Automating key accounts receivable functions such as handling PoD notes helps to speed up cashflow, and makes a big impact on customer relations.
Bob Goodwin, director of Digital Vision, shows how:
Is there an FD that doesnt want to speed up cash flow and get customers to pay earlier? I thought not. After all, the incentives for doing so are clear. A 2006 survey of 250 UK quoted companies revealed they were sitting on a total of 40bn overdue debt. Over half of this debt is overdue because of a customers disputed account (12bn) or an unresolved query (9.7bn).
As debt collection is inextricably tied to customer service, accounts receivable (AR) functions within companies are getting increasing focus. AR can derive tremendous benefits from document imaging and management processes, giving a rapid and ongoing ROI.
This is especially true for companies in the retail, distribution and manufacturing sectors. Here, a single type of document is the major trigger for credit disputes: the proof-of-delivery (PoD) note. PoDs with missing information are the bane of credit managers lives.
So how do companies address the issues of automating tracking and matching PoDs? The answer is to apply proven document processing techniques from accounts payable, to the accounts receivable function, to assist in indexing the documents.
For example, by harnessing the Optical Character Recognition (OCR) facilities in popular document scanning engines, such as Kofax, PoD documents can be automatically index-printed with appropriate information. This means that PoD notes can be located and retrieved by almost any search criterion.
Where customers make claims for non-delivery or incorrect delivery of goods, the PoD document storage system gives authorised staff immediate access to a searchable repository of images of completed, signed PoD document images, with links to original orders and consignment documentation. PoDs can then be speedily retrieved and, when necessary, automatically e-mailed directly to the customer, as valid evidence of the delivery having been made.
From my PoD to your PoD
For companies with high volumes of PoDs and larger customers, secure extranet access to the PoD storage system can be enabled. This lets customers and partners log in and view the PoDs relating to their transactions without having to go via either the credit control team or logistics.
Delivery fleets can even be equipped with mobile document scanning capability, enabling secure upload to the PoD storage system immediately following a delivery. This builds closer links between the delivery contractor and customer, and enables missing PoDs to be spotted immediately.
Whats more, deploying a PoD solution need not have significant extra cost implications on top of existing document processing investments. An example is a major UK plastics manufacturer that has introduced imaging and document management to cover signed PoD notes, using Alfresco document management software. The model here is that the company pays only for the annual support on the software, and not for user licenses enabling rapid, cost-effective roll-out across the company and a very fast ROI.
While this relatively modest step in automation may seem to be a low-level administrative function, it can play a vital role in keeping bad debt under control, and in quickly resolving account queries. Reducing debtor days, and boosting the perception of customer service are headlines that are very welcome in any boardroom.