Abby Ventura & Liz Bettencourt
Lavante Customer Support Specialists
Abby, Liz, What are your roles at Lavante?
Abby: I started at Lavante in audit support in 2010. About one year ago I moved into a customer support specialist role. My responsibilities include working directly with suppliers that need help getting set up in Lavante SIM. I also assist with customers who have questions about the application, I train them in the system so they can become SIM experts, and finally I work a lot with our product team relaying customer and supplier comments on how to make the product more user-friendly.
Liz: I’m also a customer support specialist. Since we work directly with the customers and suppliers, we know both sides the issues that they have. Since Lavante SIM is a self-service portal, it really is important that the product is as easy to use as possible so that they don’t actually need support in the first place. So our goal is to work with all the parties involved to make a product that really works well.
Abby: Yes, but sometimes you have people calling in that are very computer literate, and then you have some people that don’t even have an email address – so we help at every level. This involves completing their profiles, generating their W9, or answering any questions that callers may have about the portal. One of the problems with other portals – and I hear this frequently from customers and suppliers – is that there is not a real person helping the process along when needed. It just takes a call sometimes and then it “clicks” for people.
Liz: That’s right; we also do a lot of training with the customers and, because these companies are so big, communication can become a huge issue between customer and supplier; we help connect all parties. We walk them through the steps and give them a very detailed explanation on all of the functionalities. We’ve also learn a great deal about the preferred procedures for each of our customers so we can direct their suppliers to the right parties if the problem extends beyond Lavante SIM. We know where to send their invoices and we know how their payment process works, so I feel like for both parties we give all that additional information that really helps make the whole process much easier.
What would you say are the main benefits that customers or suppliers get from using Lavante SIM?
Abby: I always hear about how useful the supplier data can be outside of our portal. Customers use the data to support everything else; the portal can route suppliers and supplier information into every other system that our customers have in place whether it’s dynamic discounting, spend analytics, score carding, contract management, and almost anything you can imagine. This offers tremendous value to the suppliers and the clients get a huge benefit by getting more use from all of their software solutions.
Liz: (Lavante) SIM also makes the process simple for customers that are looking to request or approve new suppliers as well as update existing ones. The process is very easy for both sides, which is good, but I always hear from customers that they feel safer with our process in place. Fraud is such a major concern right now, nobody wants to take on unnecessary risk.
Are suppliers as concerned as customers about fraud?
Liz: Yes, it can go both ways. You really never know who’s emailing you or who’s on the phone these days because scams are so widespread.
Abby: Both sides prefer to use a secure portal because they know that they’ve logged in and they’re able to verify credentials before inputting information.
Liz: From the supplier’s perspective, it’s valuable to have a direct and reliable connection to customers so they can safely update their information for getting paid, and want to make sure everything is input correctly, validated, and accurate. When they have changes to their company, such as legal name, tax ID, the SIM system communicates all of that to the customer. I hear horror stories about how our customers and suppliers were doing this before they started using SIM, it all had to be done manually. Our customers have suppliers all over the world, so it can be really challenging to keep all of their records updated.
What’s the best part of your job?
Abby: I really do feel the frustration of suppliers who are faced with on-boarding for yet another customer! One of the most satisfying things is at the end of support conversation when I tell them “it’s complete, it’s done, you’re good to go, the system will notify you if we need anything else” it just really brightens their day to have this one task that is usually so tedious to be done. I think it really gives them this kind of relief.
Liz: It’s really satisfying when suppliers call us and we immediately address their issue. Our support is very personalized and most companies don’t have the kind of support we have. Actually calling and reaching a live person is a huge relief to them and they often get excited that they’re not just talking to another machine. Our service is personal, live, and we can help each individual and for customers, a lot of their suppliers don’t even have computers so it’s a really big help for them that they can call us and we can help them through it, as well as give them other alternatives. They’re always really happy and thankful that we’re able to assist them in a timely manner.
Are there times when you’ve spoken with a client or supplier and they’ve been surprised by what we can do for them?
Abby: Oh yeah, customers don’t always realize how easy it is for them to edit supplier profiles. They want a portal that suppliers can use to get all of their data and documents entered in correctly, but they still need a secure controlled process to change and edit supplier profiles from their end.
Liz: I think language is always a huge issue; since we work with a lot of suppliers internationally, it can sometime be a barrier. English is often not their first language and they are often surprised that we such a diverse language base supported on our system. They can choose from practically any language and if it’s not there and they can tell us and we can communicate with the product team to have it added in, which I think is awesome. I’m fluent in Portuguese, and we have a lot of Brazilian production companies and they’re always really excited when they can communicate in their native language.
Abby: Also, customers do not always realize how easily they can communicate with suppliers through the portal. They’re often surprised when I say “Hey, I can just reach out to the supplier through the application” and just get that done for them no problem. Customers are always telling me that they have a difficult time reaching out to suppliers but the application makes it easy.
How do suppliers view the network? What do they think it’s supposed to do for them.
Abby: I always tell suppliers it’s a tool for our client’s AP department to ensure that they have all of the correct supplier data. And the portal provides a lot of information about the appropriate AP protocol back to suppliers, such as where to send their invoices, what insurance coverage you need, how do you qualify as a diverse or small business, and how to contact different employees, it covers everything you can imagine.
Liz: I think when people first contact us, ask about the functionality, and we explain what it does, I think it goes beyond their expectations. After we explain all the different functionalities, such as compliance, document management, validations and everything else – they’re definitely satisfied. After taking the time to talk with them about all the benefits they’re going to get from using the system, they definitely get excited about using it.
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