Reduce Billing Cycles with Communication
A few days ago, I learned something from a client and major publisher that I was not expecting. Reconciling actuals – tracking the total number of impressions that an advertisement receives on a website (third party vs. first party actual numbers) is manageable because publishers these days are accepting the agency/client numbers most of the time. Why? Well, simply put – the client is always right! And the differences are, for the most part, insignificant.
However, having attended media events and conferences, especially those focused on the finance process, I have heard over and over again how the reconciliation of actuals is a really painful process. It is time consuming with a lot of back and forth between the agency and the publisher to agree on a number, and then receive the data needed to be able to bill for the services provided. I thought initially that it was a mathematical problem, or a delivery tracking difference that seemed to be the core of the issue. Nope, It turned out to be largely a communication issue!
Most publishers tell their agencies or advertisers that their numbers are OK for billing purposes. The problem is that these companies often take too long to send their numbers. This can happen because of technological constraints on their side, data exchange mechanism issues and occasionally to get a little bit more time on those payment terms. This then delays the billing process for publishers causing cash flow issues and even billing processing delays. These delays can result in having to deal with multiple billing schedules, handling files in different formats and at different times, in order to be able to produce sometimes hundreds of invoices in a reasonable time.
What to do? Establishing workflow tools that would allow agencies and clients to post their data easily and in a timely manner would definitely help. Yes, the publisher spends some money setting up document management workflow tools and giving their clients (agencies or advertiser) access to them, but is definitely worth it! These tools come with workflows activated to request information once the period is closed and escalate those requests as needed. The agencies will have immediate access to the system, through the web, where the data needs to be placed (no emails, no back and forth of excel spreadsheets or text files!), and the publisher is automatically notified about the data being uploaded. This requires little investment from the publisher’s side, and it is definitely advantageous it if it will reduce billing cycles by a few days! Investing in small workflow tools that will increase communication and efficiency can help solve a problem everyone in the industry complains about!