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The O2C cycle is often riddled with manual steps that can cause a lot of friction in between- and frustration for both the business and customers. This dramatically affects your receivables collection and, eventually, the health of your cash flow.
In our recently concluded webinar, “The 10 Gifts of Accelerated Cash Flow”, we invited Amanda Lee, Founder and Receivables Management Advisor at The Retriever, to speak with Arjun (AJ) Singh, Co-Founder and CEO ezyCollect, to discuss how you can take advantage of a streamlined and optimised O2C process through accounts receivable automation, creating a seamless cycle that not only ensures you get payments efficiently but also improve your relationship with customers. Here are the key takeaways from the session.
Extending trade credit is something that many businesses do manually, and this can cause a lot of issues that can lead to bad debts – affecting your cash flow in the long run. Adapting an automated and data-driven process delivers efficiencies that are beneficial for both you and your customers.
First of which is a more reliable credit check. Unlike manual application processes that primarily rely on trade references given by the customer, an online credit application system integrates credit risk scores from trade reporting agencies so you can get data-driven insights and make better decisions before onboarding customers and extending credit. Having this data at your fingertips gives you that professional knowledge without much effort, and you’ll be able to manage risk right from day one, making that goal of accelerated cash flow much easier.
Another benefit of online credit applications is a better onboarding experience. First impressions last, as the adage goes, and that couldn’t be farther from the truth in business relationships. Onboarding customers in a disorganised, time-consuming process that are prone to error reflects an unprofessional image on your part – inadvertently sending the message to your customers that they can cut corners as you do. By digitising a credit application, you create a streamlined and automated process that not only benefits your operational efficiency but also means you mean business, and customers need to be in that same level of credibility too.
Humanised automation seems contradictory, but part of reducing your overdue accounts hinges on this balancing act of human connection and automation. Automation creates communication efficiencies in accounts receivables, paving the way for a more personal approach to customers that need it the most.
With an automated communication workflow, you don’t have to physically communicate with everyone, but you’ll be able to focus on customers that need more. An AR automation platform tells you who those customers are through consolidated credit and risk data, providing you with that opportunity to connect and build relationships. To truly understand why your customers’ payment behaviour changed, there has to be human interaction involved. You can work with them to resolve blockers preventing them from paying you on time. It’s about continuing that cycle to sell, and having a receivables ledger that’s 100% collected each month and clear, persistent, and personalised communication with your customers is going to help you achieve that.
Getting your payment on time is the goal of an optimised O2C process. It is crucial then to make this part of the O2C cycle as pain-free as possible, allowing your customers to pay at a time convenient to them through various payment methods that they can choose from.
An online payment platform is designed to do just that, not only as a portal where customers can pay you but also includes their statements, so they no longer need to contact you, especially when making the payment after office hours – all the information they need is readily available to them. By creating convenient pathways for payment, you can get paid easily and quickly.
As we’ve learned thus far, an accelerated cash flow is very much possible thanks to accounts receivable automation. While an improved cash flow is the end goal of automation, optimising the O2C process also comes with its benefits.
AR automation gives you access to data and gives you the insights to make better decisions that can affect the health of your business.
AR automation resolves cash flow issues, as we now know. With an improved cash flow, you’ll be able to run and grow your business the way you want to.
Automation gets all the repetitive tasks done, so you can hone in on strategy-related tasks that further your business.
Automation ensures consistency in processes and clears communication pathways – both of which allow you to build trust with your customers and, in turn, foster customer loyalty and growth.
Digital, automated processes are now the norm and what your customers expect. Adapting automation in your business creates a professional image and aids in brand equity.
Automation streamlines your O2C cycle, removing any friction between processes so you can get paid promptly.
AR automation minimises the need for manual entries, reducing errors. Its capability to integrate with your ERP also means there’s no double-handling of data that can lead to more problems in your accounting.
Leveraging an account receivable platform removes the need for manual processes, saving your staff tons of time. The amount of time saved can then be used to focus on more high-value work that can grow the business.
With an AR automation platform, you can get a live view of credit risk scores to be confident in making decisions based on current and accurate data.
While AR automation improves the collections processes of your receivables, this also translates into improvements across business functions and teams.
Cash flow is the lifeblood of any business – without it, the business will eventually fail. A consistent cash flow can only be attained if your order to cash cycle is fine-tuned. For B2B companies, in particular, ensuring all account receivables are collected in a timely manner is essential to increase liquidity. However, often times businesses do not pay enough attention to their order 2 cash cycles until they hit a roadblock.
So what is the order 2 cash cycle, why is it important to B2B companies and how can an order to cash platform help? We have all the answers for you, so read on.
The order-to-cash cycle encompasses the series of activities involved in making a sale, starting with receiving an order and culminating with the point of payment and invoice receipt. Although the process may seem relatively simple, it is actually a lot more complex. Companies often focus all their attention on securing an order from a client, but B2B payments are not given the attention they deserve. This makes the order to cash cycle longer for the business, delays revenue generation, and impacts the overall financial performance of the business.
The usual stages of an order-to-cash cycle include the following-
As evident from the stages listed above, the order to cash cycle does not end with the payment receipt. It involves certain critical activities even after the accounts are reconciled.
The order-to-cash process needs to be refined, but it can be difficult to find a comprehensive solution that can optimize this procedure. However, businesses today are learning to utilize technology in this area too. With a host of integrated software solutions, companies are learning to improve the various activities involved in the order-to-cash process.
Unlike other business functions such as marketing or sales, the order-to-cash process does not operate on the surface and is more of a background process. However, this process still has a huge impact on the company’s performance. Not just that, it can impact a business’s customer relations too. An optimized order to cash process improves the customer’s journey from the moment the order is placed. As the process involves every function after this point, including order confirmation, dispatch, and even returns, a well-managed O2C cycle ensures a hassle-free experience for customers.
The entire process from order placement to invoice receipt involves several teams within a company. Departments including marketing, pricing, sales, finance, warehousing, collections and more, should work in sync with each other to ensure efficiency of O2C process. This expansiveness of the order to cash process is what makes it so complicated. With so many functions and teams involved, making changes to the process becomes a true challenge.
The order to cash process affects various operations throughout an organization, from supply chain management and logistics to inventory management and more. An optimized order to cash process means that all of these different operations involved are working at an optimum level. On the contrary, a bottleneck in any one of these business areas will affect the entire order to cash process.
One of the major reasons why optimizing the O2C process is essential is it’s role in a healthy cash flow. The O2C process determines the cash flow in the business through invoicing and accounts receivable functions. Any significant delays in invoicing or collection can affect other areas of your business’s finances like accounts payable, salaries, business loans, probable acquisitions, or any other activity that relies on the company’s liquidity.
Although there is an evident need for a digital solution that can optimize the order-to-cash cycle, it is not possible to have an off-the-shelf software solution that can take care of the entire process as one. This is because the process can be dynamic. There is no one-size-fits-all approach here, as the O2C process can differ for different industries, products, companies, locations, or customer segments.
An order to cash platform that has the capability to unite all related functions is seen as the ideal solution. An open platform provides the flexibility needed by the O2C process through integrated applications and technologies.
An order-to-cash platform is a technological solution that allows for a streamlined process for B2B businesses to bring all the functions involved in the O2C cycle together. This is possible through integrations of various applications that readily exchange data to ensure the entire process runs smoothly from start to finish. These seamless connections ensure payments are collected faster and disputes are resolved quickly, so that customers can find a reason to remain loyal to the brand.
The best way to optimize the order 2 cash process is by ensuring that the related functions can easily exchange data and information for every transaction. For this to occur, technology is a crucial factor. Interconnected applications that allow different functions to have access to real-time data boosts productivity in the order to cash process. Technology also has other benefits, like digital invoicing capabilities or accounts receivable automation.
An organization that runs on a platform-based structure can brave these challenges by building platforms that utilize the power of both the human workforce and the technological tools. They combine modular data and technology architecture to create scalable solutions that are handled by agile front-end teams.
An efficient and modern O2C platform should have a front-end team, an underlying support team, and a modular infrastructure of applications and tools. This entire ecosystem needs to be flexible to instantly pivot to meet both the organization’s and the customers’ changing demands.
The front-end team in an O2C platform is a multi-functional team that directly deals with the customers to ensure seamless orders and payments while delivering a frictionless experience for the customer.
Supporting the front-end team is a well-defined structure of agile teams that work on the back-end using digital tools and applications and effectively manage end-to-end processes to deliver the order to cash services.
At the base of it all is the technological infrastructure that completes the ecosystem. The tools and applications are necessary to manage all the different functions related to the order 2 cash cycle. Examples of such applications and capabilities include CRM software, customer service platforms, AR automation platforms, automated workflows, among other things.
A comprehensive order to cash platform brings numerous benefits to your business – right from analyzing data, increasing sales, and providing automated transparency to customers at the time of invoicing to payments. An O2C platform can provide a unified processing capability that helps deliver faster turnaround times for customers and the front-end teams.
A unified O2C platform also ensures data consistency and accuracy across the various functions in your business. The flexible modular architecture of individual applications and platforms enables repeatable processes. It also ensures that you can add new applications and platforms to the ecosystem as the need arises.
An order-to-cash platform can address many of the pain points that a business faces in optimizing its order 2 cash cycle.
Now that we understand why a cash 2 order platform is beneficial to your business, it is also important to know how you can implement one to manage your B2B payments and the O2C process overall. Like all other initiatives you take in business, deploying an O2C platform for optimizing your order 2 cash cycle requires measurable goals before anything else. Having your goals set will give direction to your efforts.
For most organizations hoping to optimize their O2C cycle, there are three measurable goals in general.
When designing your order to cash platform, three essential characteristics can ensure efficiency and effectiveness. These three characteristics are –
The platform’s architecture has to be such that it easily integrates with your existing internal applications, external applications, and any new application you may need to add in the future. Integration is the key to success in an O2C platform. An effective order to cash platform allows both internal applications of the organization and applications used by third parties to run together seamlessly.
This ensures that the ecosystem created is barrierless and that there is free, unrestricted data flow wherever necessary.
Introducing customer-centric solutions can make your order to cash platform far more effective. Leveraging technology to offer customer-facing solutions, like self-service capabilities, order tracking, payment requirements, and such can help improve the customer experience further. It can also reduce the order 2 cash cycle time as the manual intervention required is minimal.
The O2C platform cannot be the responsibility of a single team or a single department. As the process itself involves multiple functions throughout the organization, the responsibility has to be shared among various teams. So any time an issue arises, it should be clear who is responsible for tackling it. Also, there has to be a process owner to distribute responsibilities across functions. This will ensure that the platform is not fragmented and there is no scope for confusion or mistakes, irrespective of the volume of client interactions on the O2C platform.
In implementing an order-to cash platform in your business, you may face a few common challenges. Some of the most likely challenges that almost every organization faces in its efforts to optimize the order 2 cash cycle are –
Receiving B2B payments on time is only one of the many advantages of having an effective O2C platform. Optimizing the order 2 cash cycle in a business can bring better cash flows, increase process transparency, and enhance customer and employee experiences. With new insights from the integrated data across applications, more informed decisions can be made in sales and other areas of the business. If done right, an order to cash platform can be an invaluable addition to your business.
It covers several functions that handle your accounting systems with ease and accuracy.
The O2C cycle impacts many areas of a business, making its features beneficial to companies of all sizes. From sales analysis to streamlining a company’s B2B payments process, this cycle encompasses a variety of benefits that help manage:
B2B payments involve the purchase of goods and services through credit. This process usually requires the business to approve the supplier’ credit application. Approval for credit requests and credit limits for each customer are also taken into consideration when determining how much credit to lend a customer. In order to make sound decisions about extending credit, credit management professionals need to rely on accurate customer credit reports, also known as trade reports.
The credit approval step also reviews the financial situation of the supplier. It takes into account various essential details ranging from their cash flow to outstanding receivables. Once this is done, a set limit on customer credit is placed.
Credit approval professionals work together with the sales team to set the payment terms of the order. These terms include due dates for payments, early payment discounts, and penalties for late payments.
In addition, the credit professional also takes care of minimizing risk while maximizing sales volumes. Being a high-stakes discipline, they also face the consequence of incurring losses and cash flow problems by extending credit improperly.
Sales teams connect with customers to share information on the services they offer. Based on customer interest, sales professionals negotiate with customers on the order’s price, quality, delivery, and payment terms.
Making sure the suppliers are able to meet the terms of the order is part of the order acceptance process.
The step involves locating, preparing, and shipping the order. Making sure the date and location details of the shipment are accurate is of utmost importance during the fulfillment stage. Here’s where automation plays a essential role in streamlining the fulfillment process. Updating sales inventory counts on time is key to avoiding accepting new orders before the previous ones are finished..
If an unavailable item is accidentally purchased, the same needs to be recorded in real-time to avoid any future billing issues. Automating this process allows businesses to manage this step with ease and efficiency. Without involving manual assistance, automated services can easily fetch necessary order details and assure no bottlenecks in delivery occur.
Similarly, all services promised in the order are duly followed from end to end.
After the delivery is complete, accounts receivable professionals invoice the customer for the amount owed. The invoice is either shared physically or electronically, depending on the order. The use of electronic billing via email has become more popular recently, overtaking older systems of faxing and telephonic billing.
Generating and delivering invoices to customers is crucial and time-sensitive work. The sooner a customer receives and clears a payment, the sooner the business stabilises its cash flow.
Customers clear payments in a variety of ways – from paper checks to virtual credit cards. Here, the supplier must decide which forms of payment they are willing to accept. The supplier then sets up processes to increase the efficiency of receiving payments through these select channels.
To prevent incurring high costs associated with each payment, businesses need to manage their customer payment preferences in a way that benefits both sides.
After payments are received, the money is then allocated to specific accounts. This process acknowledges the receipt of cash and marks the invoice as paid. Though seemingly simple, this step is actually a little more complex than it appears
Since companies usually process a good number of payments every month, it’s crucial to have a system for categorizing them properly. That’s where cash application specialists come in- they match up these receipts with the correct invoices. Remittance advice helps with this process, as it often comes with certain types of payment.
Remittance can also be sent through email or telephone, but this only further complicates accounting systems and leads to inaccuracy. When particular payments are delayed or cover multiple invoices, additional complications can arise that require more sophisticated solutions to ensure accuracy
Clearing payments on time enables businesses to regain their cash flow for business operations and, in turn, replenishes credit limits for customers.
When a payment is not received by the due date, the account becomes delinquent. At this stage, the account is transferred to the collections department.
In certain cases, customers intentionally delay clearing payments to better manage their cash flow or business credit scores. Collectors will get in touch with defaulting customers to understand and resolve their payment concerns to avoid any future issues.
Now that you understand the processes in the O2C cycle, let’s look at ways you can optimise it for your business.
If you are looking to improve your Order 2 Cash process, then you need to know how to do it the right way. Implementing cost-saving measures is one benefit of enhancing your O2C solutions, but there are many more advantages to be had. We’ve listed a few below.
Several value-added O2C strategies are applicable to the payment process. Some of which are intelligent invoice design and Electronic Invoice Presentment and Payment (EIPP). To roll out timely payments, customers need to understand how to use these invoices. Making use of integrated payment acceptance solutions helps speed up the invoicing process for both customers and suppliers.
Older methods like paper invoicing cannot be optimised efficiently due to the limitations of old school systems, however the good news is that most businesses are on electronic invoicing. Similarly, modern invoicing systems require multiple steps for delivery and payment, which can be time-consuming. Electronic invoicing significantly eliminates the delivery time and helps speed up cash flow between the customer and company.
The O2C cycle is not complete until the cash due is properly allocated to a specific record system. For a business to receive money through these payments, there needs to be an automatic application of cash. Any delays in cash allocation result in a high days sales outstanding (DSO) and a low business credit score. DSO occurs when companies do not receive a payment well past their invoice due date.
As customers clear payments in a variety of ways, cash application becomes all the more complex. Certain payment methods involve manual keying, which can be time-consuming and less efficient than electronic payment options. In some cases, even electronic payments can become disconnected from their respective invoice, requiring additional time and resources to find a match. Trying to handle all of this without accounts receivables automation can be difficult.
Although a 100% match rate is the goal, realistically there will always be some exceptions. Automating the cash application process not only cuts costs but also reduces the average days sales outstanding (DSO). With the help of technology, sellers can automatically transact data from any source and match it with open receivables. Whether customers clear payments by cheque or electronic methods, using automation improves overall hit rates and minimises transaction time.
Implementing such tools helps businesses work through exceptions and can help post payments on time. Being resource-friendly, it also helps get the job done without depending on manual intervention.
O2C systems provide both customers and call center staff with secure access to research and print invoices and settlements. More advanced systems also let customers manage their own invoices with easily accessible web applications. Additionally, O2C enables businesses to free up their resources for other tasks, allowing them to focus on customer experience and other key operations.
O2C systems also help identify possible areas that could use further optimization to boost customer experience. Knowing which areas to improve for customers helps a business deliver great experiences, which develops brand loyalty and business growth.
The Order-to-Cash process can offer your company untold strategic potential. The right approach can help improve your company’s cash flow and boost customer satisfaction. It also has the potential to help you achieve your goals for sustainable business practices, all while significantly reducing costs.
Selecting the most appropriate solutions for your company can be challenging and require some experimentation. However, it is important to consider the flexibility of these solutions when making your decision. You need a system that can adapt to your specific invoicing needs.Additionally, the ability of the system to manage both intelligent cash applications and electronic adoption is essential.
These key capabilities will help suppliers achieve the right balance between buyer satisfaction and low DSO.
Accounts receivables are one of the most important components of your working capital. Receivables refer to the money which you must receive from your debtors, i.e., the people you sell your products or services to. When you get your payments on time, your working capital remains in good health.
But many people struggle to take control of their receivables process. When this happens, increasing cashflow becomes difficult and it becomes challenging to run your business operations.
Here we explore what you can do to ensure your accounts receivables practices work well and you optimize your collections.
Step 1: Make accounts receivables a key metric in financial performance measurement
Many times, working capital takes a backseat when we’re measuring company profitability and financial health. Typically, the section which companies falter with is the accounts receivables. When you don’t keep an eye on your receivables, it becomes difficult to identify any existing problems with our receivables process.
But, when you make your accounts receivables a KPI, you strictly track your receivables and you get a better picture about who owes you what. You’ll be able to identify customer accounts that are draining your coffers and amend those processes that are harmful to your working capital health.
Step 2: Bring your departments together to ensure a collaborative collection effort
Accounts receivables management isn’t just the prerogative of your company’s accounts department.
The sales team, which deals with clients on-the-ground, plays a huge role in getting collections faster. Additionally, your finance teams – who control budget allocations – affect the company’s ability to offer extended credit periods and limits to customers.
When your sales, accounts and finance departments work together, you will have a bird’s eye view of your accounts receivable management processes. You will be able to determine the exact payment terms and credit limits to be offered to each customer, to ensure you’re always repaid and have the lowest default rate.
One process to initiate here is a comprehensive credit check to gain credit insights about current and prospective customers. This credit check will give you information about the purchase and repayment history of your customers, whether there were any defaults and the frequency of on-time payment vs default. This way, you’ll be able to plan how to reduce your default rates and ensure you receive your payments and your working capital is optimized.
Step 3: Use a robust Accounts Receivables Solution to collate bills of the same customer
It’s easy to miss out on a specific invoice when the same customer has a hundred different bills. This is where Accounts Receivables Solutions like accounting software, order management software and a master excel sheet can help. They give you the means to bring together data that is completely staggered in your system and make sense of the overall receivables each customer owes you.
When you have this collated information in a single place, there’s a lesser likelihood of your missing any bills that need to be followed up. Plus, this will help you identify any wrongdoing that any customer might be doing to cheat the system.
Step 4: Automate your receivables to ensure you always get paid on time
Finally, the best way to optimize your working capital and get your payments is by automating accounts receivables.
Manual receivables management can lead to a lot of errors. You may either claim lesser than what is owed to you or accidentally include wrong invoice details that can reduce your credibility in front of your customers.
But software like MYOB, XERO & Netsuite can help you manage your invoices carefully. These tools also take control of the payment follow-up process, ensuring you don’t need to do the heavy lifting. Contact our team at ezyCollect for more information.