The Why Behind Using a Centralized Vendor Portal
Convenience stores deal with dozens of vendors on a daily basis, resulting in owners and store managers spending hours managing these relationships, asking and answering questions, and paying all of their associated invoices. To help ease the process for both sides, vendors have begun integrating online customer portals into their processes.
While these portals are designed to provide store owners with an easy outlet to ask questions, file disputes or simply pay invoices, adoption of these portals has been slim. In fact, we recently conducted a study and found that while 70 percent of small business owners are aware these payment portals exist, only 3 percent use them on a regular basis.
So, where’s the disconnect? Individual vendor portals aren’t providing businesses with the features or conveniences they’re looking for, making them more of a hassle than anything. As convenience store owners purchase their products and services from a wide range of vendors, it’s just not realistic to think they have the time to log on to each vendor’s separate portal to pay their invoice or ask a question. In the end, owners skip the portals all together and turn to more traditional payment methods.
On the other hand, the study also revealed that if these portals were reconfigured to allow access to multiple vendors in one centralized portal, 85 percent of small businesses would be more likely to interact with vendors through them.
If you are in flux about whether a centralized online portal is for your business, consider these three benefits they offer convenience store owners.
1. Bundled payment reminders
Convenience store owners receive several paper account statements and individual email payment reminders from vendors on a daily basis. While these are meant to help store owners remember their outstanding balance and when their payment is due, in reality, they only clutter the owner’s inbox and typically get discarded without even being looked at. However, by switching to a centralized online portal that utilizes bundled payment reminders, the email clutter store owners dread is quickly eliminated.
Instead of individual invoices, you’ll receive a weekly or monthly invoice that allows you to see upcoming and past-due invoices from all of your vendors in one bundled email. Then, when you’re ready to make a payment, you simply click through the email directly to the online portal where you’ll have access to each invoice.
2. Ask questions and get answers all in one place
By having access to each vendor in one location, it’s much easier to communicate with vendors whenever an issue arises. Instead of having to take the time to call each vendor when something comes up, all you have to do is log on to the portal and submit your question or dispute.
No longer are you restricted to your vendor’s 9-to-5 schedule, but instead, each of these tasks can now be done when and where you’d like. And with everything handled within the actual portal, the second you submit a question or dispute, it’s sent directly to the vendor, meaning no more time spent on hold with a customer service representative or left wondering if someone is actually monitoring the customer support email address you submitted your question to.
3. Save time when managing vendor invoices
With an online portal, convenience store owners have the ability to do everything from schedule payments to file disputes to view past correspondence, plus much more. Having the ability to do all these necessary tasks related to the post-sale process in one location not only saves store owners time, but also plenty of headaches.
We all know how hectic the retail industry can be, meaning long and odd hours for owners and managers, leaving little time in the day to call a vendor if a shipment is late or if there’s an error on your invoice. But by having access to each vendor in one centralized online portal, everything can be done in one place at a time that’s most convenient for you.
Mark Wilson is the founder and CEO of TermSync, a cloud-based customer portal.
Editor's note: The opinions expressed in this column are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Convenience Store News.