Enhancing Collections Efficiency and Customer Satisfaction
by John Davis, Business Controller, Atlas Copco Compressors Australia
Atlas Copco uses shared service centres globally, including Australia which provides centralised cash receipt services whilst each business operation includes receivables collection services. We use three ERP systems across the group: BPCS, Scala and SAP. In Australia, we use BPCS which we previously used for receivables management. When I joined the company in early 2007, our collections management process involved a series of manual processes including printing or exporting data, manipulating information in spreadsheets, making calls and then recording notes in BPCS. As this was cumbersome and time-consuming, we had to prioritise which invoices to chase, so inevitably we focused on receivables with the highest value. This meant that many smaller amounts were not chased routinely, affecting our working capital and days sales outstanding (DSO) considerably.
Another challenge related to invoice disputes, which can arise as a result of issues with machinery, service or pricing issues. When a dispute was raised, we used to alert the sales team by email, but there was no traceability of follow-up actions. Consequently, collections were often not received for a long time after the invoice date, and we were concerned that we were very dependent on manual processes, subsystems and key individuals.
Addressing the challenges
Although we were starting to think about a new strategy for our collections business, SunGard contacted our credit officer in early 2007 and introduced us to AvantGard Receivables, which Atlas Copco was already using in the UK. We took a reference from the UK business and received excellent feedback, which encouraged us to evaluate the solution more fully. It took some time to ratify our decision and secure the budget for the project, but in February 2009, after an implementation process of only two to three weeks, fully supported by our SunGard consultant, we started to use AvantGard Receivables for live business operations.
Inevitably, changing working practices can be unpopular and we experienced initial resistance from our sales team. However, senior management locally and globally was supportive of the project and recognised the need for implementing more rigorous and disciplined collections controls, which made it easier to encourage support. Having become accustomed to a new system and business processes, the sales team is now positive about the contribution it makes to our business. In particular, people recognise its value in accelerating payments and improving customer satisfaction, whilst clarifying the tasks for each individual. As we now have a central point of information, we have comprehensive visibility over the status of each account, what action should be taken and by whom.