A rant about how businesses treat invoices (not exactly about non payment)

Allow me to rant for a bit. The organisation I work for provides services and we invoice people for these services. What often happens at this point is that I get a message asking me to fill out a form so that my request for payment matches the accounting system of the person who owes us money. Or I’m asked to change the format of the invoice for the same reason. Now I don’t want to come off sounding like a jerk. I don’t want to sound like someone who says “that’s not my job” and for the want of a few minutes work makes everybody else’s job harder. I’m happy with some give and take to keep things smooth. But let’s say this month I send out one hundred invoices. Note that these invoices have all the information needed, bank details and the like, for payment to be easily made by bank transfer or cheque. Fifty of these come back with requests for “tweaking” in some way or a request to please fill out your details on this form. (You want me to fill out a form with our organisations details on them? Sure I can do that. Oh look I can even copy them from my copy of the invoice I sent you). I’d be doing my organisation a disservice if I were to spend my limited time tweaking every single invoice we send out to conform to each individual’s requirements and duplicating information. It feels like the people making these requests are under the illusion that I should be happy to do the work of their accounts department for them.

I realise that a lot of companies use stalling tactic’s but after years of chasing invoices I’ve started to get a feel for when people are stalling, (they usually start by claiming they didn’t receive it in the first place), and those companies who legitimately think that the internal systems they have set up have any bearing on their legal obligations.

So my question to those who run a business or work in accounts. If you receive an invoice whose job do you feel it is to gather and process the information on it so as to fit your system?

I'll expand this evening, but I work in an invoice automation group, so I can say some of those requests are passthroughs from your clients' payables vendor.

Handwritten dollars amounts, for example, don't gete picked up by OCR technology.

Digital invoices not in accepted format (.pdf and .tif, specifically) are rejected.

Chargebacks, credit memos, discount options, past due notices, termination notices, attached w9s, attached T&Cs, all these cause headaches for a company's AP area.

The Payables market is just beginning the transition to a digital market, 8-ish years behind the AR market when Bush signed Check21. It's gonna be bumpy, but it'll be a much, much better endgame.

My company's invoices are as-is. We will communicate beforehand and try to meet the needs of those we service but lovingly handcrafting every bill is not exactly tenable with a multi-billion dollar company.

I honestly think the onus is on the payer to interpret and accept the bill provided that your invoice has appropirate identifying information on it.

I frankly don't care if your new fangled gizmo doesn't pick up the account number because I put it on the left side of the paper instead of the right. I performed a service for you, here's my bill. Please pay it. I will work within reason to give you an invoice in your preferred format but if I have to go into Word and tweak every single invoice that is a job in and of itself.

I'm only sort of joking here but I would add an "Invoice Adjustment Fee" for instances in which the payer did not give you the format they need their bills in beforehand. Based on your situation tweaking 100 bills a month you are losing productivity, and thus money. You can explain to your clients that either they accept the invoice you send or you may have to get a 3rd party vendor to assist in your billing and that will raise prices.

I fail to see how all of this automation saves anyone time when someone has to edit their invoices by hand so the machines can read it correctly.

The exception, of course, is industries that are regulated and have accepted formats that are in use industry wide. I'm thinking of HCFA's or UB92 for medical billing, for instance.

Yeah, unfortunately it doesn't work that way. It really depends on the size of the company and how much the business is needed.

A large enough company can dictate invoice standards quite easily- the biggest can even force their vendors to go on specific standards like EDI x12 and the like because if they're a vendor's biggest client, the vendor can't very well afford to lose them.

So really, it's the responsibility of smaller vendors to exercise the type of flexibility required to keep the business. Plus, that type of flexibility tends to garner more business anyway.

I'm liking a $50 "Invoice Adjustment Fee".

- Edit -

Sorry, reading comprehension failure. My "advice" was completely unrelated to your actual issue. Nothing to see here as others understood your plight immediately.

As a small business owner with large corporate clients, I've learned that the burden falls on the person who wants to get paid. I've grown to accept that I may need to jump through some hoops to get our money, including ridiculous payment terms, arcane accounts payable processes, and a general lack of timeliness in payment. It's nearly always frustrating and occasionally demeaning, but at the end of the day, I don't have much choice.

That said, I have one Fortune 500 client that has recently instituted a new accounts payable system that allows me to view purchase orders online, creative digital invoices directly from the purchase order, and track my payments. So far, it has worked like a charm. Here's hoping more companies deploy that type of solution.

Yeah some of the new invoice automation stuff is fun. That portal helps take nonstandard invoices (no invoice is standard) and translate them so everyone gets what they need. Speeds up payment to the vendor while eliminating a lot of A/P black holes.

And what's worse, having to conform to a special invoice, or deal with having your invoice "lost" because some AP clerk is annoyed at your invoice structure since it doesn't fit in his ERP, and chucks it?

Having been involved in a few ERP deployments over the years it really comes down to the dilligence of the people setting up the OCR/scripts/etc. If they've cut corners, and they always do, then you end up with only certain formats being acceptable for them and then you create a process that insists that all AP passes through the workflow that has been setup.

Sorry for the lack of solutions. I think it is unfixable from your position as those processing the bills have no incentive (other than the $50 reprocessing fee proposed above) to change.

Having been involved in a few ERP deployments over the years it really comes down to the dilligence of the people setting up the OCR/scripts/etc. If they've cut corners, and they always do, then you end up with only certain formats being acceptable for them and then you create a process that insists that all AP passes through the workflow that has been setup.

Sorry for the lack of solutions. I think it is unfixable from your position as those processing the bills have no incentive (other than the $50 reprocessing fee proposed above) to change.