User-Friendly Digital Experiences for B2B Customers

Speakers

Tracie Duncan

Senior Director, Credit A/R & Collections, adidas

Jason Herrington

VP, AR, Credit & Collections – Shared Services, EmployBridge

Transcript

Interviewer:

So here we’re getting together. Here we’ve got Jason and Tracie to answer some questions and I’m gonna ask them a series of questions and get their answers, but please feel free if you have questions along the way. Just raise your hands, we’ll try to keep it interactive and interesting. So first off, to cash, it’s probably the most customer-facing after-sales. So, where do you think there’s scope for improving that customer experience? Let’s start with Tracie.

Tracie Duncan:

Everywhere. You know the sale happens, but obviously, it’s not complete till the invoice is paid. And if that process is arduous for a customer, it can ruin the entire customer experience. So I think that especially as technology is advancing. It is our job first to make sure that we’re invoicing our customers properly, that’s the number one key. When I entered the world of credit that was the first thing that I was told by my boss. The key to successful credit is invoicing correctly. So if we start the process correctly and make sure we have the tools in place, then we can complete the process properly and make that as painless and user-friendly as possible. I think it is absolutely the key.

Interviewer:

Jason?

Jason Herrington:

Yeah, I have to echo that the accuracy of an invoice and you know, ease of execution, in terms of being able to, you know, contact the vendor and execute a payment eliminating variables that create problems for the client were from an AP perspective for the most part they want to vouch it get it approved, recorded to the GL and executed payment according to terms, and if there are variables in there that prevent them from doing that it generally falls on the supplier. And it’s something that has not worked well in the workflow.

Tracie Duncan:

I had a customer tell me one time and we deal with a lot of small businesses. I would call them special levies though because of modern pop. And this customer told me that your invoice is the most difficult invoice that I have to pay. So if I have $10,000 at the end of the month left to spend on inventory, I’m going to spend it somewhere else because I don’t want to deal with your invoice. So, we rewrote our invoice and changed it. This has been years ago but it had to do with the way the discounting was shown in the enterprise versus net price and everything else so it’s absolutely the key.

Interviewer:

And I think also, just understanding that it’s getting that feedback, absolutely from your customer to understand where those pain points are interesting.

Tracie Duncan:

It’s taking your customer’s feedback seriously.

Interviewer:

Yes, absolutely. So, what are the biggest hurdles in providing a consistent and good customer experience? Jason, we start with you.

Jason Herrington:

From an EmployBridge perspective, it is the accuracy of the invoice where we run 450 plus branch locations, and salespeople translate customers, you know data into our ERP system that becomes the billing. So they’re in, there’s a lot of opportunity for, you know, for oversight. So, you know, from our perspective delivering that accurate invoice, to where the clients feel confident and then what we’ve delivered as a liability to the organization they trust and build that confidence that takes time and if it falls over you’ve got to rebuild it.

Interviewer:

Tracie?

Tracie Duncan:

I think for us in our organization is probably something we’ve all heard this week, IT support. We have a lot of great ideas that are going to make the customer experience better but getting the resources to do the programming to make it a priority. It’s hard to quantify the customer experience. So for us, as we get to prioritize any change for the system they want to know the dollar savings or the bottom-line improvement. So, just getting the right voice at the table to make sure that they can translate what you’re doing, into sales that are not easy to quantify, to me, is key.

Interviewer:

So along those same lines, let’s talk a bit about what is the low hanging fruit. What are those areas we can go after to improve customer experience, let’s say, outside of taking it to hope you have a car?

Tracie Duncan:

HighRadius. They did not pay me to say that. For us, we’ve had a couple of opportunities, in the last few years, not only to improve your customer experience but to improve the workplace experience of our team and our employees. So obviously if a customer if an employee is doing something that is kind of mindless, and maybe they don’t consider value-added, it makes them less engaged in a job. So we’ve had a lot of opportunities in the last five to six years, the first being dispute and claims management, we’re not doing the dispute management piece but we do claims automation through HighRadius. So, in our industry chargebacks are a huge part of the daily process and the customer’s payment process. So we’re utilizing the declaims cloud to go into our customer’s portals, so customers like Costco and Kohl’s. I can even think of JCPenney’s list being very long. Probably 12 to 14 of our largest customers and our top six customers make up 80% of our chargebacks. So we were covering the vast amount of the population. And in the past our employees would receive emails or they’d have to go into a portal and download each into an individual PDF, they would then code them and go through this process. Now the HighRadius portal does all, pulls out all this data, puts it all into one excel spreadsheet, puts all the PDF files in one package. And when the payment comes into the cash app, the process of cutting those deductions is much simpler so that’s been a huge win for us. It also allows us to communicate back to the customer faster, which is the key for dispute management, it is the speed in which you can get back to the customer to get things resolved. The second piece for us has been the online credit application. So that onboarding process for new customers is a much more seamless experience today, and obviously, the new customer process is what starts your relationship. So we want to get that right out of the gate.

Interviewer:

And sales love it when you do that quickly too.

Tracie Duncan:

Absolutely.

Interviewer:

Jason your thoughts?

Jason Herrington:

Yeah. Well, I’m endorsing everything that she said. That’s part of it. I was very high on that client onboarding experience and getting a red light or green light to move a client forward. You know, providing a single portal for invoicing and payment processing so you’re enabling your clients to work autonomously, you know again from an AP perspective. They just want to get the jobs done and not be codependent on a deliverable in most cases that they can retrieve it themselves and move on, are going to want to do that. That corresponds directly with the timeliness of the cash application where it’s usually utilizing the portal, it becomes an integrated component of the workflow stream where you’re not touching it at all. And your collection system is now more accurate because you’re not inadvertently dunning somebody who’s already paid and there was an inadvertent timing delay between when the invoice, when you send another collection notice. Yeah.

Interviewer:

So talk a little bit more about the autonomy of having that software. So there’s a lot of innovation they’re hearing a lot of talk about artificial intelligence and these virtual assistants. So what do you think is the technology that might have the greatest impact on the customer experience

Tracie Duncan:

That’s challenging because I mean so much of what we do is back-office but I agree that the online customer portals, giving everything at their fingertips so it’s self-driven. I know in the beginning when I think back 10-15 years ago, there was a lot of pushback because there are customers who will say oh you’re putting this on me. I think about this with the e-invoicing, or you can send it to me electronically but I still have to print it out. But now as customers have evolved in technology, they’d much prefer to have control and be in the driver’s seat of the process. So I think the portals can get invoices whenever they want them, of course, that’s eliminating the excuse of oh I can’t pay because I didn’t get the invoice, which is also a great benefit, but the ability for them to drive the experience I think is key.

Jason Herrington:

In furthering like there’s, you know, technology developments that are now accessing these client-based third party systems, LaMarche retail link, you know, XP owes a REBA system, you know these where they’re putting the onus on the vendor to log into their systems input their invoices into this system, and they don’t start the clock ticking on the terms until it’s success in their system. So if you’ve got a week, you know, three, four days maybe two weeks before it’s actually in that system where the terms are delayed and your payments delayed. There are developments in this organization here that are now able to access those systems and put those invoices in there very timely, you know, therefore eliminating the discrepancies and dunning notices and the inability of knowing what step in the workflow. You know those invoices have reached and anything that would prevent you from getting paid on time and just disrupting the relationship with the client because you’re not navigating a piece of technology correctly.

Tracie Duncan:

No, go ahead.

Interviewer:

You go first.

Tracie Duncan:

I think that’s one of the great benefits that HighRadius is bringing to the table for us, is you think about individuals on your team having to be the one to get these portals into the dropout portal relationship that person may be out of, you know, leave vacation, whatever. And when it is, the connection has been automated. Not only are you speeding up that process but you’re eliminating the need for one person to have control, or I mean I can remember the days of people going to someone and looking at the keyboard trying to find the password to the different portals. And there seems no longer the case because we are pulling all this information and able to see, up and down and information from our clients.

Interviewer:

So investing in futuristic technology things like virtual assistants can be risky because technology transformation can be complex, but when we look at the technology and what is available out there. It’s not just implementing that technology, there’s a lot of project management and there’s a lot of change management that has to take place. And I think without the change management piece, you won’t be as successful. So can you tell us a little bit about what kind of best practices you would see for change management when it comes to implementing some of this transformational technology?

Tracie Duncan:

Jason start.

Jason Herrington:

Sure. Be informed, you’re here to be informed you’re attending this wonderful event, you’re becoming more and more knowledgeable sitting through these sessions. There are other providers out there, they have their merits and their attributes that allow them to be successful so just be informed about what is available to help your organization. Understand the gaps in your organization and you know where your need exists. And by becoming more and more educated about the solutions, you’ll make a much more informed decision about what makes sense to improve your business operations.

Tracie Duncan:

We were just discussing it with my colleagues who were here this morning. Some big changes we have coming up, and how we’re going to communicate badly. And the fact that we’ve got to make it where it’s not something that’s been forced down our throats or it’s a negative change, understanding that all trades involve loss of some, some form, but ensuring that they know the long term benefits. So, you know, for us, it’s about putting together that project plan. I’m fortunate enough to have a project manager in our team. Not as his full-time job but a portion of his job so putting together pretty solid very solid project plans, making sure that those timelines are met, making sure that everyone is communicated with, and making sure that they understand, I guess just the transparency. It’s a key I think for the teams to embrace what you’re doing effective transparency and knowing what the result is. So if we make sure that the plan is well laid out, and there are benefits from it. I think it implements for all of us, because I think about technology, as we sit here and listen to it. If you’re a collector it’s going to be scary, because you start watching this technology you think I’m a job. Right, but as someone said this morning I think it’s key to realize that we still have to train collectors to be collectors and to be analytical and just use the tool not convert to the tool to run everything. So it’s just a matter of fact education.

Interviewer:

Right. Excellent. So we’re going to open up for questions if anyone has some questions, but as an aside first. Did you find it was anything that was like an unexpected benefit from implementing the technology, something that you saw that was a change that took place as a result of putting technologies that are not necessarily looking for or expecting?

Jason Herrington:

Well, I mean speaking from the automated cash application system and there was a quality of life change. Truly, and a very positive return on the investment. Just the arduous business process with, you know, dealing with, pre auto cash app versus postcard was just causing a lot of stress a lot of work hours, a lot of you know client problems because we were, sending collection notices and we didn’t receive the cash just couldn’t get it to apply it. So really, by leveraging a technology solution it changed our culture in some ways because now we had a greater capacity to focus on key tasks that we could not just fulfill.

Interviewer:

Tracie?

Tracie Duncan:

For us, I think, One of the ladies who used to come in on Wednesdays for claims for a certain customer she comes in every Wednesday morning, 100-130 emails in our inbox and to shed open each one. And when you hear someone say I used to dread coming to work every Wednesday. And that’s no longer the case. I mean you start to realize that the changes that the technology can make to their daily workload and then, of course, she’s working faster, smarter, happier because she’s no longer dreading these tasks. So I think there’s just been the quality of life is definitely throughout the entire process.

Interviewer:

That’s excellent. Nice. Thank you. Any questions, I’ll come up with another one if you don’t.
So, the other area that I want to talk a little bit about, again, going back to the change management and the piece of how that change management happens. So typically when you have an implementation and you put software in place, you will have one third that’s going to love the technology they’re super excited about it. You have the one third that’s going to do it because you’re being told to do it, and then they’ll have the third that is sort of like, oh gosh this I gotta learn another system I don’t want to get on board with this. So, how do you deal with that piece of change management the people aspect outside of the actual implementation of the technology?

Tracie Duncan:

They have to see the benefit for themselves. I can remember when I first started in Adidas, I walked by someone’s desk, and she had excel, she would not embrace the technology of spreadsheets, she was used to doing it herself. And then after spending time with this person, and getting into understanding the benefits, of course, she’s come along. I think it’s the same as we get to this next level of implementation of new tools and artificial intelligence. They have to understand the benefit to themselves, and also to the organization. And for our organization, we are really big on global standardization. And when you start implementing these tools, it’s much easier to have standardization across the globe, not just across our organization in North America. And when they start to see that that’s the direction from the top. They start to see how they can play a part in that by using these tools.

Interviewer:

So I guess communication is key.

Tracie Duncan:

Key.

Interviewer:

Really important, training key.

Tracie Duncan:

Yep.

Interviewer:

Jason, thoughts?

Jason Herrington:

Well, as leaders in an organization, you’ve had to have built some level of trust, you know with your stakeholders with your internal colleagues. So there has to be some internal credibility that your bright new ideas are a good idea. That can be a little daunting, especially if you’re rolling out something brand new. We didn’t do a big bang approach, you know, so we’ve done a phased implementation, and that has worked out well and building that confidence that we, you know, we were making good decisions. So we implemented a phase of it, we’ve realized success in it, and you know that campaign to sell the other components has become less arduous because you know how they’re seeing you know the actual results are talking about my perspective is you know what this means to the field staff we have, you know, thousands of sales folks out there and what that means to our clients, and the benefits that it said and that that was kind of the tougher sell because that’s such a large community. The back-office community is a smaller community they kind of get it they’re in it so it’s you know it’s a little easier to sell. And from that perspective we made a decision, we went with it and we were successful. and now we can leverage that and parlay that into, you know, other developments.

Interviewer:

So, the key thing, what’s the one key takeaway from that customer experience. So if you were to say this is how you’re going to improve your customer experience. This is the one key thing, what would it be?

Tracie Duncan:

Self-directed. Exactly. They’re going to be able to guide their relationship. Obtaining your product is important to them. So they’re going to be able to control the back office part and work it into their back-office needs.

Jason Herrington:

Right, doing what you say you’re going to do, you know, and when you’re going to do it and delivering on it if that’s delivering it through a portal, or through an email or whatever it is just fulfilling the commitment that you’ve made and sticking by it now.

Interviewer:

So, any other questions out there today. Do we all have the answers?

Tracie Duncan:

We are between you and lunch?

Jason Herrington:

Yeah.

Tracie Duncan:

We know that look.

Interviewer:

Okay so if you don’t have any questions, I say thank you to Jason, and thank you to Tracie for joining us this afternoon. Thank you for coming and joining us at our session as well. They are available if you want to come up after or at any point in the conference and ask questions to them at that time.

Jason Herrington:

Right.

Interviewer:

So, thank you.

Tracie Duncan:

Thanks, guys.

Interviewer: So here we're getting together. Here we've got Jason and Tracie to answer some questions and I'm gonna ask them a series of questions and get their answers, but please feel free if you have questions along the way. Just raise your hands, we'll try to keep it interactive and interesting. So first off, to cash, it's probably the most customer-facing after-sales. So, where do you think there's scope for improving that customer experience? Let's start with Tracie. Tracie Duncan: Everywhere. You know the sale happens, but obviously, it's not complete till the invoice is paid. And if that process is arduous for a customer, it can ruin the entire customer experience. So I think that especially as technology is advancing. It is our job first to make sure that we're invoicing our customers properly, that's the number one key. When I entered the world of credit that was the first thing that I was told by my boss. The key to successful credit is invoicing correctly. So if we start the process correctly and make sure we have the tools in place, then we can complete the process properly and make that as painless and user-friendly as possible.…

What you'll learn

  • Exploring the scopes, hurdles, and benefits of improving customer experience
  • Understanding the pain points of customers and channel them into solutions
  • Implementing the best practices to change management and transformational technology
  • Building trust between leaders and internal colleagues

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HighRadius Integrated 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. Integrated 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.