Xerox to move accounting online after e-metering success

Copying and printing firm Xerox is planning to move most of its business accounting online, following the successful...

Copying and printing firm Xerox is planning to move most of its business accounting online, following the successful implementation of an e-metering system which has cut processing costs by 60% and slashed billing time by five days.

The company, which has 50,000 customers in the UK, has "three or four" online projects in the pipeline that are designed to offer increased visibility of customer information via the web, said Mick Game, business analyst at Xerox.

"We are trying to move more and more of our business accounting online," he said. "We have developed an application that will allow online invoicing and there will be three or four projects in total this year."

Analysts said large companies moving accounting functions online achieve both financial and customer service benefits.

"Internet billing and payment reduces costs and drives economies and savings to a company's bottom line," said Avivah Litam, an analyst at Gartner. "By looking at only cost savings, however, a biller can forget that e-billing generates significant business value for a company by enabling it to deliver superior and efficient customer service."

Xerox's e-metering system, which was launched eight months ago, replaced a card system. Both systems get users to record their own print meter readings. These readings are then used to assess invoice amounts by comparing customer estimates to average usage figures.

The card system, which customers completed and mailed to a data processing agency for collation and re-keying, was seen as antiquated technology and provided return rates of only 25%, Game said.

The new system, built in conjunction with software firm Wax Digital, sends e-mails to Xerox customers to inform them when readings are due. They can then submit their figures by e-mail, the internet or telephone.

As a result, meter reading return rates now exceed 70%, the average billing time has improved by five days and processing costs have been reduced by at least 60%, Game said.

"The key drivers behind the system were responsiveness and timeliness - 10% of customers respond on the day of the e-mail, which is a phenomenal improvement," he said. "Accuracy was also key, as the e-metering system allows real-time validation [of figures], which the cards could not provide."

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