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Customer Centric A/R Strategies

Highradius

Speakers

Stephanee Brantley

Accounts Receivable Manager, EBSCO Information Services

George Uko

Credit & Collections Manager, Staples Promotional Products

Transcript

Kiran Rana:

Can you hear me? OK. All right. So I just want to set a context before we dive into the discussion. At HighRadius a few years back then we started looking to do most of the products and how they would be well, it period in time. One of the things that were bothering us is if you look at our departments, they were always inward-looking, which means that most of the ad departments did stuff that they did for themselves. But once things got out to the customer side, there was no view of what’s happening on the other side. So problem number one, we were trying to solve is how do you make sure that we build a product which our customers like you guys in the room appreciate? We also need to make a product which ultimately is helping your customers, which is your clients. So, the design philosophy that we adopted is really putting the end customer back on the design of most of our product side. So with that context, of course, customer centricity, being customer-centric makes a lot of boardroom discussions these days, but we would like to hear more from our guests today. So I’d like to start off by asking you that same. So if you look at it. Customer centricity in general, if you look at cost being customer-centric, the focus of the organization is towards making products customers pay out their services or their customer support. What impact do you think customer experience creates in the order to cash space? And this is for both George and Stephanee.

Stephanee Brantley:

I’ll start. And I think that’s a fantastic question because we all know that satisfied customers usually mean repeat customers. And one of the great things that I think with reliable billing customers definitely want invoices that are correct. The first time they go out to them, they won’t allow reliable billing. They want accurate billing. They want it timely. And those can improve cash flow because the faster you get them their correct invoice, the faster you get paid. And we all know that there are so many wonderful things about automation that decrease a lot of human error. And we definitely know that we’re all human. We all make mistakes. But accurate billing is definitely an increase that can impact how our customers are experiencing doing business with us.

George Uko:

And to Stephanee’s point, if you think about as far as our customers, the better the relationship we have with our customers. Our goal is to expand as far as that base. And if we could expand that, hopefully, our customers are going to think of us more in a loyal way if something should happen, if they have to choose who to pay. We’re hoping they’re going to put us first.

Kiran Rana:

All right. OK. No, no. One of the interesting areas of discussion that we typically have is that if you look at all the consumer applications today, if you look at order to cash in their B2C space, do you take Amazon, for example? If you buy something on Amazon, it’s pretty easy to happen. Place an order and get delivery. The order to cash processes seems to be much developed. Do you think that the order to catch processes and the application in the B2B space is catching up? If not, why are they not catching up?

George Uko:

I would start. I think it is slowly catching up but is definitely taking the time. I think the business to business. Most companies are focused on the customer first. So now that we have it set more for the customer. Now it’s starting to come back to business. So hopefully as time expands, we’ll start seeing more investment in the business to the business side.

Stephanee Brantley:

Absolutely. And I would add, I have an Amazon Prime problem. I love shopping on Amazon. It is so convenient. And we are all becoming consumers. We are doing the B2C business ourselves every day. We are the consumers buying in. The more convenient that we realize that is, the better it’s going to be. The one thing I think that we run into is that people don’t like change when it comes to business, to business relationships. We think, “Oh, it’s been working this way for 20 years. Why change anything?” But that’s not true. And what I wrote down in a quote from Socrates when I was asked this question. So Socrates says, “The sacred of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” And that’s so true because we want to hold on to the past and we want to hold on to the way things have always been. Good changes are good. It’s just hard to get buy-in from everybody sometimes.

Kiran Rana:

And I think it goes with the theme of radiance this year when you said you guys are the change agent. And how do you go about driving the change with an organization, watching people, you know, about the change that’s going to come their way. George, I think you did a presentation on e-adoption. So how difficult or easy is it to drive your customer base towards E adoption because we talked about change. So I just want to relate to the products that we have in one of the big chains that we are seeing. Most of our customers ask this question: how do we get a campaign and make sure that I’m converting all of my checks customers to an electronic customer. Or I am sending paper invoices, How do we convert them to electronic invoices? So based on that experience, would you like to talk about it? Some of the E adoption things?

George Uko:

Yeah, I think with e-adoption it’s kind of the same as before. We need to have as far as communication with our customers, let them know what the benefit is to them to go ahead and adopt to its first paperless processes. What we need to figure out is how it’s gonna help our customers. Sometimes our customers have different systems, whether it’s a different payment system. So the goal once again is to figure out how we can make a win-win situation. There still may be some customers who may not adapt to paperless. But if we could play the 80/20 rule and get 80 percent switched over, it’s a win-win situation for a company.

Kiran Rana:

So 80 percent of the total base switch over, what are you saying?

George Uko:

That’s what we strive for. I have to watch the way I say that we haven’t got 80 percent of our customer base switched over yet, but that’s what we’re striving for.

Kiran Rana:

Okay. And how do you drive that? Is it like you’re doing campaigns, running campaigns to get them done?

George Uko:

We are running this, different campaign spur training. It is how we set up to do customers. They don’t have a choice. If they get paper or as far as electronic, it’s all electronic. Once they sign up. So they have to give us as far as the email address. So we’re trying as much as we can to push our existing customers. We separated them into different segments. So those different segments, we’re working within those segments to push as they’d be billed.

Kiran Rana:

Okay. And I think, Stephanie, you did a similar session on e-invoicing. So I know there are a lot of interesting points that you had to share to make sure you experienced it. I mean, it’s, of course, related in terms of E adoption.

Stephanee Brantley:

Yes. And it ties right into what George said. You still have those customers who think they have to have, you know, four copies of every invoice. But everybody’s trying to move forward. Digital is the way to go, usually for emails. But when you have the electronic invoices where customers have. You go to their portal and you have to please those customers. If that’s the way that you’re going to get paid faster, you go out there and you take the time to load it. A lot of things are really quick and we can send files where it gets uploaded by the customer, which is fantastic. But the ability to work with your customers to be able to solve their billing issues for them, it’s huge. And we know, we have government customers, we have corporations, and there’s so many that require you to go onto their website now and you get paid so much faster if you just do it their way. We all want people to say, oh, no, this is your you’re buying from us and do things our way. That’s not the way our customer business is going to work. And so there are so many customers in our business to business relationships where we have to take the extra time and take the extra effort that usually is going to mean a better customer relationship. OK.

Kiran Rana:

Let me ask you a more direct question, and this is for both of you. So in your organization right now is in the corporate sector, think of strategies that are customer-centric and do it implemented. I’m going to talk about some of the customer-centric strategies.

Stephanee Brantley:

Yeah, I would say one of the things that I always try to teach the team members is to put yourself in the customer’s shoes because like I said, we’re all customers in some way. But if you put yourself in their position, in their shoes and then the feedback or the responses that you’re getting from the customer will make a lot more sense to you to kind of add to it.

George Uko:

Definitely as Stephanee said, not only put yourself in their shoes, understand there are different variables that may be out of their control. Maybe something happened to their business. Maybe a customer defaulted against them. So you have to be understanding and really think to yourself, what are they running into and what can we do to help them? And I think the better we get to know the customer, the better we can go ahead and work with them. And really, at the end of the day, it’s getting to know the customer. Keeping that communication. Building that rapport and working directly with them.

Kiran Rana:

Right. And how do you do that at an employee level? So, I mean, it’s great when I see customer-centric strategies being driven at a board level. It goes down to the vision mission and it goes down to a department where the military is. If your employees are customer unfriendly, is there? Is that anything that you’re doing in there to kind of make them a language or organization rules?

George Uko:

I think as far as the organizational goals to what you’re saying is really to build some type of monitoring into the system to monitor one, you’re looking at their performance. How are they doing overall? But then we also listen to some of their calls and see are they customer-friendly? Are they trying to do everything they can to help as far as that customer? If we could focus on as far as the quality they’re giving to the customer. That says a lot. In the end with the spa’s customer service.

Stephanee Brantley:

Absolutely. I would completely agree with that and add that, you know, emotional intelligence is very key for your team members. You want to make sure that not only are they meeting the customer’s needs, but they’re being sensitive to the customer’s needs. Like you said a moment ago, there are customers where the scenario could be out of their hands. It could be you’re dealing with one person, but they’re not the ones that’s gonna write a check. So they’re like, well, I’ve turned the invoice in, but I don’t. I don’t know what else to do. Can you put me in touch with the person I’m in? So, you know, you have to take that extra time to not only be understanding and cooperate with the customer you’re dealing with but, sometimes you have to escalate beyond that person. And don’t be afraid to ask that question. One of the things that I try to instill in the team members is, you know, don’t we are in collections? Don’t be afraid to ask when can you pay your bill? Don’t be in front. That’s why you called him in the first line, first place. Get a promise to pay it. That’s why they call you. But making relationships with your customers for sure is key to it.

Kiran Rana:

I’m sure that’s a difficult problem because when you’re talking of being customer-centric in terms of your products, in terms of your delivery, in terms of service design, delivery, in terms of support, it’s very different from just being customer-centric when it comes. Because ultimately they are responsible for collecting money back from them. So it’s a difficult problem to solve and win when we are designing the products here at HighRadius. It is one of the things that we do here is be, of course, look at what the customer wants. I mean, our customers, which is you guys. But we also have to see what the end customer would like to do. And a lot of our surveys at our product management team and the labs do here is basically going back to speak to your customers and figure out what makes sense for them. Because ultimately, if you look at it from your perspective, things might look a little different from what the customer really wants. So there is a customer stated objective. We call it CSO and that is what we call as we go to the market and we talk to our, you know, and end clients. If you get out, what’s the end objective? So there’s a customer stated objective and there’s an end objective. And the final goal for all of us is to how do you do a balance within the tool? So it’s amazing. And I think, George, you talked about the tracking metrics that you track, which basically directly or indirectly relates to customer-centricity.

George Uko:

I do. Once again, getting back to as far as the monitoring, as far as the rep. How are they doing with that? I also go in and look at the notes that are put on their account. Are they trying to work with the customer? What are the notes saying? I’ve said this before and a couple of other presentations here. The numbers should talk, but we should be able to see what’s going on with a particular customer. So I’m trying to get a glimpse of what’s going on. I also measure as far as other KPI goes, whether it’s the DSO or 60-plus. And really, if they could build that rapport, hopefully, everything should fall in line. And that’s our end goal. What we’re trying to do with our customers.

Stephanee Brantley:

And I would add your repeat customers, you usually have a purchase history or payment history so you can look at their history and tell if something is off. If they’ve been paying on time for the last five years, then all of a sudden they’re not. Something’s happened. Something’s changed. So we shouldn’t be afraid to ask those questions from our customers. There’s something wrong or something. Change that. What can we do to make this better and make it improve? You’d have to invest the time in your customers to see what’s going on. And then also, you know, that customer relation, as I said, that relationship with your customer is very beneficial. One of my sessions that I talked about yesterday stayed on the phone with a customer for 30 minutes talking about his case because he wanted somebody to just listen and make that extra time to have that relationship, they’re going to start to open up. If all you do is a collection rep is get on the phone and say, where’s my money? Then you’re not really making a friend. You’re hounding and harassing. And so they really just want someone to talk to and they will tell you what’s really the root cause usually of why the money is not being sent out yet.

Kiran Rana:

And the trade-off that is, of course, you have a lot of volumes to handle and there’s a big out of having a smaller dune handle that. But at the same time, you don’t spend quality time with the customer. You kind of make sure that you get the time that they deserve. I diminish some of that relationship building between the two things, you know. So one of the things that we’re doing is and some of so if you can check out there’s a radius won by a collaboration platform to be able to.

So the idea is, how do you make sure that most of these transactions that happen between you and your customers are happening on a platform versus happening in silos? So, for example, a customer can log in to one of the HighRadius portals, which are headed to quarters and then before multiple, you know, multiple of their vendors. So one client, if you think of their problem today, each one of you wants to log into a different portal. And I don’t have any idea since then. I’ve got two of them. So, it may not be a payment transaction, it may be remittance missing. Great insight, the last thing I want to talk about is, it’s the age of twitter, right? And everything is a small tweet. If you had to make a small tweet, when it comes to customers, centricity in your organization, what would that be? You’re free to talk about more than one, one that stands out, yeah.

Stephanee Brantley:

We listen to the feedback from our customers and we need to improve. It has to be something that’s going to meet their needs first, not your own.

George Uko:

If I could add to that, agree exactly with what you’re saying. We also what I tried to push my reps to do is what I call a one-stop service if the customer is calling in. Can we resolve their issue right on the spot and then move forward. We don’t want our customers to call back in. We don’t want our customers to have to email over and over again to resolve an issue. So as much as possible, we’re trying to initiate what we call a one-stop service so that they could call and get everything resolved and then move forward. But at the same token, it also speeds up the payment process.

Kiran Rana:

And just relating back to what we do, you stated it is if you look at any of the products that we have at HighRadius, for example, collections. So a collector is on a call with the end customer. And while they’re placing this call, let’s say, the customer wants an invoice. And say, hey, do you know what’s happening with this? And where is the invoice number? And the customer says, okay, I’m not able to find this invoice. And why is it? Can you send me a copy of the invoice now? In the earlier world, somebody would have to go back into that ERP system. Downloading those details, draft. And then send it out. And the call disrupts that there. The customer did not get what they wanted. Then you’re sending a letter to them and making another phone call to say that. Sending the invoice. So the idea is to bring all of them into one plan of action. So right now in our collection tool, you can actually send an invoice to light during your collections call with the invoice attached. It. So, yeah, I mean and when we are building this product for you, we are actually building it for your end customers to make their lives simpler. So I think I totally agree with you.

So of course, we’re slightly ahead of time. But I would like to conclude the discussion, talking about what we are doing and what strategy we are adopting here at HighRadius. And most of the product team and the engineering team, they work on to keep the loss of putting yourself in customer shoes. What we’re trying to do is anticipate the customer needs. So, for example, if some of you were part of Shashi’s keynote yesterday, we talked about how our digital assistant, Freeda, is going to help you with a virtual assistant around your AR transactions. Now, that’s something that’s not there today with any of the AR products. The reason we are bringing that is because Alexa and Google Home and all cable go in the series of the world are actually flooding consumer life. So when you go home, you’re dealing with an Alexa. At some point in time, you would like that flexibility at work. So anticipating needs is the number one strategy that we’re following. And the number two strategy that we adopt at HighRadius is what we call “park where they park strategy.” So I’d like to explain this a little more in detail. So typically, if you drive to work today as an employee, you drive into your garage and then you park your car at your designated parking place and then you enter the office by the employee door.

But when a customer comes to your office, they park at a different place and then walk into a different door. So this strategy is called the park where they park is because you need to enter that customer’s door to forget what the customer is paying. And that needs to drop down right from the company’s vision to what product to deliver, what services you deliver. And just extrapolating that a little bit to what we do. So when we are selling it to you guys and when we have our consulting team go ahead and implement, after the implementation, we actually do something called TQVS, which is a score which the consulting team gets after speaking to customers, they try to see that there is a very minimal delta between what was sold and what was delivered. And so I think the real customer success comes out of that.

So with that, I would like to close the discussion for today and open it for questions. And thank you so much, Stephanie and Judge for your day. Thank you. Thanks, George and Stephanee. We are open for questions now.

Audience:

I was wondering and this question is for both of you. But if George, if you could start just maybe describing an example of one time when you have had to work with a customer to change your behavior, maybe about something as simple as paper invoices and how you approach that, maybe give us an example of how to approach some specific challenges that we’re all facing.

George Uko:

Great question. One of the key things that come to mind is we try to segment and send a copy of the invoices with all the statements. Well, turns out some of our customers don’t want statements, an invoice at all times. So one of the challenges I had is with some of the customers to figure out exactly what they wanted. So making a call out to the customer, trying to decide. And it turns out they had several different departments. Well, it also just turns out they had several different emails and figuring out what goes where. So it was a matter of getting our system configured where the statements and invoices go to one email and if they just want a copy of something that goes to a separate email. So it’s really reaching out to them, trying to figure out exactly what they wanted to kind of zone in what we could do to help them. At the end of the day, we’re able to come up with a solution. And I think, in the end, every customer is different. But setting up that strategy to work for the customer is the key thing.

Stephanee Brantley:

And I would say, you know, the first question we need to really ask, because why do you still need these paper copies? Is it for a certain purpose? Do you actually use the paper copies? Are you throwing them away? So if they are getting it electronically by email and they’re turning that into accounts payable, what’s the purpose of the paper copy? And so don’t be afraid to ask what I think. Don’t be afraid to ask that question. What are you trying to achieve with actually getting paper copies in the mail?

Kiran Rana:

And just to add to what we’re doing, from a product standpoint is what we call what’s in it for them. So if you just replace the paper invoice with an electronic invoice and is what is in it for them and then used to do certain things in a certain way and you’re changing the way they do things. So we said for them to adapt to this, you need to get them to the next level.

Now when the invoice gets delivered, can I have a button there, which is pay and can I click on that and make a payment right there. And then when a customer is being collected, something can be delivered to the customer. The customer can promise to pay. And can I record that promise to pay in my collection tool and my collection strategies, and take this information to prioritize the worklist, which means that if there’s a customer which has already promised to pay, then you do not figure it out calling that customer for that given day because there’s a promise to pay somewhere there, you have to wait till the promise has been broken to make a call. So what’s in it for them is taking us from just replacing the paper with electronics to taking them with few more use cases which will basically help them adapt to the electronics. So we also have campaign management, I would request all of you to step out and enquire about it. You can run campaigns to move from paper invoice to an electronic invoice. There are some starter campaigns available, you can design your own campaigns, incentivize your customers to move. Thank you for asking the question. Any more questions? All right. Thank you, everybody.

Kiran Rana: Can you hear me? OK. All right. So I just want to set a context before we dive into the discussion. At HighRadius a few years back then we started looking to do most of the products and how they would be well, it period in time. One of the things that were bothering us is if you look at our departments, they were always inward-looking, which means that most of the ad departments did stuff that they did for themselves. But once things got out to the customer side, there was no view of what's happening on the other side. So problem number one, we were trying to solve is how do you make sure that we build a product which our customers like you guys in the room appreciate? We also need to make a product which ultimately is helping your customers, which is your clients. So, the design philosophy that we adopted is really putting the end customer back on the design of most of our product side. So with that context, of course, customer centricity, being customer-centric makes a lot of boardroom discussions these days, but we would like to hear more from our…

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Today, the market is brimming with companies providing similar services & products. In this scenario, a key step for continued top-line growth is providing great customer experience. Join A/R experts as they discuss how A/R processes including Cash Application, Collections, Credit & Deductions could be revamped around customer behavior to facilitate out-of-the-world customer experience.

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HighRadius Autonomous Receivables Software Platform is the world’s only end-to-end accounts receivable software platform to lower DSO and bad-debt, automate cash posting, speed-up collections, and dispute resolution, and improve team productivity. It leverages RivanaTM Artificial Intelligence for Accounts Receivable to convert receivables faster and more effectively by using machine learning for accurate decision making across both credit and receivable processes and also enables suppliers to digitally connect with buyers via the radiusOneTM network, closing the loop from the supplier accounts receivable process to the buyer accounts payable process. Autonomous Receivables have been divided into 6 distinct applications: Credit Software, EIPP Software, Cash Application Software, Deductions Software, Collections Software, and ERP Payment Gateway – covering the entire gamut of credit-to-cash.