How do I know my customers have received their invoices?

By Marc Price | June 9, 2021

Knowing your customers have received their invoices should be a high priority for any accounts receivable team. If invoice delivery fails, it can take 30+ days before you are even aware that there is a problem. Knowing that an invoice hasn’t been received gives you an opportunity to resend and make sure the invoice is received and processed before payment is due.

According to Atradius, 47% of the total value of B2B invoices were paid late in Western Europe in 2020 – a figure that has risen considerably since the disruption wrought by COVID-19.

Admittedly, in some cases, the claim that a customer hasn’t received an invoice may be fabricated to simply delay payment. But without evidence of their receipt, it’s hard to argue against this.

However, in many cases, lockdowns and remote working have meant that paper invoices have reached unstaffed mailrooms, or sat unopened on desks, waiting for staff to return and process invoices as normal.

What can be done to be sure your customers have received their invoices?

There are two main factors to consider here – reliability of send and evidence of receipt. Invoices need to be delivered in a way that is sure to reach the recipient and you need a way of tracking this.

Postal delivery or paper invoices has typically relied on standard letters, with no confirmation of receipt, but even delivering invoices via recorded/signed-for post doesn’t guarantee that they have been opened and processed.

EIPP – Electronic Invoicing Presentment and Payment – as a solution

Electronic invoice delivery can be a simple answer to the aforementioned uncertainties. E-invoices can be directed to an email address, or several email addresses, that accounts payable monitor from wherever they are working.

Furthermore, e-invoicing can provide you with confirmation of receipt and even confirmation that an email has been read. The most effective way to determine whether each invoice has been acknowledged is to send a link to the e-invoice, which requires the recipient to click on it and access the e-invoice online.

In some cases, it can be worth offering customers a mechanism to confirm their intent to pay, and providing a payment link directly in the invoice.

Solving e- invoicing delivery problems

With the majority of e-invoices sent as emails, there is a risk of over-zealous spam filters blocking them. This is one area where it can be beneficial to have a third-party manage your email delivery. Dedicated e-invoice delivery services will send from high-reputation IP addresses to prevent triggering spam filters. Electronic invoicing service providers may also offer best practice in formatting emails and content recommendations to ensure your invoices always get through.

If an emailed invoice doesn’t get through, the bounce information can be used to determine whether the inbox was full or out of office, or whether the email address was not recognised, or even if the whole email system was down. This level of insight can then determine the next steps to ensure your invoice gets through.

Automating follow up to ensure invoice receipt

When a customer has been sent an invoice electronically and it has bounced, follow-up sends can be automated to try to reach the customer when their email is available again. Failing this, the invoice could then be redirected to a secondary contact or a paper invoice could be automatically sent to the customer’s address.

In cases where late payments are a frequent problem, or perhaps invoices are not bouncing but do not show they have been read, follow-up communications can be sent – such as statements and dunning letters – to remind the customer there is an invoice to pay.

Solving postal delivery challenges

Secure, accurate and accountable distribution isn’t always guaranteed when posting printed invoices. However, it is possible to achieve a delivery audit trail via signature on delivery. It is also possible to track returns to sender by inclusion of scannable barcode on each envelope.

Whilst electronic delivery provides the most streamlined and visible solution to invoice delivery, some countries need an element of postal delivery – such as dunning letters – or some clients may still need paper invoices, so it’s important to consider solutions/services that support this as part of the overall offering.

Preventing late payment and meeting payment terms

Clear, accurate and timely invoicing, coupled with easy payment methods, is essential to encourage that each customer pays within payment terms, reducing reasons to delay invoice payment beyond due date.

Whilst there is a perception that small business customers may stretch payment terms to aid their cash flow, early payments can be encouraged through a streamlined invoice payment process and the threat of late fees for those who do not pay on time.

Electronic invoicing provides the optimal combination of invoice delivery, payment methods and visibility of unpaid invoices – providing automation and accounting software integration to boot.

How can I set up automated invoicing and EIPP without a long IT project?

There are a variety of ways to automate your invoicing or deploy an EIPP solution, but the majority will require the development or deployment of a solution by your IT department. This investment in time and resources may delay the deployment of a solution, all the while invoices are being sent with a traditional and uncertain approach.

The fastest and simplest way to set up EIPP is through a managed service such as Corcentric EIPP. This outsources the complexity of the setup to a business who have more experience in this, but your business retains control over the specifics of what is sent to whom, and how.

The nuances of electronic invoicing, or automated postal invoicing as part of the same solution, can make a huge difference to invoice receipt and payment. Being able to set delivery groups, attach supporting documents and format delivery to meet each customers’ specific requirements can make all the difference.

Corcentric EIPP provides secure, accurate and accountable invoice delivery across all channels – from print and post, to email, to EDI. Our digitisation of return-to-sender and delivery confirmation reporting support the legal requirement to deliver final dunnings/warning letters by post in some countries.

Why wait, take the first step and speak to one of our experts. Find out how easy it could be gain greater control over your invoicing today.

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