‘You can’t buy time, but you can save it’
Interview with a diehard user of Clearnox.
The digital accountancy world will not leave its inhabitants alone. New technologies are outdoing each other, including when it comes to invoice management. Those who do not yet dare to let go of the paper mill pay the price: high outstanding balances, a lot of overtime and little room for a personal high-five with the clients. Ouch. But when the need is greatest, Clearnox is there.
We sit down at a virtual table with Nick Verheyden, client of CodaBox and co-founder of Verheyden, van Hassel and Partners. VVH&P is an accountancy firm with enthusiastic advisors who swarm around the finances and taxation of their clients like watchdogs. That is exactly why Nick fell in love with Clearnox. His testimonial is a refreshing and honest compass for anyone looking for an efficient and time-saving accounts receivable management.
Nick, you were at the cradle of VVH&P, weren’t you?
Nick: ‘That’s right, 20 years ago now. I am also chairman of an Antwerp-based professional association for bookkeepers and accountants. Blood is thicker than water, isn’t it? (laughs).
Is VVH&P a large firm?
Nick: ‘Well, if we include companies, the self-employed and a few private individuals, we have about 500 customers in all. We work with 8 dedicated souls, and a 9th is on the way.
Where does your focus lie?
Nick: ‘On maximum service, in any event. But our hobbyhorse is digitalization: informing our customers extensively and guiding them personally to jump. Because we are 100% sure that it will only benefit them.
And do your customers share this conviction?
Nick: ‘Whenever we have a good opportunity – when we discuss the annual accounts, for example – we start a conversation, in a very transparent way. New things always meet with some resistance at the outset. That is normal. But once people have tasted the benefits, they often turn into enthusiastic advocates. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, isn’t it? (laughs). We notice that both the young and the old guard realize that digitalization only opens doors’.
‘Time is money’ has never rung so true as it does now.
What problems did you run up against before you started working with Clearnox, our software hero in debtor management?
Nick: ‘We worked with an accounting software package from which we extracted the dunning letters ourselves. That meant opening a PDF file, checking it, saving it, and then sending the reminders one by one. It took me at least three to four hours. And precisely because it took up so much of my time, it didn’t happen often enough.
We sent lists of outstanding invoices to the customers whose accounts we also took care of. We created the reminders in the package, but each time we had to change the layout to that of the customer. And then again: creating a PDF file, mailing it to our customer who, in turn, had to deliver it to his non-payers is a procedure takes time.
And then you saw the digital light?
Nick: ‘We started to think about automation, yes. We bought expensive robot software, but we had to build the corresponding process ourselves. That took so much time, that we stopped the whole thing.
Understandably so. Fortunately, Clearnox was on its way (laughs).
Are your own customers good payers, actually?
Nick: ‘We like to work with direct debits. It is easy. If the customer wants to go along with it, that is. Of course, not everyone pays as punctually as they should, but that is more likely to happen because they are busy or because they forget something rather than because they don’t want to. 90% are even grateful to us for a friendly reminder. They now get a detailed and clear overview, instead of just a balance. And it works.
Does VVH& P often win over customers?
Nick: ‘There was a big fish recently, and there are quite a few discussions going on. We are already playing closer to the ball with new technologies such as ClearFacts and CODA files. Thanks to Clearnox, our customers can see online which invoices are outstanding and the follow-up is then an almost automatic flow. They get much more in touch with the money flows in their organisation. Did you know that in 2022, many companies still write their dunning letters in Word or keep track of them in Excel?
‘The application is very user-friendly, that is an extra gift.’
Thou have emerged as a big fan of Clearnox in the meantime. Would you like to share your enthusiasm with us?
Nick: ‘Advantage number one consists of saving time. This has a huge impact on the operation of our firm. Where I used to spend 3 to 4 hours on sending reminders, I can now get the job done in 15 minutes. That means almost 40 hours extra time on an annual basis. You could take on a new customer for that, so to speak. You can’t buy time. You have to optimize internal processes and use the freed up hours as efficiently as possible’.
And certainly not to be overlooked: the application is extremely easy to use. If you have to fiddle with complex techniques, you have already lost the time saved.
An incontrovertible truth.
Nick: ‘Another reason why Clearnox stole our hearts: we receive a monthly or weekly e-mail (we set it up ourselves) from the system with information about which invoices are still outstanding. That way, we are much more conscious of our debtor management and our cash flow can only benefit as a result. It makes us extra alert accountants. Even more alert’ (laughs).
Weren’t there too many skeletons in the closet during the integration?
Nick: ‘Not at all; we knew the obstacles from the past. What we particularly did not want was to offend customers with angry reminder e-mails. In contrast to our previous accounting package – where communication automatically became more obligatory after every ‘unanswered’ reminder – with Clearnox several scenarios are possible.
1. In a normal situation, we would send the same reminder every time. Even if it’s a monthly reminder, the tone of voice will remain polite and courteous until kingdom come.
2. We are a little stricter with customers with whom we have ended our cooperation; a friendly reminder, a second reminder and then a notice of default. The same goes for the ever-delinquent non-payers.
‘CodaBox gave us strong guidance in drawing up the texts, conducted sufficient tests, and after two or three months the whole process ran smoothly. We automatically receive a copy of every reminder that Clearnox sends; that makes it extremely easy to keep track of everything.’
‘A smooth digital approach is guaranteed to boost the image of your firm.’
What do your customers think of these new reminders?
Nick: ‘We are living advertisements for Clearnox of course, and people immediately see all the pros. The user-friendliness and the speed with which they can respond to their own customers attracts their attention. They see the overview of outstanding invoices, tick which reminder they do or do not want to send and the system does the rest – completely automatically. And such a professional approach is a boost for the image of every firm.
Does this apply to small firms too?
Nick: ‘Of course. Even if they find Clearnox too impressive for themselves, they can offer the tool as an extra service to their customers who do benefit from it.
Clearnox has a very convenient dashboard that integrates seamlessly with a ClearFacts environment. Did that combination give you any new insights?
Nick: ‘I can see that the average outstanding balance per month has dropped a little, although I’m not going to go on a world tour with that amount (laughs). Clearnox also detects typical errors – such as a credit note booked as an invoice – and resolves them without loss of time for us.
‘Making digital choices is part of the rapidly changing world.
Just because you jump doesn’t necessarily mean you are going to fall.’
Last question: what do you say to competitor colleagues who continue to stick doggedly to old habits?
Nick: ‘It is precisely these old habits that prove that change is necessary. You have to adapt to a disruptive society, or you are an easy prey. Taking risks and daring to make choices are part of this process. The steam engine has become a high-seed train, and I have never heard anyone complain that he reached his destination too quickly (laughs).
A digital word of thanks is in order for this instructive conversation. I am – just like our solutions – over the moon!