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Solved: Bill Automation for the Hospitality Sector

December 19, 2019

In this case study, we examine how ApprovalMax helped UK-based Virgate Accounts get to grips with automated invoice approval, and stop the issue of overcharging in its tracks.
This article originated from the Xero blog. The XU Hub is an independent news and media platform - for Xero users, by Xero users. Any content, imagery and associated links below are directly from Xero and not produced by the XU Hub.
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Virgate Accounts offer a complete finance package to small businesses in the hospitality sector, including pubs, clubs and restaurants. And recently, they have started providing their services to retail clients too.

In short, Virgate operate as an outsourced accounting department for small businesses, with services ranging from basic bookkeeping to cash flow forecasting and P&L.

The need for approval automation

Virgate are Xero Gold partners (and proud of it). However, the challenge with Xero was the distinct lack of an easy approval workflow.

In order to provide colleagues access to approve invoices in Xero, it meant also giving them access to (and the ability to edit) sensitive information. This clearly compromises the client’s right to financial data security and integrity.

The solution? Xero’s best-in-class approval automation tool: ApprovalMax.

ApprovalMax allows the user to create multi-step, multi-role approval workflows (as many as required) to fully eradicate the clunky paper or email-based approval processes.

Automatic notifications and reminders to Approvers make sure the approval process moves forward seamlessly and without interruption, meaning less time spent chasing Approvers or reviewing approval history.

“Every single client that we onboard now gets ApprovalMax. We see this app as a crucial part of our service.” – Glenn Gittins, Account Director

How Bill Automation works

For effective Bill Automation, every single bill goes via ApprovalMax. Liquor invoices, stock invoices; any invoice received by a client has to go via ApprovalMax.

The starting point of Bill Automation is data capture. Virgate use Datamolino to accomplish this. Each invoice is captured by Datamolino and submitted to Xero, where it’s marked “awaiting approval”. This then triggers ApprovalMax to send these bills for approval.

“Because we are an outsourced accountancy firm, we need that kind of approval automation,” says Glenn. “We can’t go ahead and pay an invoice if we don’t first know that it’s been checked or approved.”

And among the most loved features, Glenn says the staff at Virgate have been raving about the automatic notifications and the ability to approve invoices on-the-go.

“Our clients are very busy, so the fact we can approve on-the-go has been a revelation.”

Helping clients avoid being overcharged by suppliers

In recalling the benefits of ApprovalMax, Glenn only had to cast his mind back six months to the onboarding of a new client.

As soon as ApprovalMax was set up, the client began to realise that they’d been overcharged for a number of products. Our approval software quickly brought this to light, and the client was able to go back to their supplier and receive a refund.

This key feature comes from ApprovalMax’s pre-integration with Xero and Xero’s Product Catalogue. This enables ApprovalMax to check the invoices against the price indicated in the Product Catalogue via the Price Checker functionality.

In the hospitality sector alone, the issue of overcharging is prevalent. It’s not that overcharging happens on purpose, rather the Supplier systems don’t always work as intended, and there’s always room for human error on top of this.

Glenn happily points out that “with ApprovalMax, we’ve been able to fully eliminate the overcharging issue for our clients, thanks to the line-by-line cost approval capability and purchase order to bill matching feature.”

Why choose ApprovalMax?

In summary, the core benefits of adopting ApprovalMax for the hospitality sector are:

  1. Shared accountability with the client in terms of ensuring all required authorisations are in place before proceeding with the payment;
  2. And, most importantly, verifying on behalf of the client that the cost in the profit and loss statement is correct. For clients with multiple sites, Virgate made sure that the invoice was not added to the profit and loss statement before it was approved. This way, they ensure that if a client is overcharged, they can chase it and resolve it quickly.

Why leave it there?

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