What is Accounts Receivable Management? Goals, Challenges, and Best Practices

10 June, 2022
13 min
Rachelle Fisher, AVP, Digital Transformation

Table of Content

Key Takeaways
Introduction
What Is Accounts Receivable Management?
6 Objectives of Effective Accounts Receivable Management
Common Challenges That Affect AR Management
7 Effective Accounts Receivable Management Techniques
How Highradius Can Help You Manage Your Accounts Receivable?
FAQs on Accounts Receivable Management

Key Takeaways

  • Efficient accounts receivable management is critical for maintaining positive cash flow, customer relationships, and your business’s bottom line.
  • Focus on customer relations, bank reconciliation, improved billing and invoicing, and resolving deductions to optimize your AR operations.
  • Be aware of issues such as manual processes, data fragmentation, and lack of empirical data as they can hinder effective AR management.
  • Optimize AR management by implementing clear internal processes, robust post-sales support, multiple payment options, and AR automation to streamline business operations.
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Introduction

In the world of B2B commerce, credit is the lifeblood of business operations. Many customers routinely purchase goods or services on credit terms, creating a vital financial arrangement.

Once a supplier fulfills an order, the customer is obligated to settle the bill within a specified timeframe. This financial process is where accounts receivable management takes center stage.

Effective management of AR is not just important; it’s vital to ensure that invoices are sent out promptly and payments are received on time. However, its significance goes well beyond this.

Accounts receivable management has a ripple effect on your business, influencing customer relationships, cash flow, available capital, and ultimately, your bottom line.

This article will cover the AR management process, along with challenges, best practices, and strategies to optimize this critical financial process for your business.

What Is Accounts Receivable Management?

Accounts receivable management is the process of managing and monitoring the amounts owed to a company by its customers for goods or services sold on credit. It includes essential functions like invoice management, collecting payments, assessing credit risks, and resolving disputes.

Effective management of accounts receivable is an essential aspect of maintaining a positive cash flow for B2B businesses. It encompasses a range of tasks, including the initial onboarding of customers and evaluating their creditworthiness, as well as the subsequent issuance of invoices and the collection of payments. 

Furthermore, it involves the meticulous process of reconciling received payments with corresponding invoices and addressing any discrepancies or deductions raised by customers. This comprehensive approach ensures a smooth and efficient management of accounts receivable throughout the entire customer lifecycle.

6 Objectives of Effective Accounts Receivable Management

To effectively address the evolving complexity of your AR processes, meticulous planning and strategic resource allocation are imperative. As your company experiences growth, the management of accounts receivables becomes increasingly challenging.

Here are the six accounts receivable fundamental goals that need your attention in optimizing your accounts receivable operations:

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1. Credit workflow management

Effective credit policies necessitate periodic reviews, encompassing benchmarking, escalation procedures, and customer credit scoring, which can ultimately boost revenue.

Companies must adhere to federal and state regulations when extending credit, and it’s crucial to provide timely training to the credit approval team to keep them updated on these evolving requirements.

Implementing automation within this process not only reduces clerical errors but also serves as a safeguard against fraudulent activities.

2. Cash flow management

Collecting receivables promptly is vital for every business because the pace at which you can collect receivables from customers directly influences your cash flow.

When receivables slow down, it becomes challenging for your company to meet its ongoing business requirements.

3. Customer relations

How you handle your accounts receivables can significantly affect customer relations.

Continuously reaching out to a customer after they’ve already made a payment can lead to frustration.

Similarly, expecting payments from customers without sending invoices on time can also have a negative impact.

4. Bank reconciliation

Bank reconciliation involves managing various remittance formats, including addressing missing remittances. This task can be time-consuming and prone to errors if not organized properly.

Without an efficient system in place, your AR team can waste significant time sorting and applying payments.

5. Improved billing & invoicing

Streamlining invoicing processes can prevent billing errors and ensure invoices reach customers. Use tools that facilitate easy invoice sending and enable direct payments.

Providing various payment choices, like credit/debit cards or ACH drafts, enhances customer convenience. Online billing streamlines accounts receivable, accelerates invoice delivery, and enhances record-keeping.

6. Resolving deductions

In case of disputes, AR teams should explain each item to the customer and offer alternative solutions such as payment plans. Informing vendors about transaction terms before invoicing allows them to raise concerns beforehand. Having a procedure to resolve disputed invoices can lead to happier customers and more paid bills.

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Common Challenges That Affect AR Management

Inefficient management of cash flow, inadequate customer support, and excessive focus on cash application can have a cascading impact on your team’s performance. This detrimental effect is particularly evident in the inability to meet payment obligations to suppliers, ultimately compromising the timely delivery of goods or services and potentially tarnishing your reputation.

So, let’s understand the common issues that affect accounts receivable management.

1. Misalignment between sales and finance goals

The disparity between the goals of the sales and finance departments can lead to conflicts. While the sales team aims to increase sales, the finance team focuses on reducing bad debt. This misalignment becomes evident when the sales team promises credit terms to customers that the finance department may not approve of.

2. Inefficiencies caused by Manual processes

Numerous gaps in the existing processes necessitate laborious manual efforts. Without automated accounts receivable processes, the team is forced to dedicate significant time and resources to manual tasks across all aspects. These inefficiencies ultimately result in poor accounts receivable management.

3. Impeded collaboration due to data fragmentation

The absence of a unified data system and information silos creates obstacles to effective collaboration. Without real-time access to centralized data, customer-facing teams such as sales, collections, and others struggle to collaborate efficiently. This fragmentation of data hinders their ability to work seamlessly towards common objectives.

4. Absence of empirical data for predicting negative outcomes

The lack of a mechanism for utilizing empirical data hinders the ability to forecast potential adverse consequences. Failure to document historical data makes it exceedingly difficult to anticipate when a customer’s financial situation may undergo a detrimental shift, potentially resulting in substantial losses if they become unable to fulfill their future payment obligations.

5. Disruption in continuity stemming from internal and external Team changes

Efficient management of credit transactions requires consistent documentation, particularly in terms of invoicing and payment flows. Inadequate streamlining of the accounts receivable processes can lead to disruptions and gaps within the AR workflow, hindering the smooth continuity of operations.

7 Effective Accounts Receivable Management Techniques

There are many components to accounts receivable management – to manage the process effectively it’s crucial to handle components such as credit risk evaluation, invoicing, collection, reconciliation, and dispute resolution efficiently.

Here are seven effective accounts receivable management techniques that address these individual components and often overlap to ensure comprehensive management. Let’s dig in.

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1. Clear internal processes

Often the root cause of your collections and cash flow issues is simply a matter of poor internal processes. One of the easiest ways to mitigate the constant issues is to make sure that each of the teams understands the end objective of the other. 

Sales should focus on getting orders and the finance team should ensure that the customer is financially sound enough to warrant credit terms. However, it is equally critical for each team to support the other in these processes.

2. Two-way communication

Establishing effective two-way communication is vital, both internally and externally. This may seem like an obvious factor, but it is often ignored, especially when it comes to the finance team and customers. Enable easy-to-use and numerous options for stakeholders—both internal and external to interact in the way they choose to.

3. Robust post-sales setup

Many collection issues stem from customer dissatisfaction with post-sales support. This tip applies to all customer-facing teams. As a member of the finance team, you should ensure that all sales-related documentation reaches the customers timely.

Additionally, you can streamline the invoicing process with meticulous attention to detail.

4. Timing and tone

In invoicing, two crucial aspects must be perfected. First, ensure that invoices are sent out promptly and in line with agreed payment terms.

Establishing a consistent invoice delivery schedule prompts customers to anticipate and prepare for on-time payments.

Secondly, pay attention to the tone of your communication when sending invoices. Maintain a clear, concise, and polite approach in both the invoice content and accompanying email communication.

Avoid clutter and ensure all necessary details are included for a smooth payment process.

5. More payment options

When it comes to facilitating payments, providing multiple options is paramount. This approach ensures that customers can make payments even when their authorized personnel are unavailable due to travel or other commitments.

By offering a range of payment options, you enhance convenience for your customers, eliminating the need for them to disrupt their daily routines to fulfill payment obligations.

6. Quality all the way

In B2B transactions, particularly those involving deferred payments, maintaining high-quality standards is essential. Quality should encompass not only the products or services you provide but also the quality of customer interactions at every stage of engagement.

Ensure that a commitment to quality permeates every aspect of your operations, from production and logistics to inventory management and your finance department.

7. AR automation

Digital transformation has become increasingly valuable for businesses globally, particularly in the realm of critical finance processes. A specific area that stands to gain significant benefits from automation is accounts receivable. By implementing automation in this area, businesses can experience a notable increase in efficiency, as well as a reduction in manual errors. 

The advantages of accounts receivable automation extend beyond simply streamlining the process; it also enables organizations to effectively monitor invoicing, collections, and emerging patterns. Furthermore, this automation empowers employees to redirect their attention towards more strategic endeavors, ultimately fostering business growth and success.

How Highradius Can Help You Manage Your Accounts Receivable?

At HighRadius, our team of fintech experts collaborates with companies to comprehend their unique requirements and provide tailored solutions to simplify accounts receivable management. Our comprehensive suite of solutions covers every aspect of AR management, including credit assessment and onboarding, invoicing and collections, cash application, and deductions management. 

HighRadius offers a range of AI-powered solutions that cater to companies of all sizes across various industries. Our RadiusOne AR Suite is specifically designed for mid-market CFOs, providing a comprehensive suite of features such as collections, cash reconciliation, credit management, and e-invoicing applications. Leveraging the power of Artificial Intelligence, all these solutions seamlessly integrate with one another, offering your company a centralized system to efficiently manage and monitor all accounts receivable processes from a single platform.

Our advanced AR analytics and reports offer extensive customization options, allowing businesses to gain valuable insights into customer behavior. This enables proactive issue anticipation and resolution, preventing potential escalations.

Ready to transform your accounts receivable management system with HighRadius? Schedule a demo today and discover how our autonomous solutions can boost your efficiency and financial success. 

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FAQs on Accounts Receivable Management

1. What is the primary goal of accounts receivable management?

The primary goal of accounts receivable management is to ensure the timely collection of payments owed by customers for goods or services provided on credit.

2. What is the most important aspect of managing accounts receivable?

The most important aspect of managing accounts receivable is maintaining a positive cash flow by promptly collecting payments from customers. Additionally, effective communication and strong customer relations are crucial for a smooth and efficient accounts receivable process.

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