Confessions of a benefits manager: Candid has problems getting an invoice paid

Confessions of a benefits manager

You might remember we recently implemented a new recognition platform. Early on, the supplier was organised enough to send a sample invoice so we could set up any necessary purchase orders. Well, you do not keep dogs and bark yourself, so I gave that task to my colleague Lazy Susan.  That was a couple of months ago, and now the first invoice has finally arrived I forward it to Susan to get it paid.

‘How do I do that’, she asks. What? Does she mean she has not set things up so we can pay the invoices, I ask. She just looks at me. I don’t know what to say. Well, I do know exactly what to say, but it would be unprofessional. Not that anyone else around here seems to worry about that. I mean, if Susan did not know what to do, why didn’t she ask? Why do people come to work and leave their brains at home? These are the mysteries of life.

Immediate action needed

I continue to ruminate. Is it because Susan does not report directly to me that she thinks she can ignore an important task? Or did she decide if she left it long enough, a slightly tricky job would just go away? I am so angry I go back to my initial email request to check the date sent. Yes, it was over two months ago. I had also sent a follow up a couple of weeks later, giving her contacts in finance and procurement to help with the purchase order. I pointedly resend it to her now. Please can she action this immediately as the vendor is waiting for payment. Sadly, I was the person with most of the contact with the vendor during implementation, so I am the one who will be most embarrassed by delayed payment. I do not suppose anyone else cares, but it could easily escalate.

A week later I ping Susan to see how it is going with the purchase order. She says nothing. I ask again. She admits she does not know what to do. Think, woman, think. Really, how do people get by without bothering to think? In desperation, I set up a meeting with the relevant contacts along with Susan, so she has no choice but to talk to them.

I introduce everyone and then hand over to Susan. She says nothing. She has a headset on, and I wonder if she is listening to music rather than the call. Griselda, from finance asks if this is so urgent, why didn’t we do something about it before? Why indeed. She also says we will need separate invoices for each business unit.  We have over 20 business units. Already we can expect separate invoices by country, multiply that by 20 and we will need a whole department just to check them.

Detailed backup

I pull up the sample invoice to show the detailed back up which has a cost centre against each transaction that would clearly identify the business. Griselda does not seem impressed. Her colleague notices there are service fees separate from the regular transactions, which she says means we need to set up separate invoices by account code as well as business. Seriously. This is getting out of hand. We must have other suppliers which send us consolidated invoices; we are a large global company.

In that case, Griselda explains, procurement will set up a contract in the PO system from the beginning. Well, maybe we can do that now, I say, directing this at Ditsy from procurement. Ditsy is calling in from her bed as she has a bad back. I do not think we have her full attention either. Then Annie from accounts payable weighs in. She wants various other fields noted in the back up and she will definitely need separate invoices for each business as she does not have time to analyse the back up every month. Why does everything have to be so difficult and why are these people so unhelpful?  Griselda wants to know the contact number. Ditsy does not know but she will get back to us. Susan is still looking out of the window like all this is nothing to do with her. We agree to meet in a couple of days.

Meanwhile, I check in with the supplier. I can only apologise profusely for the delay. I nervously ask how difficult it would be to have separate invoices by business unit. They say it would involve a contract amendment. Geez. I know how hard it is to get anything signed around here. We will have to find another way.

Purchase order

I set up another call with Ditsy. Luckily, I manage to get Ditsy to agree to help Susan to set up the purchase order for a consolidated invoice. Susan appears to be meditating but I keep repeating her name so she cannot completely ignore us. I am not letting Susan off the hook; she will be the person to raise the PO and to process the invoices, whether she likes it or not. She can also do the pivot table by business and account code for accounts payable. So there.

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Just when I think we have it sorted, the UK tax department pops up and says it needs a summary of transaction fees by account code. I point out that is on the invoice back up. Well, the department cannot be looking at all the invoices, we will need to do a summary for it every year. This, I decide, is a job for Lazy Susan. I create a template, so it is profoundly clear what she needs to do. She sends it back having added the invoice totals, and asks if she needs to include credit notes? Of course we need to include the credit notes. Credit notes are a reduction against invoices, so if we are summarising costs we need both. Think, woman, think.

Next time… Candid uses infographics to communicate reward