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The changing business dynamics of the past couple of years required all organizations to adapt, but the impact on consumer goods companies was the most diverse. A/R executives George Uko, Manager of Credit and Collections at Staples, and Laura Garcia, Manager of Customer Financial Services at Danone, discussed the changes they observed in the CFO’s expectations from the A/R department.

They share a few best practices to tackle the biggest receivable-related pain point for every CPG A/R executive and their plan of action to achieve a more efficient A/R function by the next quarter.

On Demand Webinar

The Big Conversation: Receivables Management Growth Strategies for the Consumer Goods Industry

Session Summary

The changing business dynamics of the past couple of years required all organizations to adapt, but the impact on consumer goods companies was the most diverse. A/R executives George Uko, Manager of Credit and Collections at Staples, and Laura Garcia, Manager of Customer Financial Services at Danone, discussed the changes they observed in the CFO’s expectations from the A/R department.

They share a few best practices to tackle the biggest receivable-related pain point for every CPG A/R executive and their plan of action to achieve a more efficient A/R function by the next quarter.

webinar

Key Takeaways

Tips for faster collections, better deductions management, and cost-reduction
[06:47]
Highlights
  • How will the A/R department’s role in the CFO’s office change in 2022
  • How to reallocate resources within teams to deal with increased workloads
  • How to ensure on-time deductions and mitigate revenue leakages
How can A/R contribute to revenue growth with sales enablement in 2022
[26:57]
Highlights
  • Sharing research and insights from the credit team with the sales team can turn credit into a strategic partner for profitable growth.
  • Using the right metrics to track performance will enable faster course correction and help lower DSO.
Time to step-up: Automate processes to ensure operational efficiency
[31:45]
Highlights
  • Pinpointing your KPI roadblocks with detailed automated reports
  • Faster reports allow digging further into your customer accounts
  • Eliminating repetitive manual work to make proactive revenue-driven decisions
  • Making more time even with increased workloads by leveraging the right technology
New strategies every A/R needs to adapt for the next quarter
[38:16]
Highlights
  • Learning more about other back-office functions to change office dynamics from defensive to offensive
  • Ensuring A/R teams are putting customers centricity as their top priority to get paid faster and safeguard cash flow

(Host Keith 0:01)

The big conversation, Receivables Management and growth strategies for the consumer goods. Goods industry is as follows

2020 required all organizations to pivot but the impact on consumer goods companies was the most diverse. From companies dealing in essential goods experiencing a sudden surge in demand and deductions volume to those in the non essential category experiencing a steep decline in sales. 2021 is an interesting year as business leaders figure out the next steps to stay on a growth trajectory. And this panel discussion, AR executives from leading consumer good companies will discuss how they pivoted in response to the COVID crisis. They will further deep dive into changes that they observed in the CFOs expectations from their department and the behavior of their customers. How they navigated the crisis with the help of technology and what they plan to achieve in 2021 with accelerated digital transformation will form the rest of the story. Join in for a one-stop conversation. That will cover best practices to tackle the largest receivable related pain points of suppliers, as well as current plan of action that you can follow to achieve a more efficient AR function by the end of this year.

Today’s panelists are Elaine Nowak, Director of Product Management and Marketing at Highradius. As Director of Product Marketing and Management Elaine is dedicated to educating credit and HR practitioners about the impact of using an integrated receivables workflow enabled by artificial intelligence to improve key receivables operating metrics. Elaine’s mission includes working with progressive users, along with industry partners to identify and share key insights in best practices at industry forums, conferences and webinars.

Laura Garcia, manager of retail productions at Danone, North America, Laura is the manager over the retail deductions team in North America, and this helped lead the team to success during a very demanding integration year prior to her time at the nine board has worked in compliance in the legal industry as well as the engineering industry.

George Uko credit manager at Staples promotional products. George is a credit manager with staples promotional products and has been in the credit industry for the past 25 plus years, George focuses on processes and improving team performance to deliver results. So without further ado, I am pleased to turn the program over to Elaine, Laura, and George.

(Elaine Nowak 2:50)

Thanks so much, Keith. Thanks, everyone for being here. And also thank you Lord George, we’re super excited to have this conversation and to share your insights with those others, your peers that are on the call with us today. So let’s just start right out. And I think maybe Laura, I’m going to put you on the spot first. How was your A/R department? How was it affected by COVID? And how much of that initial effect is present? Currently, is it still there?

(Laura Garcia 03:18)

Sure. Um, so initially, my department the deductions department, we were non-remote workers. You know, we’re every day in the office. You know, you see your team every day just working in the office and overnight that that change and we all went to the remote. So that was probably one of the worst reviews we’ve seen. You know, and then myself being able to manage a team remotely a pretty large team. That’s been a different way of working as well, because you’re not face to face with everybody. So making sure that you’re staying connected, also led to new ways of working. So I think those are some of the largest, you know, effects that we’ve seen due to covid

(Elaine Nowak 4:03)

and do you think any of those changes that you’ve seen early part of your permanent structure moving forward?

(Laura Garcia 4:10)

I definitely think they will. I think you know, as a company, we’ve shown that we have the ability to be successful while working from home but I also considering everybody safety, so I think we’ll definitely see some of that in the future. Not too sure right now what that means without molds or specifics, but I don’t think they will continue to sell some of that.

(Elaine Nowak 04:30)

Thank you. And George, what about you what, what effects have you seen in the A/R department at Staples promotional products,

(George Uko 04:36)

we have some of the similar concerns or similar issues that Laura had a couple things that we had going for us that kind of helped with this transition. Luckily, we had already gone through and was right after the winter months. So we had already initialized everybody to have a laptop, and we were trying to work from home because of the weather. So luckily, when everything happened with COVID, we’re able to adjust and for the most part, we didn’t have too many hiccups per say because some of the reps were already used to work from home. So that was a plus with that other thing that we’ve noticed by going through this process. We also learned that we can communicate better through teams. So not being in the office. We definitely there was a lack of communication, but using teams were able to make up for that and if anything, I feel like I’m more involved with the group through teams than I was before. Other things that we’ve done our communication with our external and internal customers. That has also improved because now we’re more ready to talk discuss and especially internally with other departments are stable. Everybody’s on teams. So rather than picking up the phone, rather than walking down the office, everybody is just used to now just going in and using teams to go ahead and communicate and if anything that’s kind of helped and as far as our productivity. Other thing on top of that we didn’t have paper processes, so like faxes and stuff like that. We took all that and put it internal or online through right fax. So because of that we can be outside the office and still get our faxes without having to be in the office. So it has definitely changed like Laura said, I think some of this just probably here to say we have definitely adapted in if anything, I think it’s actually made us stronger.

(Elaine Nowak 06:37)

Excellent. Yeah, we have a similar thing now it’s a Google Chat for our company. We’re constantly pinging each other as that’s the phrase now that we have that we use. So, George, would you say that the CFOs focus on accounts receivable with departments has increased in the last year? And yet, yeah, and then and if so, do you think that your teams have shifted gears to deliver on the initiatives that the CFOs have talked about?

(George Uko 7:03)

I would say yes, the focus has changed, because our sales have changed because of the COVID. So because of that there’s more focus on getting things collected. We’re also more focused on holding our customers to our terms. So that is definitely put the spotlight back to as far as the way we’re handling the way we’re collecting and really at the end of the day with our DSO before, may not have been as big of an issue. But with everything going on. The CFOs weren’t concerned that we’re seeing on top of things. Another thing with bankruptcies there’s a lot of our business unit deals with a lot of different businesses, whether it’s pharmaceuticals, whether it’s small business, agriculture, etc. And the hard part right now is really have to stay on top of your customers and understand what’s going on. So that way we don’t get caught into a bankruptcy or something like that we need to be on top of everything. So they have definitely been watching, working with us and trying to help us stay on top of what’s going on within the business.

(Elaine Nowak 8:14)

Laura how about you would say that your CFOs focus has increased for the accounts receivable department. Over the last year?

(Laura Garcia 8:21)

Or definitely so yes, I think we’ve noticed, you know, obviously all the changes that have happened over the last year, being able to adapt to that. I think one of the objectives is focusing on profitability and the way that my department helps with that is making sure that we work our deductions, making sure we’re identifying and, you know, really understanding what the customers are doing, making sure that there’s no changes in the customers. You know, we went through time, early on, during you know when COVID. First came was, you know, customers started taking just erroneous deductions, and I think it was, you know, thankful to my team being able to catch some of these things because we’re able to put a stop to it, but we you know, we have to be able to adapt and be able to recognize those sorts of things. And then the faster that we have the ability to resolve those deductions and make sure we maintain a current balance, then that’s more current, more up to date information for internal stakeholders, and they have the ability to make better decisions based on that information. So it’s really about you know, taking the core of what we do, and making sure we’re applying it to those objectives and being able to really, you know, look at things from all different sides and all different ways and being able to, you know, change and adapt with every change that we see coming down the way and that was definitely something that, you know, everybody had to do during this last year.

(Elaine Nowak 09:50)

Yes, I think we’re all getting to the point where like pivot pivot changes, are all seeing it all the time. For sure. Yeah. And do you think that the shift in gear with the CFO is top objectives of those objectives are to continue for this year, and then maybe even next year?

(Laura Garcia 10:08)

Oh, of course, I definitely think so. I think, you know, with that adaptation is you know, how do we continue to do better so, yes, last year was a rough year, but we did really well and succeded. So how do we take that and apply it again to this year, but do even better as well? So it’s always about that improvement and you know, where can we improve our processes? Where can we improve what we’re doing in order to make those objectives and you know, at the end of the day be better than we were the year before the day before the month before.

(Elaine Nowak 10:40)

Yeah. So I think let’s get the pulse of the audience and what their opinion is for this coming year. We’ve got a poll question that we want to share right now. And if everyone here could just please vote that we can just kind of get a feel of what everybody else on the call is saying. So what is your outlook on how 2021 would be compared to this last year that we had and what you’re seeing in the A/R space specifically for the consumer goods industry, so do you think that A it’s going to be positive that things will be better and more manageable than in 2020? Do you think it’s gonna be negative, maybe meeting targets is going to be challenging because of the rebound that’s going to happen and the stagnation of the economy and maybe other things that might be going on? Or perhaps you just think it’s going to be neutral? That maybe this will be another year like last year? Pretty much the same in terms of where the outlook is for accounts receivable, so if you can go ahead and vote on that question, that would be great. And then we’ll keep that up for just a little longer. And then I think in the meantime, let’s move on to our next question for George and for Laura. So have you seen an increase in the workload of the accounts receivable team? And if so, how have you tackled that increase? And let’s start with George.

(George Uko 11:54)

All right. Thank you. Good question. Yes, we have seen an increase in as far as our workload, as far as our workload is also changed in as far as the different volume. We’re noticing. Just to share with you I’m in the promotional products division in we sold some PPE orders, you know, the hats, the gloves, etc. So we actually saw our volume increase but at the same token, we also saw the dollar amount increase. So it’s been really tough to adjust but we have definitely adjusted and did what we can do and to kind of help with as far as some that volume, I had to reallocate and I’ve got a Canadian team up in Canada, our credit team, and what we started doing was sharing some of our workload. So some of our accounts, were able to take it and have our Canadian group work it and then vice versa. So because of that we were able to kind of expand or distribute the work. And because of that, we’re able to stay on top of as far as the workload. Other thing that we did to kind of help with some of the different volumes is on a bi weekly basis, I send out the aging to ourselves group. So the sales group, they now in turn know who their customers are. It’s tied to the different sales reps. So they intern can see as my customer paid him, they not paid, what’s kind of going on with the customer. So what that’s done is that’s kind of increased us working closer with our sales group. And they in turn are helping us with some of the collection, not hardcore collections, but if there’s any issues anything they see the basically the aging and the best part with that is we’re actually seeing some of our older volume actually get paid and we’re moving along like we should so it’s really created a stronger connection with ourselves team and with some other groups like our Canadian team to work closer together.

(Elaine Nowak 13:51)

That’s excellent. So that’s the kind of trend you hope will continue and have Yeah, and how about you Laura? Did you see an increased workload with your AR teams? Sometimes?

(Laura Garcia 14:05)

Yeah, I think you know, I think we’ve definitely seen some increased workload over the last year and we’ve, you know, kind of similar to the last thing that we’re talking about, we’ve had to adapt. And so I think the way that I, you know, used to I like to try to adapt to those things is how do I approach it and what’s the strategy at ease and that that comes from really knowing my team, knowing, you know, what they’re going to be able to adapt to, I know, we have some competitive people out there, you know, so I kind of look for things to motivate them because, you know, oftentimes we don’t necessarily have the bandwidth for the increased workload, but, you know, sometimes we can, you know, while overtime hours or sometimes we can find, you know, efficiencies in what we’re doing so that we can minimize the amount of time it takes to do task A, so that we have more time to do Task B. And so it’s really just getting to know them and knowing you know, if I hold contests, right, for most deductions cleared in a week, right, that’s going to motivate some people even extra having those little extra incentives to really, you know, take care of that increased workload. It’s also about, you know, making sure that the other areas of the organization understand the differences in the workload, and you know, why there might be a delay on one task, while other tests are getting completed. So it’s just it’s more about kind of managing all of those things together. To try to find that solution for that increased.

(Elaine Nowak 15:40)

What kind of prizes to give out for these competitions? I’m curious to see what you could possibly earn if you get the most deductions closed or something for that.

(Laura Garcia 15:50)

Um, so we just we do things like gift cards, or I know a lot of people like to you know, earn days off different things like that, that come into play. So we we try to make it flexible because we also know kind of with that same, you know, everybody might be motivated by something different. So we try to make it work so that everybody is motivated by the competition, but then also flexible that they have the ability to kind of choose what their prizes you know, and that way it kind of makes it feel like oh, if somebody you know, doesn’t want a gift card to this retailer, or whatever, they’re maybe not going to try as hard versus when they know Oh, I’m gonna try really hard and I also have a say in what it is. We trained in school like that.

(Elaine Nowak 16:32)

That’s actually I want to come work for your department. So, you know, in our understanding, but we’ve seen, you know, deduction short pays that they’ve always been a sore point for CPG companies. Laura, maybe you can tell us a little bit more about challenges you face in managing deductions and how you overcame those challenges.

(Laura Garcia 16:56)

Sure. You know, I think every day right, we run into something new that presents a challenge and having to overcome those is very important and making sure that the people that you have you know, on your team are resilient to that. I think one of the main challenges that my team faces and has faced over, you know, a number of years is, you know, what, what my team actually does what we’re responsible for, because I think you have some parts of the organization that think we’re you know, supposed to fix everything that the customer does, or the customer thinking that we’re supposed to fix everything that the sales team does, vice versa, and we’re kind of the middleman that’s responsible for reconciling our deductions to the trade deals. So it’s about really making sure that everybody’s aware of you know, what we’re supposed to do that, that we’re also kind of that person that can raise the flag and say, Hey, we’re noticing a trend. We’re noticing that straight, kind of be those eyes and ears on the ground and making sure that we’re keeping everybody connected and communicating effectively. So that’s that’s one of the large hurdles. But it’s, it comes a time right? It’s becomes the repetition of, here’s what our processors here’s what our policies are, and making sure that not only our internal customers, but our external customers are also familiar with that and you know, sometimes you may have to remind them multiple times. But it’s something that you know, as long as you stay consistent, you you get to the point where people learn people catch on, and then you know, you get things running very smoothly. You know, that’s, that comes and goes obviously with knowledge that may come in the door and they leave also, overtime. So that’s actually kind of, you know, sometimes you have to do it more than once. But it’s about that ever evolving. You know, learning and adapting because you might have something that was working great at one point and then something changes and you need to revamp your whole view. So that means retraining, you know, re communicating the new information out making sure everybody’s clear on the new process. And then one of the ways that I you know, overcome some of the challenges is making sure that I you know, continue to educate myself as well and making sure that I’m learning, you know, other areas of the organization making sure that I’m understanding, you know, what they do, why they do it, right. What is their process and why, you know, why do we maybe have some, some gaps between our team’s understanding what the customers doing, making sure that, you know, the customers if they decide to change something, it can have a domino effect on you know, what we’re doing. So making sure that you know, your kind of eyes and ears everywhere and being able to make sure that all those dots can stay connected, and if one is amiss, how do we resolve that right, so that that train keeps moving forward and moving forward? So

(Elaine Nowak 19:56)

yes, I feel like you could almost have one of those. It be the SuperHero comes out Guardian Alpha policies. sure everything is just right in line and just reiterating I think, so important that and it’s such a true it’s so many roles, so we had, as you said, between training and then iterating policies, compliance and all those things in the roles that you have for accounts receivable and especially around those deductions. So George, I’m gonna I’m gonna pick on you now.

(George Uko 20:19)

Okay, good.

(Elaine Nowak 20:20)

Yeah, maybe. You told you’ve told me in the past, we’ve had conversations that your credit collections team started working more closely with sales. You mentioned that earlier, how you and the sales department have become now your like best buds. So you know, what, exactly how did you get to the point where now you are so well aligned and working so well with the sales teams? Can you sort of elaborate a little bit more on how that happened?

(George Uko 20:46)

Sure. First of all, I think it was a matter of sales as wanting more sales approved, obviously, so we wanted to support them, we want to work with them. And at the time sales was starting to slow down a little bit. We’re able to kind of educate were able to kind of open the door work closer together. And part of that was with me and some of my team members going in talking to sell, getting them to understand and to kind of expand on that to share something else with you. What we started doing things by highradius is we started grouping IRA accounts together. Now one of our customers can have 200 different locations. So you may have one customer and 200 locations that goes to one sales rep. So what we started doing is we would give aging reports for all 200 of those accounts to that particular sales rep. So what we’re able to do is going to dig in and find out where some of the shortfalls were. And what we found is a lot of the same issues. Were all directed maybe to the same AP person once we educated them both with sales and us together. Were able to kind of close that gap and get them to pay on time. So really, to kind of expand on my answer there. It was just a matter of taking the time and one thing I had really trained my associates to do is the focus on sales understand where they’re coming from. And we have one big line that we’re currently using this year and it’s the customer experience. Customer experience isn’t just when the sales page is from the point it’s made all the way until one is paid. So we’ve really kind of had to change kind of our thought, but because of that we’re able to work closer with sales. And not only do we work with our sales group, I also work with another division with their sales group. So getting to know some of the different customers and learning. Hey, this is who you talk to this and that and we’re able to kind of go in up some different credit limits in work with sales to push through additional sales and that was probably the biggest thing with us. But I really think at the end of the day is the increased communication between both groups working together having monthly meetings, really taking the time to share what’s going on.

(Elaine Nowak 23:12)

Alright. I can see this new tagline for you and your department. Customers first major paid that’s the staples way I love it. I love it. So I’m some of the poll results came in. I just wanted to share them because it’s a little it’s a it’s sort of an interesting result that we’re seeing. Only about half of our audience that’s on with us today said that it’s positive, they think that in 2020 Things will be better. So again, the question, what is your outlook on how would 2021 be compared to 2020 for the AR space in consumer goods industry? So only half of our our people have joined us our audience today said it was positive and about a third actually said it’s going to remain the same. So they’re not seeing that they don’t see a positive they don’t see an uptick in in sort of the way the outlook is going to be. And then about 17% said, There you go 2020 one’s going to be negative. So kind of interesting. I’d love to get more detailed results on that maybe we’ll do a survey to sort of understand which segments and consumer products might be seen the positive which we’ve seen the negative and so far. So any thoughts on those results again? 50% said positive 33% neutral and 17% Negative Georgia and Laura what do you think?

(Laura Garcia 24:33)

Okay. You know, I help the ones that are saying but it’s, you know, not a positive outlook or wrong. I try to hope that, you know, as I mentioned before, you kind of can make each year better than the prior. I think that you know, people are probably still a little hesitant, a little cautious of not really knowing what the future is, I think that’s where some of that might come from, you know, I kind of go back and forth between them each day myself as well. So I think just, you know, I hope it’s for the positive. But you know, I think again, adapting right I think I’ve been saying that a lot you always

(Elaine Nowak 25:13)

Pivot change adapt, yes, it’s our keywords. I also think to just I think even understanding the situation for us as a economy, global economy, you know, I think the recovery has been a little slower than people were hoping, you know, and just between the economy and vaccinations in the outbreaks that are still happening. So I think I can see why it might be neutral. And I can see why you might also be like, I don’t think we’re gonna recover as quickly as we’re hoping to George thoughts real quick.

(George Uko 25:41)

I want to kind of add to what Laura was saying what you’re saying too. I think a lot of it has to do with the different customers with their different businesses. I think there’s a lot of uncertainty that’s going on out in the marketplace. And I think because of that uncertainty, it’s making it harder for us, per se to do our jobs. And the hard thing is the whole credit models. Everything is changing, because we have to be careful in how we loan money. And you know, it’s not like everything’s been reopened like it was before. And the question is, what we all want to know is when is everything going to be back to normal and better yet, is there really going to be the same normal and I think what everybody’s looking for

(Elaine Nowak 26:24)

Yeah, searching is there’s no longer than normal. It just is what it is nowadays sense. So for next question. So we’ve had all your teams we’ve been working remote for some time now most people more than a year. There are some customers that we’ve I’ve known that have gone back to the office, some people part time, some people have actually gone back most of their offices back and I think again, it depends to your point Georgia, which segment within the industry they are and what the needs are for them to return the office or maybe be able to continue remote. So how are you measuring your remote team’s performance with all that’s going on? And perhaps you could share some specific metrics that might make sense to track maybe what you’ve been doing for the past year, maybe new metrics or some other metrics you might want to consider for 2021 And again, we’re talking about you know, credit deductions collection departments and Laura how about I’ll ask you first so what are your thoughts on measuring team performance?

(Laura Garcia 27:26)

Yeah, um, you know, it’s something that we, you know, we take very seriously obviously, it’s, it’s one of the things that we track throughout the entire year, right and especially now that the team is working remote, you really want to make sure that you’re still seeing those performance, that performance is steady and increasing as possible. One of the things that we utilize is making sure that we can retrieve the necessary information from the system. So I know I’m you know, in highradius daily checking to see okay, what’s still open, you know, what’s been resolved kind of using those different things. I think, you know, one of the metrics that we’ve, that we’ve used for my team specifically is, you know, tracking or deductions that are aged greater than 30 days. They’ve aged out past that point, we need to know why we need to know, you know, what’s going to be the resolution, are they invalid? Are they needing additional attention because of you know, XY and Z. And, you know, another large part of what we do to kind of determine performance, but also success is you know, are we been able to resolve as a team more than what’s being created in the system? So are we seeing that kind of balance shift from, you know, we’ve had, however much created during this month, but we were able to clear above and beyond that. So we know that if we do have any backlog, we’re able to drag that down by measuring that metric. And it’s one that I, you know, I specifically look at constantly and it’s one that we report out on to to our senior leadership is, you know, yes, we may have cleared this much, but it was still more than what was created. So we’re still in the positive. And then understanding if it’s not right, if it’s switch, why is it that way? Did we have, you know, any issues throughout the month did we have, you know, an event that happened that that caused us not to be able to do that? So we can attract that, you know, when whenever we do reports, and it helps really understand our team, and it helps the other parts of the organization understand that, just because a number might not look good to them, is actually a good number. Right? So being able to tell the story with that as well.

(Elaine Nowak 29:40)

your education hat has to go on in that. Yep. George, what about you in terms of performance tracking and what you’re doing for your teams?

(George Uko 29:52)

Well, to add to what Laura was saying, I currently look at the 60 Plus, because that’s usually the first window where we have there’s something going on. We’re continually looking at the DSO. And then the other thing to add to that I look currently floors done for deductions on the AR side, I look at how much they collected. From compared to the week before. And I also look at the different buckets. So weekly, I want to know where the difference I don’t know if I want to say that but where we have some of the different issues or the different high balances, so that I know which accounts are causing the different buckets do increase or decrease this and that. So it’s really staying on top of that. And other thing I’ve put a lot of focus in how many promised a pays are they getting? We have this great system now but it’s tracking. So we really need to kind of watch and understand what’s going on. We either took it down to what we call the invoice level on our side, where we could put notes on a particular invoice. So some people work in at the account level we still do, but we also take it down one step further down to the invoice level. So that’s allowed us to work directly with sales, work with a customer and if it’s just one individual issue that causing maybe some of the issues with the payments, we could get right to that in zero to it, but once again, it’s just staying on top of the reporting. Stay on top of the aging.

(Elaine Nowak 31:25)

So reporting root cause analysis really understanding what’s going on and why. And then getting back to that so you can take action and kind of determine is it something that’s just a one off? Or maybe there’s something you need to improve in the process and understand that as well. So yes, super interesting. Hope I was taking notes of these metrics. So we’re going to move on to the next question. This has to do with automation capabilities, something near and dear to of course any highradian. So when you look at your capabilities, and you’ve been working in and you look back and you say this was something that seemed to be a must have in his disruptive economy, So was there any particular automation or technology or tool that you found that that helped you that you said, if I didn’t have this, I really would have been, you know, out of luck in big trouble or something like this. And then I think secondarily to that question. Could you summarize the benefits that that technology brought about it brought to the AR space? And George, I think well, we’ll start with you and I’ll let Laura ruminate over it for a moment. So

(George Uko 32:28)

let me kind of address this way. I think the must haves in the economy most must have for what’s going on today is having the automated on A/R reporting. So that’s allowed us to come in to see as far as what’s going on that A/R report. We also have it so goes out once again to our sales reps. So that’s allowed us to dig further into the different issues. But without as far as that reporting, I think we would really have an issue because what that’s done is that’s allowed us and one other thing to kind of add to that is we’ve been able to set different strategies for some of our different customers. Those different strategies play into as far as our reporting. So that way we can have different reports that for some of the different customer bases, and because of that we’re able to focus in focus and focus and like you said before, dig in analyze as far as what’s going on. And to be honest, I don’t know how we would have done it without some of this reporting. And yes, with high radius you could go in and you could customize it you’re gonna have reports and now but other thing with that is really understanding what is this report telling me? And then how can I use this report to work with my different cells or with some of my different customers and you would be surprised different with customers just adding their invoices to their statement, what a big difference that makes, and that’s really going to help drive as far as what we’re doing.

(Elaine Nowak 34:06)

You think something as little as that, but it made a huge impact. Exactly. Yeah. Laura, how about you just in terms of a must have for what happened, this disruptive economy and then the benefits that you might have saw as a result.

(Laura Garcia 34:21)

So I think, you know, one of the main things was our ability to stay in communication with one another, you know, working from home and everything that was that was one huge part of it is being able to communicate, and you know, that doesn’t necessarily mean via email or via work chat or you know, anything like that, but communicate through the system as well. You know, a lot of what my team does, we often mean help from our sales teams. And one way that we can communicate with them is through notes and our claims and through you know, changing action codes and it sends an email to our to our sales team, right it kind of eliminates additional communications required on my team as part because by an action that they’re doing in the system, it’s already being done on the other end. So, you know, I think keeping in communication has been really crucial in this disruptive time. And using all the different areas that we have the ability to do that with I think another way to is, you know, going back to what I had mentioned in a prior question, being able to teach being able to communicate and and help the other areas of the organization understand that they have the ability to find information for themselves also. So really opening them up to the system and having them get in there and you know, get the information that they would otherwise you know, come to me or my team and request and it would take my team you know, however long to pull it out. While you know kind of shifting that is, you know, making sure that they have the ability to do it, but then also showing them how it gives them the ability to get more up to date current information instead of waiting for my team to do it. And then it also helps them make better decisions in a more timely manner so that they can you know, they can put the deals out there that they need to they know you know what they can expect from the customers. So it’s really about understanding what the system is doing and where you can have those wins. And I think another part too is, you know, as as you see shifts in different companies, and you have people that that tend to leave the company or people that come on having technology with being able to automate different things, helps with some of that disruption that you might have, so that you’re not worried about, oh, well you know, so and so’s leaving the company and we need to know what they need to do. Right? The system’s already doing it for us. So that’s going to help that you know, business continue on in the same manner. Even if you don’t have the same people that are, you know, working on those tasks.

(Elaine Nowak 37:01)

Yeah. And so even if they go on vacation, let’s say then it’s easier to be able to reallocate understand, you know, where that work is getting done and how it’s getting done. And you can easily be read across the team or handled by the system, right. And what you’re talking about too, makes me think of that old adage, you know, teaching them how to fish so don’t just give them a meal. Yeah, teach them how to get in there and kind of understand what it is they’re looking at. So some great insights. Okay, so I think with that, I think we’re going to put it back out for another poll question that we’re going to ask the audience here. What are your thoughts on adopting technology and transforming your order to cash digitally in 2021? So do you think it’s necessary for the long term? Maybe you’re not sure if it creates a difference? Maybe you think it wouldn’t be useful that really kind of adapting technology transforming to the digital art isn’t gonna help you in the next year? Or maybe it’s just not something that you have necessarily thought about? So if you just go ahead and put your responses to that poll question up, that would be great. And then in the meantime we can jump on to our next question for Laura and George today. So let’s shift this to reflecting on yourself and your team in terms of goals. So I’m gonna ask you first, Laura, what are your top goals for you? And then also for your team for this next year? And then what are you doing to try to achieve those goals? For this upcoming year?

(Laura Garcia 38:37)

Sure. I think for myself, right. I you know, it kind of goes back to what I was saying prior is, you know, you always want to do better than you did the year before. And in my role, part of that is making sure that I you know, understand all the areas of the organization. So, for me personally, I want to educate myself on the different areas, but I’m not as familiar with, you know, I may have touched on that a little bit, but I want to really get a better understanding. Because I think the more education that people have with, you know, the knowledge of what they’re doing versus the knowledge of what others are doing and how it all comes together, is crucial for the success of the business. So my personal goal, I think, is to educate myself more in the areas that I’m not as familiar with. It’s something that I also recommend to my team, obviously with, you know, if we have new people start we have people that have been there a long time I always make sure that they’re aware that it’s okay to constantly be learning. You know, I’ve, you know, been with the company, however many years, I’m still learning, right, you still can learn something new every day. So just making that real available to everybody. Also, you know, one of the things that I one of the goals I have for my team is to, you know, overcome a backlog that we’ve had due to a new system implementation that we had at the beginning of the year. And so that really hindered our ability to, you know, resolve claims and do different things. Like that, that caused the backlog to build up and so one of the goals we have is to, you know, drive that down, and still even do better than we did last year without that additional challenge. So kind of that always working towards you know, if you guys can’t tell him I’m pretty competitive. So it’s always that prior year, right. So thats one thing that I want for my team, as one of the goals and, you know, as kind of touched on in other questions, one way to achieve that is, how do we make more time even with the increased workload using the system to how do we use the system to make sure we’re as efficient as possible? You know, are there efficiencies that we haven’t uncovered? There’s something that the system can do for us that somebody is currently doing manually? And, you know, if we switch that over to having the system do it then that gives that person needs additional time to then, you know, work down on that backlog or take on a new task. So, it’s all about kind of the forward-thinking and you know, how can I make time out of no time and that’s why they finding efficiencies right? And being able to use the tools we have, to the best of our ability and to the to the most extent that they’re capable of.

(Elaine Nowak 41:25)

Right, so true. So it’s like allocating that the, what they call the workload, right, really understanding how you can shift that workload and sort of automate more of those tasks that you have more time to work on those value-added things like driving down that what you had talked about, and George, how about you? What do you look for what are your goals? What are your team goals?

(George Uko 41:45)

Sure. Some of you are probably gonna think I’m crazy when I say this, but I’m trying to change kind of the dynamics in my group or in the department in one of the things the verbiage I use is we’re trying to go from defensive to offensive and what I’m referring to offensive is is trying to forecast more, trying to be on top of what’s coming down the line, trying to work closer with sales trying to figure out what can we do better just like Laura said, What can we do better to make it better for everybody? So one of the things a lot of times being in the A/R credit world, we’re always going to be in defensive because we always have to fix something that may be broken or collect on something. So now we’re trying to get a little more customer-centric, trying to work with our different customers, what we do to help them through our processes. So really, that’s kind of my main focus. I mean, on top of that, we still have our standard metrics. We’re looking at the DSO we’re looking at our 60 Plus, you know, doing what we can do go through as far as the daily metrics, but really, at the end of the day, once again, I want to get to a point where, hey, what can we do to make it better for our customers make it easier for them, and that’s why we’re using some of the different highradius products to help us. You know, whether it’s just here’s the different link to go ahead and make your payment. What can we do to make it easier for them, and in turn, make it easier for us.

(Elaine Nowak 43:19)

Excellent. And thank you so much, George, for sharing those insights with us today. I was just thinking to Laura one of your goals should also be to do more presenting and thought leadership things. We love hearing your insights to George says lots of them with me so I’ve already have him on my radar. Okay, so next question. We have up I think I’m just looking at the poll results. And it looks like the majority of our participants on the call today said that they think it’s necessary in the long term to adapt technology and transform digitally. There was some percentage that said, well, there weren’t sure if it creates a difference so that’s what I love educational webinars like this to tell them otherwise. It’s uh, yeah, you know what, I think it can make a difference. And that’s where we hear from, from you, Laura, from you, George to help us understand the things that can be done as a result of automation and technology. So George, you talked about this a little bit customers centric of focus that you have talking about customer satisfaction in this kind of thing. So how important do you feel it is for the accounts receivable department to have a customer-centric focus today? And you know, as a leader, how would you ensure that your HR teams are putting customers first?

(George Uko 44:41)

I think in today’s environment, I mean, it kind of goes back to the old adage of, hey, we’re going to pay first someone that they like to work with someone that they feel confident with, or they’re going to pay the other, the other company, so being as far as customer-centric, building that relationship. So notice, my past answers. I’m talking about building a relationship with sales. While our customers are the same token we have to build that relationship. Because the better we know what’s going on with them, the better we can help them, the better we help them. Well, guess what? They’re going to go ahead and pay us. So we really have to stay focused. We really need to keep developing that. And other thing that we’ve tried to do is what can we do to make it easier for our customers? So you were talking about a with the different technology. Does that help? I could definitely tell you and I’ll just gonna throw a little thing that we’ve done. We actually put in our invoices in our statement where they could click and do a one-time payment. It has helped the payments tremendously. Because guess what, they just go in, they decide on their own. They make the payment. We don’t have to touch it. We don’t have to call and better yet, we can also forecast to know when they’re going to make their payments. So it’s just going through some of those different steps. What can we do to kind of help them once again, to help us and that’s kind of the way we have to look at things and really what can we do and other thing what we’ve tried to do to kind of help with this is now our customers in our different business. units. So although I’m one part of the business, the other part of the business, maybe our office supplies, well what are they doing? So we’re starting to open up as far as the communication, and that’s really helped us understand as far as our customers and really focus on what they’re doing and what can we do. And what can we do? And at the end of the day, depending on your company, customers look at you as one company. They don’t care about the different departments. It’s all that one group. And that’s really where we put our focus.

(Elaine Nowak 46:57)

Thanks, George. And then Laura, what are your thoughts about customer-centricity and what the vision should be for the air department?

(Laura Garcia 47:05)

Yeah, I mean, I think it’s very important. I think, obviously, you know, your customer. You need your customer to survive as a business, right? So you want to make sure that your customer centric, that you’re, you know, understanding what they’re doing, and getting clarification if you don’t, understanding, you know, changes that they have, they, you know, could make a big change with one of their systems and you have to adapt it right. So, the quicker you can adapt the quicker that you can also change in order to accommodate is is super important is making sure that that customer you know, is taken care of, with my team, we, you know, we handle all of our customers so it’s really about having the knowledge being able to educate ourselves on you know, this customer does this this way, and this customer has this other nuance. So, keeping all of those different things straight and being able to really customize that experience right and making sure that you are going to do for this one customer while still maintaining the relationship and what you need to do for a separate one, right? Because you can’t treat them all the same. They’re not all the same. You have to make sure that you’re, you know, adapting again, there’s that word to, you know, to the changes that they’re making into the world that they live in. And so, you know, just making sure that everybody’s being educated and making sure that you know if the customer is asking us to do something or if there’s a change that comes to ensure that we fully understand that right because if you don’t understand it, then there’s there can be issues down the line that could possibly damage your relationship, but you don’t want to just, you know, ask the necessary questions and really gain that knowledge.

(Elaine Nowak 48:56)

You know, it’s interesting because I was speaking with another customer of ours earlier this week, and we talked about the fact that it’s understanding your customer behavior and then recognizing the consistency of the patterns of their behavior. With this whole idea of it’s sort of like the cheers bar where you walk in and everybody knows your name, or you go to Starbucks and they know that drink order that you’re going to get your double latte foam on the side with like a shot of whatever. So that’s super important when your customer knows that you know them and that relationship, you can build that way too and make them customer-centric. So Well, I think that’s sort of that wraps up the questions that I had for today for George and Laura. Thank you so much for sharing your insights. I encourage any of you who have questions that are listening in with us today. Go ahead and put them in the chat. I’m more than happy to ask our panelists what their answers might be. In the meantime, I do have another poll question that I just like to put out there real quick. If you’d like to know more about how high radius can create value for your order to cash operations. If you’d like to speak to an expert, please let us know because we’re more than happy to get to in touch and to help you to drive some efficiencies and productivity within your A/R operations.

George Uko

Manager of Credit and Collections,
Staples Promotional Products

"[Technology] has helped my team make better decisions in a more timely manner with access to the up-to-date information so that they can know when they can expect [payment] from the customers. So it's really about understanding what the system is doing and when you can have those wins."

Laura Garcia

Manager of Customer Financial Services,
Danone

"Now we're trying to get a little more customer-centric, trying to work with the global customers, and [trying to use technology] to understand what can we do to help them through our processes and make [the experience] better for them."

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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.