As electronic payments become more prevalent, many companies are starting to discover that they complement their efforts to foster closer relationships with their B2B customers.
As reported in “The Strategic Role of the CFO,” a PYMNTS and Versapay collaboration that surveyed 400 chief financial officers (CFOs), the most innovative companies are trying to improve the quality of their communications with customers.
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Some have found that making supporting documents visible along with invoices can provide clients with the level of transparency and trust they need to remit timely payments.
An example is automated monthly payments, which have been available to consumers for years in the form of subscriptions. Recently, some companies discovered they could set up similar arrangements with their business customers for items such as regular, recurring shipments.
Deepening the Connection Between AP and AR Departments
For more and more CFOs, improving B2B relationships means forging a deeper connection between accounts payable (AP) and accounts receivable (AR) — not just within the enterprise, but also between the AP and AR departments at business partners, Versapay CEO Craig O’Neill told PYMNTS in an interview.
“We think that’s where the root cause of transactions problems lies, is that lack of connectivity, and that lack of ability to collaborate both within the company and across the bounds, between supplier and buyer,” O’Neill said.
Most CFOs in the three industries included in the report — real estate, wholesale trade and industrial/manufacturing — agree that digitized AR and AP functions will allow them to establish more collaborative relationships with customers.
They also consider digitization an opportunity to provide customers with more transparency about the products and services they have purchased and their payment terms.
For example, these CFOs said they believe the digitization of payments systems will make their AR/AP operations more transparent via channels such as customer or tenant portals.
A similar pattern emerges in CFOs’ views about the benefits they expect to see as they internally implement more efficient payments processes. CFOs across the three industries cited the importance of automation of manual processes. As companies share the benefits of internal efficiency gains with customers, they can facilitate a quicker turnaround for payments.
PYMNTS’ research found that most companies are digitizing their AR and AP systems if they have not already done so. Many CFOs used a push toward AR/AP digitization as an opportunity to make critical operational interactions with their customers more efficient, ultimately improving those relationships — and improving cash flow.