By Mary S. Schaeffer
Perhaps one of the biggest changes in accounts payable has now come to that most mundane of functions—the receipt of the invoice. No longer is this simply a mail function with the professionals focused on educating the mail room personnel—no, technology and the high cost of postage have turned this basic function on its head. In response AP Now has compiled this checklist for how all organizations should receive their invoices.
- Have all invoices mailed to one location, ideally accounts payable. This gets the invoices logged in, limits the who’s-got-the-invoice games, puts you in the best position to earn as many early payment discounts as possible and, in general, leads to a more efficient invoice handling process.
- Contact any vendor not mailing invoices to the correct location and provide the correct mail-to address.
- Set up a dedicated fax line to receive faxed invoices. It should be in a relatively secure location in the accounts payable department and used for nothing but the receipt of invoices. No one other than those designated in your policies and procedures should be permitted to take documents from that machine.
- Set up a separate e-mail account for the receipt of invoices. It should only be used for the receipt of invoices and not for personal e-mail. The address should be something like firstname.lastname@example.org not a personal e-mail address. Someone should be assigned to check the accounts several times a day. When the person assigned that task is out of the office, the responsibility should go to someone else just as opening the mail would be.
- Write up instructions for your welcome packet that includes directions on how to mail, fax, or e-mail invoices. This information should also be distributed to current vendors.
- Encourage faxed and e-mailed invoices. Since they appear to be a fact of life, you may as well get the most out of them. By receiving them earlier in the process, you will have more time to handle the invoices, resolve discrepancies, and hopefully earn all the early payment discounts to which you are entitled.
- If you have not already started using invoice automation to receive and process invoices, start investigating these services available. This is the wave of the future, so stop dragging your feet and get started.
Mary S. Schaeffer, a nationally recognized accounts payable expert, is the founder of AP Now, a company that creates business intelligence on all issues impacting the accounts payable and payment function. She is the host of the AP Now Podcast.