Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
The logistics service provider H.Essers offers personalised and integrated transport and logistics solutions throughout Europe. It is active in sectors such as chemicals, pharmaceuticals, construction and infrastructure, and high-quality goods. In recent years, the company has experienced solid expansion, through both organic growth and a number of strategic acquisitions.
With a turnover of €925 million in 2020, H.Essers generates hundreds of thousands of invoices every month. H.Essers had already been working with debtor management software for four years. Since the previous software package did not meet all of its requirements, the logistics service provider sought a new solution. Important criteria were the excellent service, efficient integration options and attractive pricing.
In addition, H.Essers had specific needs in the area of credit management. H.Essers includes various companies and corporations that often work for the same customer. The specific wish was to send each customer only one reminder and to make one credit controller responsible for that customer.
Tirza Put, Credit & Revenue Assurance Manager at H.Essers: “When, for operational reasons, we divide the customer into different entities or accounts, we still want to send them just one reminder, and preferably with the invoices for all of these accounts bundled together. After all, we are one supplier to them.”
iController was able to address this specific credit management policy and, together with H.Essers, set up an optimal iController platform. Customers only get one reminder, and on every reminder there is always a link to the copy of the outstanding invoices, even if these invoices relate to the different companies in the H.Essers portfolio.
This copy of the invoices is an enormous time-saver, says Tirza. The policy of only one reminder and one credit controller for each customer is also very popular internally, because the business unit managers and sales have one point of contact.
Procedures were developed for segmenting debtors based on the size of the customer.
“We have been live with iController since 2018, and there is a real two-way exchange. New ideas are quickly picked up and incorporated into the software, so that all iController users enjoy the new features.”
Tirza Put, Credit & Revenue Assurance Manager at H.Essers
Credit management in the transport and logistics sector has its own challenges. Credit limits cannot be used, because the majority of the invoices are sent only once a month, both for warehousing and transport. In order to do risk management despite this constraint, iController provided the link with Creditsafe. In this way H.Essers can immediately see the data of credit reports on the customer card.
Tirza Put: “When customers approach the end of a procedure, and we see in Creditsafe that their score is bad, we send out a notice of default, for example. At the same time, we block this customer so that the transport planners can no longer accept their orders. If the payment has been made in the meantime, or if it is only a one-off late payment, we can still choose to let the order go through. For new customers with a bad credit report, we propose prepayments. As credit controllers, we therefore try to be flexible in dealing with the fact that we cannot offer credit limits.”
A typical feature of the transport sector is that transporters are both customers and suppliers, and there are collaborations to make use of each other’s capacity at peak times. This means that a lot of invoices are exchanged in both directions. That is why H.Essers also reads in the supplier data in iController. “When the moment of payment arrives, we check for parties who are both customers and suppliers to see if there are still outstanding invoices on the customer side and whether the balance is too lopsided. If necessary, we can then stop payments,” Tirza Put says.
H.Essers is full of praise about the user-friendliness of iController. New employees in the credit control team get familiar with the software immediately; non-financial profiles such as sales or colleagues in the complaints department are likewise soon familiar with iController. Weekly reports are sent to the management.
Today the debtors team consists of seven credit controllers, six in Belgium and one in Romania. “The fact that iController has a very wide range of languages in the software is a big plus. Our Romanian employee can work completely in his own language, and more generally, reminders can be sent to the customer in just about any language,” says Tirza Put.
What H.Essers particularly appreciates is the central mailbox for payment reminders. During staff holidays and illnesses, it is easier to switch customers and guarantee continuity. “We hardly ever have any downtime for the software. And when problems do occur, iController always jumps in with all its might to solve them,” says Tirza.
The custom fields in iController are a great advantage. They separate the two branches within H.Essers, warehousing and transport. This makes it possible to get everyone on board at invoice level: after all, the business unit manager only gets to see an overview of his or her open customers. This has ensured that the organisation is now dealing with debtors much more consciously.
“We regularly evaluate our credit management solution, and other vendors approach us. But there are few that can do the same as iController and really listen to the customer.”
Tirza Put, Credit & Revenue Assurance Manager at H.Essers
As of 2022, H.Essers currently operates in sixteen European countries, Dubai and South-America. The intention is for all the different subsidiaries to use the iController software going forward. But first there is work to be done on the integration of new accounting packages into H.Essers’ own developed solution.
Credit management is always in motion. In time, Tirza would like to have more insight into the payment behaviour of her customers: “With all the data we have now, we could learn more from the behaviour of our customers. Take this situation: a customer may be in good financial shape according to the external credit report but is still one of our bad payers. It would be nice if we could tell our business units when a customer’s payment behaviour is improving or getting worse.”
iController is currently putting the finishing touches to an AI module that will predict customers’ payment behaviour. More than 200 parameters influence this behaviour. The module should allow companies to make more accurate cash flow forecasts and intervene when customers’ payment behaviour changes.