Asking customers to pay invoices can be an uncomfortable process for any manufacturer. It’s simply a necessary evil of any industry. What many manufacturing executives may not realize is that while the end goal of these interactions is to increase cash flow, the calls or emails are also valuable opportunities to improve your customer relationships.
These opportunities are wasted, however, if you don’t implement proper processes to encourage positive accounts receivable interactions. The reality is that most manufacturers track customer interactions throughout the sales and account management processes, but not within the invoicing and collection departments. In order to make sure customers are satisfied throughout the entire payment process, here are a three issues to consider:
1. Your Customer Has Other Vendors
The fact is that your customers work with vendors other than yourself. With that in mind, refrain from sending paper account statements or email reminders with long, marketing messages.
Seek out software platforms that allow vendors to work together for the benefit of the customer by providing one bundled payment reminder. This gives the customer the ability to view all of their open vendor invoices in one location, as well as a quick link to pay each one or ask any vendor a question. If the customer does need to ask a question or dispute a charge, the vendor is immediately notified and can provide a response.
2. Track Customer Service Metrics within Accounts Receivable
Manufacturers often cannot afford to have a huge team working on collections, and they definitely cannot afford to lose customers due to poor interactions during the accounts receivable process. So in order to make sure customers are not just paying, but also happy with their service, you should track additional metrics, such as: (1) customer response time—let your customers know you track this to show them you care about addressing their concerns; (2) invoice accuracy—send accurate, easy-to-understand invoices and measure how you are doing this by tracking the number of times a customer has to question or dispute an invoice compared to the total invoices sent over a given period; and (3), customer satisfaction—the collection and payment process is often the last interaction with the customer, so make sure they leave looking forward to doing business with your company again.
3. Value Every Customer Interaction
Every time you send a payment request, you should assume the person paying or approving your invoice has more power than you might think. You want your customers to feel so good about the business experience that they wouldn’t even think of using someone else the next time they have a manufacturing need.
Managing your receivables intelligently from a customer-centric perspective will improve customer relations, which can lead to future sales. In today’s competitive business environment with many vendors offering similar products or services, these positive interactions factor into a customer’s future purchasing decisions.
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