At major corporations across the globe, the Purchase-to-Pay process can be very complex; involving thousands of suppliers and employees who represent many different departments within the company. While the shift to an end-to-end process design has helped to break down the company silos, standardize operations, and streamline the overall process, ensuring that the “customers” (suppliers, employees, etc.) of this critical process area can easily have their needs met on a consistent and comprehensive basis needs to be a high priority for any Purchase-to-Pay organization. Utilizing powerful tools, such as supplier and employee portals, call centers and help desks, and even robotic process automation and artificial intelligence, can greatly enhance the user experience when the proper focus and resources are applied to this important aspect of Purchase-to-Pay.
Recently a major global company with more than $50 billion in annual revenue and operations in more than 50 countries was featured on a recent Peeriosity PeercastTM in which they shared their experiences in enhancing the Purchase-to-Pay user experience at their company. Their Purchase-to-Pay organization consists of Procurement (not strategic sourcing) and Payments, with major service centers in an Eastern European country (Europe), the Philippines (Asia/IMEA) and Central America (Americas). They utilize two primary outsourcing providers.
With no global standard P2P self-service portal and undersubscribed supplier portals in the regions, the majority of customer inquiries were coming into the call centers at the rate of approximately 30,000 per month. Referred to as “incident”, they came in as both phone calls and e-mails, with 80% being invoice inquiries that the outsourcing provider could typically resolve. The remaining 20% of the incidents were escalated to the company’s P2P organization for resolution, which was time consuming for the generator of the inquiry and those responsible for resolving the issues. As described by feature company presenter, “There’s a cost for raising each incident. Many of the inquiries were from internal customers. Many were simple questions, such as ‘Have you received my invoice?’ and ‘When will it be paid? ”.
To address this heavy influx of inquiries from both suppliers and employees, the company developed an internally focused self-service portal, with what they described as a “Killer App” to handle invoice and payment inquiries, as well as initiatives to improve the supplier portal and streamline call center inquiries. Some of the steps they took to improve the supplier portal include the following:
- Registration process simplified
- Used learnings from invoice status (internal inquiries) initiative
- Increased language capabilities (available in 9 languages)
- Further escalation possible from the portal
Some of the additional tactics the company took to reduce inquiries to the call center included:
- Further utilization of self-serve tools (internal customer portal and supplier portal)
- Increased scope of call center to include registration of suppliers onto the portal
As a result of their efforts in this area, the company has experienced a 50% reduction in call center incidents, and supplier portal registrations nearly doubled in just 18 months.
iPollingTM Results Review
In conjunction with this PeercastTM was the administration of a poll created using the iPollingTM technology. The first poll question looked at the current level of focus companies are placing on the transformation of the Purchase-to-Pay process, with a clear majority (57%) indicating that specific areas within P2P are targeted. For 26% of companies, their approach is to aggressively make investments in technology and the process in order to make significant improvements, while 13% responded that they are focused on the low-hanging fruit to get some quick wins in this area.
The second polling question addressed what was the biggest challenge companies are facing in transforming the Purchase-to-Pay process area, with technology improvements being the most prevalent response at 48%. The three remaining response options of increased standardization, globalizing processes, and bringing AP and Purchasing more closely together all had very similar response levels.
As well demonstrated by our feature company, with some focused attention the Purchase-to-Pay user experience can be dramatically improved by using a combination of advanced technology, process re-design, and the breaking down of functional silos. While it may seem subtle, focusing on “what does the user need” can create a different and more impactful set of priorities and approaches than the more traditional strategy of trying to fix processes or technology solutions that appear to be broken or inefficient, where the viewpoint of the user isn’t a primary consideration.
What is the status at your company regarding the Purchase-to-Pay user experience? Is there an opportunity to better serve your suppliers and employees in this critical area?
Who are your peers and how are you collaborating with them?
“PeercastsTM” are private, professionally facilitated webcasts that feature leading member company experiences on specific topics as a catalyst for broader discussion. Access is available exclusively to Peeriosity member company employees, with consultants or vendors prohibited from attending or accessing discussion content. Members can see who is registered to attend in advance, with discussion recordings, supporting polls, and presentation materials online and available whenever convenient for the member. Using Peeriosity’s integrated email system, Peer MailTM, attendees can easily communicate at any time with other attending peers by selecting them from the list of registered attendees.
“iPollingTM” is available exclusively to Peeriosity member company employees, with consultants or vendors prohibited from participating or accessing content. Members have full visibility to all respondents and their comments. Using Peeriosity’s integrated email system, Peer MailTM, members can easily communicate at any time with others who participated in iPollingTM.