As more and more businesses rely on the timely delivery of vital documents, be it an invoice or urgent purchase order, to survive and grow their business, many have decided to turn their backs on the conventional method of posting out documents. The problem with post is it’s expensive, slow and can be unreliable – how many times have we all bought something off the internet only for the item to take weeks to arrive or have gone missing in transit?
When the items do actually get delivered, it can be not much better. In the workplace post needs opening, distributing and filing, all of which costs businesses money and time. According to the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) “The true cost of sending a letter in the UK, including paper, envelope, toner, machine rental, post and time is between 90p and £1.20 (depends on staff hourly rate).”
So what are businesses using to combat this? The answer is e-billing, and it’s not as complicated as people think. Businesses are turning to electronic billing to save time, reduce their overheads and improve controls, and more and more businesses are becoming ever more accepting of the technology. True e-invoicing involves the use of sophisticated invoicing networks that allow suppliers to send data via its network to any connected buyer. This allows for computer-to-computer processing, otherwise known as ‘straight through processing’. Assuming your businesses hasn’t got a 100% uptake rate, you will also need to add some logic to the current process to decide how a specific invoice needs delivering (i.e. post or electronic) – this logic which may come from the host application or failing that may come from a simple lookup table or database. Companies whose account code is not listed would automatically receive their invoices and statements via post. Companies whose account code does appear in the database would receive an electronic copy of their invoice. It’s also good practice to put a file copy away into a document management system, again in PDF format, to allow resends or for company records. You can even email a PDF copy to your Credit Controller!
Another major positive when comparing e-billing to postage is you can make sure documents you are sending out are actually being received; you can even be notified of the exact moment they have been opened. No more customers claiming the invoice you sent them has been lost in the post! Furthermore clients can send items back to you via this process, with e-signatures being declared as a legal way to sign documents.
You might be wondering if there are any negatives towards implanting this change to your business. Having installed aspects of the system ourselves (we currently send accounts, tax returns and annual returns electronically), the only negative we have found is that some of our clients are initially sceptical of change, and don’t like the idea of everything being online. Once we have assured them the process is 100% safe and after giving a demonstration on how easy the process is, we have found that they much prefer this way of dealing with financial documents. They have also commented on how much time and money has been saved by cutting back on postage costs; the same positives we have found.
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