Is it standard to have Accounts Payable phone lines open for inquiries ...

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Q (cont.) or has the industry moved to email/chat in order to save resource costs? I'd like to obsolete the phones, no partner teams have them and I don't believe it's moving our business forward, we can respond to emails within a four-hour SLA. Thoughts?

A. From our practitioner panelists:

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My new company has 0 phone lines! We have all been issued iPhones, our monthly bill is about $2200 per month for 20 line.

Best Regards,
Pamela Hyder
Chief Financial Officer
Fujitsu Defense and National Security

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My team has phones on their desks, I ask them to please put in their voicemail a request for the person calling in to send their request by email.

I do not answer my phone most of the time, my voicemail clearly states that I need an email for the person to get in touch with me.  I found it is easier to answer them and with everything in writing, the intent is clear.  

Annette Miller APS
Accounts Payable Lead
Hill Country Electric Supply LP

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We still have lines, but if you want do away with phones, make sure that there is an email address in the invoice.  Not in the in the name of the Account Payable (people come and go), but an email solely for invoices/inquiries.  I barely get phone calls, communication usually is by email. Thanks.

Jamie Jee
Symmetry Surgical

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We have a phone tree that routes customer service phone inquiries to the individual receiving service calls for the week. In the same regard, we also have a generic inbox that answered by the AP department (rotated weekly).  We have found this method to work as we moved towards email to meet many of our customer service needs. 

Tiffany Gregory, APM
Manager, Accounts Payable | Vanderbilt University | Purchasing and Payment Services

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We currently have phone lines open for all members of my AP team with emails coming in to all team members as well (it’s a nightmare).  Starting next month, we are moving to a central phone line and shared email box for all incoming inquiries.  The central phone line and email box will be managed by a dedicated group of individuals.

Lori T. Terlecki 
Director, Operations Accounting | Tractor Supply Company

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We have a dedicated phone number and email address that a select few in the AP dept handle.  We try to limit all AP members taking calls or answering emails as it is disruptive.  In most cases we are able to answer all inquiries by email.  By having the dedicated email we don’t have to worry about someone being out and inquiries going unanswered.  

Kim Hewell, APM, CIRS
Director, Accounting Services
Ingram Barge Company

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We have a central phone line that accepts voicemails and 2 shared email boxes for all incoming inquiries, one for internal and one for vendors.  The central phone line is unmanned and delivers voicemails to the email box and email box is managed by a dedicated group of individuals.

Niren Naidu
PTP Business Solutions Manager
Bridgestone Americas Shared Business Services

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We have both a dedicated customer service line that rings on everyone’s phones, as well as a general email address that everyone has access to. This is for both our Accounts Payable department as well as our Corporate Purchasing department (we are all under the P2P umbrella within Corporate Finance). We find equal use in both the phone and email box but agree that one central person is not advisable, due to vacations or job rotation. At this point, there has been no discussion to remove the phone option. 

Karen A. James, APPS | Discover
Corporate Purchasing Program Lead, Procurement to Payment
Accredited Procure-to-Pay Specialist

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We don’t have dedicated phone line for AP, however, we do have a dedicated email for AP invoices/questions.  Email seems the way to go – we don’t get that many phone calls.

Jan Runnels
Purchasing Manager
Anesthesia Services Associates, PLLC
d/b/a Comprehensive Pain Specialists

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We still have phones, but we have a dedicated AP Hotline; it rings at all of our desks and whomever is available picks up the call. We also have 2 dedicated email addresses for AP that we funnel all of our AP activity thru and this is where we receive 95% of our activity. One is for new invoice submission only and the other is our “help desk” or customer service email account. Given the volume of vendors and internal personnel we serve, we maintain and adhere to a standard operating procedure. All accounts payable correspondence, inquiries, requests and research channels through our AP email account. In case someone is out or can’t respond right away emails are not sitting. I or someone else will research the request(s) and get back to the requestor.

Within the mailbox, each team member is assigned a color and we use the category tool. Emails are categorized by color according to each team member even the AP Mgr, and are marked as such when they come in by everyone on the team. Each team member is responsible for working their colors and assisting the team when we are short staffed. Our preferred method of communication is email but our manager maintains that we should pick up the phone after a limited amount of attempts via email and I agree. Sometimes emails just don’t cut it. Our SLA is 24-48 hours. We are a small team of four.


Regards,
Sonja Newsome-Lewis | Accounts Payable | The Howard Hughes Corporation

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Many companies have moved to email for AP.  At Rezult, all AR & AP communication is done via email, unless I am calling on a collection.  We do not have AP phone lines or even a true AP department, but we do have one person designated to answer AP related questions via phone or email.  Now, as the company grows it is possible that the cost of resources would increase because we may need to pay the wages of another employee.   As for the response time, if a 4 hour limit is placed on replies, that would be positive for customers, however it is much shorter than the standard 24 hour reply time most other companies we interact with guarantee.  So, it would be important to ensure the company is adequately staffed in order to meet that 4 hour deadline as promised in the SLA, which again, could drive up the cost of resources if more employees are needed to meet that 4 hour guarantee.

Morgan Parker
Business Development Manager, Rezult Group, Inc.

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