By Bojana Miletic, Solutions Specialist at BlueSnap
With the UK economy now in a recession, businesses’ ability to save money, time and improve efficiency never felt more crucial. Inefficient accounts receivable (AR) processes add stress to the priority, as it causes invoices to become overdue, payments come in late and businesses see negative cash flow. These are all side effects that feel worse during a recession and can be avoided. However, research shows that three-in-five businesses are waiting on money that’s tied up in overdue invoices with businesses find themselves getting paid up to eight days past due dates.
AR automation helps businesses streamline the quote-to-cash process and has proven to eliminate the bottlenecks of ineffective AR process. A new research report titled “The Current State of AR Automation”, highlights the opportunity as 200 executives were surveyed to explore the results of AR automation adoption. The report looks at the growth that businesses could achieve if they opt for an automated AR solution, but there are certain barriers that must be broken down for them to do so.
Businesses may have concerns about switching to an automated service but in order to save money and improve efficiency, embracing technological advances and shifting away from legacy processes is key.
The automation opportunity
Nearly half of the survey respondents (49%) admitted that they are still using legacy AR processes. Automation means removing some of the human side of a business’ operation, but arduous AR activities and manual payment orchestration is an added expense for many companies. Time is money, and AR automation, built for optimisation, is helping many businesses streamline their AR operations, ultimately benefiting a business’ bottom line.
This new report found that 49.5% of businesses’ current AR processing was either completely manual or mostly manual. Fragmented automation can be almost as damaging as none at all, as companies are missing out on vital streamlining opportunities and the chance to meet their payments deadlines, invoicing targets and keep the end customer satisfied.
To maximise the benefit of automation, companies need to step away from legacy processes, retire manual payment orchestration and embrace full automation. Our survey results found that 89% of businesses that have automated AR processes are getting paid within their agreed payment terms or faster, making cash flow management easier and minimising financial losses due to slow, laborious processing.
Breaking down barriers
All businesses have their own unique approach to the AR processes and making a full switch to automation may be met with scepticism or even fear. When asked, 71% of executives confirmed that a lack of understanding over what technology is available topped the reasons for not implementing more automation. Other common reasons include concerns about negative impacts on customers (59%), resistance to change (58%) and worries about automation taking the human element out of the business (47%).
Typical AR management is manual and time-consuming. While this may seem inefficient to new employees and technological innovators, for many people, it is all that they know. Changing to processes that minimise the human factor can be daunting, therefore, it is important for stakeholders and decision-makers to demonstrate clearly why AR automation is the best option as we advance. We often hear from our customers that fully automating AR processes has seen an increase in efficiency and job productivity, as time isn’t being taken up by invoice chasing. AR teams need to know their value and understand how automation will make their jobs easier, not become their replacement.
How businesses benefit from end-to-end AR automation
Organisations that have implemented automation technology are seeing substantial benefits. Automating AR improves merchant services in several ways. The most common benefits include improved productivity of the AR team (67%), increased customer satisfaction (67%) and also improved customer retention (56%). As already discussed, the most compelling benefit of AR automation is to speed up the payments process, with 89% of respondents with mostly automated AR processing, seeing payment terms met or paid early. More efficient cash flow can only serve to positively impact the business and provide everyone involved with an improved level of service.
An accounts receivable automation system removes the risk of human error, typing mistakes and lost documentation. Automation offers efficiency and speed, which in turn leads to reduced costs in payment orchestration and processing. It also allows you to redirect your people, allowing them to dedicate more time to complex problems and enhance customer service and experience focus.
AR automation solutions exist to ensure that late payments aren’t a concern in any fiscal climate. If businesses take that first step to evolve beyond the traditional, the cost saving benefits of optimised payments can be achieved alongside a multitude of benefits for the wider AR team. It’s time for businesses to leave their legacy process behind and embrace the new.