision by pitting two competing options against each other typically associated with some kind of time pressure.  Have you ever gone to buy a car and wondered how the mysterious promos that were being dangled in front of your face would all of a sudden vaporize from one day to the next…I mean c’mon they’re selling you a bucket of bolts for upwards of $20,000…you think they don’t want to make a deal…?  By the way…how did that approach to closing you make you feel? Pressured? Anxious? Frustrated? Perhaps…so don’t pay it forward to your suppliers when you introduce Accounts Payable software for automation that will help them.  Instead, create a welcoming, inclusive, message that lets them know that they can continue how they’re submitting you invoices (paper/email/EDI whatever) and if they want to upload through the portal  here are the bennies…capiche?
  3. Show them the way.   One step that is often overlooked is going beyond a clean UI.  In today’s hectic world, make it easier for your vendors to adopt the new way of doing business with you by providing training materials to get the adoption you’re looking for.  I can hardly think of anything that I purchase at this point in time that doesn’t get some serious investigation through blogs or optimally through YouTube.   This is really going beyond the status quo to delight your supplier base and make them raving fans of your new fangled approach, but ultimately it’s a win for both parties.  They can self-serve, and you can get them up off your back if they’re hounding your AP staff.
  4. Identify those willing to accept discounts.  This has been huge for many of our customers who are actively implementing or trying to increase their adoption of early payment discounts across their supplier base.  As a baseline, you can at least identify those who are willing to provide some favorable terms in exchange for faster payment, and certainly one of the tenets of AP software is that it expedites the end to end AP process.   Do this by offering up an opt-in option during their registration process and you’re good to go!  This can then auto trigger either your AP or Procurement staff to follow up on it with the supplier and then lock it down in terms of details.

In reality, you’ll never please everyone 100% of the time, but you certainly can provide a framework that is favorable to many and appeal to the masses.  The other item to consider is to be open minded to your vendors feedback.  They may provide some valuable ideas to making the entire experience better for everyone, and by being open-minded to it, you can find yourself enriching the relationship and improving your overall customer experience.  This is just another way you can appeal to a tough cookie and sell them on the advantages  to a new and different approach.  If at that point they don’t get it…keep calm and carry on!  The majority will and ultimately people will adopt as you get more and more traction…it’s that whole S curve thing we learned in Macroeconomics back in the day!

Til then, cut your teeth on other ways to cut your processing costs in our eBook Uncovering the 7 Costs to Process an Invoice and learn how to trim the fat out of your Accounts Payable process!

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