Business interactions with vendors can be difficult. Responding to inquiries from suppliers can be time-consuming, costly, and frustrating, which only creates more tension in the buyer-supplier relationship. These conversations are certainly necessary, and luckily, there is a better way to manage them.
Vendor portals, or supplier portals, allow vendors to have complete access and visibility into invoice and payment status, update confidential payment information, access virtual card payments for processing, and even download detailed remittances without needing assistance from the buyer’s AP team. In this blog, we will introduce accounts payable vendor portals, their capabilities, and how both buyer AP and supplier AR teams can benefit from integrating them into their workflows.
What is an Accounts Payable Portal?
When it comes to paying vendors, the process is often less straightforward than it should be. Invoices must be properly handled, the right people need to sign off, and payment must be issued–often by check, which requires printing and mailing. Throughout this process, the vendor is often left in the dark as to what’s going on and when payment can be expected.
In turn, the Accounts Payable department is often unsure how long it will take from the moment the invoice is received until payment is issued, as there are a lot of confounding variables that impact this manual AP process. They may be waiting for authorizations, running into issues with who to route requests to, or fielding calls from vendors, and ultimately missing out on early payment discounts while taking on a large manual task load.
Enter the vendor portal. Such platforms extend the value of AP automation platforms by allowing AP departments to automate additional processes and tasks around maintaining the supplier relationship. Once invoices are entered into the AP automation system, the portal provides vendors with self-service visibility into where they’re at in the process at any time. They can get almost any of their questions answered through the portal without having to contact AP teams, and can securely update payment information, including bank account information and payment preferences.
While AP automation systems help ensure that payments are processed faster and more efficiently, vendor portals take additional administrative tasks off the plate of the AP team. With these portals, fielding supplier inquiries (as they can now self service) and updating supplier payment details becomes a thing of the past. More importantly, by offering greater visibility and insights to suppliers, they also help streamline supplier AR workflows and ultimately strengthen these vital relationships. Lastly, vendor portals can be a mechanism to facilitate digital payment methods like virtual cards, which offer benefits to buyers and suppliers alike.
Functions of an AP Vendor Portal
The exact features of a vendor portal will vary depending upon the provider, but the following capabilities are key to delivering value to both your AP team and your suppliers’ AR teams:
- Visibility into invoice/payment status: Vendors can log into the portal at any time and receive real-time information about the status of invoices and when and how they can expect payment. There’s no need to call the buyer’s AP department during business hours to track down this information, which allows them to find immediate answers while freeing up your team for other tasks
- Ability to update payment details: Vendors may need to update their information from time to time, including their preferred payment method. This can be done through the portal, making it simple for the vendor, and eliminating the need for error-prone manual entry by the buyer’s AP department.
- Secure access to the portal: All information on the portal is managed securely, so vital bank account information is kept safe from fraud, just like with online banking.
- Improved efficiency: Supplier Central further optimizes the portal experience by providing vendors with a single consolidated view into all customers instead of separate, white labeled portals for each. This eliminates the need to manage multiple logins and portals.
- Ensure information accuracy: Because interactions happen within the system, they require less manual entry, and many processes are automated, leaving less room for error. Furthermore, vendors can check existing information for accuracy at any time without needing to contact someone by phone or email.
- Virtual card integration: Vendor portals make it easy for vendors to accept multiple payment types. One of the most secure and seamless forms of payment today is a virtual card payment. This payment type allows vendors to get their payments faster and provides multiple benefits to the AP department as well, including greater security and cash-back rebates. With Supplier Central, vendors can access all available virtual cards within the platform.
- Insight and analytics: MineralTree Supplier Central includes data and analytics for both the AP department and the supplier. For example, suppliers can easily view important AR metrics such as days sales outstanding & credits outstanding.
- Downloadable detailed remittance: By keeping all the vital information associated with an invoice in one location, vendors don’t need to waste time tracking down details. In fact, they can download detailed remittance information, streamlining their own reconciliation process.
- Improve A/R reconciliation: Because all of the data associated with payments is kept in a centralized location, it’s easy to find–vendors just need to log in. This makes reconciliation much simpler.
How to Integrate an Accounts Payable Vendor Portal into your Business
Vendor portals are great for both suppliers and buyers alike. Of course, if you already have established AP workflows, introducing a new system into the mix can be stressful, but it doesn’t need to be.
With MineralTree’s Supplier Central, we take care of vendor onboarding on your behalf and handle any payment changes or continued onboarding needs when working with new or existing vendors. In the end, the process of integrating the vendor portal shouldn’t cause a hiccup in day-to-day operations, and once fully implemented, it should reduce your manual AP workload and facilitate seamless processing of supplier payments.