How To Simplify And Streamline Rebate Management

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VP-IT at rSTAR, spearheading business & IT transformation for customers with focus on Manufacturing, Energy/Utilities and Construction.

When appropriately configured, automated and integrated B2B rebate management programs can help boost sales, market share and revenue for manufacturing companies and other high-tech, data-intensive companies.

Since the pricing tactic became common in the 19th century, rebate loyalty programs have become ubiquitous. Often used by companies with a distribution and supply chain system, rebating has helped these companies stimulate desirable action from their downlines.

With technological advancement, it’s still surprising that many companies, specifically manufacturers with rigorous manual rebate management processes, lack automated solutions to manage them. Not only are manual rebate programs time-consuming, but they can also be error-prone and tend to bog down from administrative overwhelm.

For companies looking to switch from managing rebate programs manually, the benefits of automated rebate programs include:

•Easier tracking and monitoring of rebate programs

•Enhanced visibility into what’s working and what’s not

•Faster approvals and faster time from approval to issuing rebates

•Fewer mistakes from human error and data entry

•Improved retention and loyalty, which can lead to higher profits

What does an automated rebate management program include?

A typical example is a rebate management system that involves:

•Accepting and validating claims from customers and partners

•Importing claims data to Excel sheets, CSV, etc.

•Manually checking and approving rebates for qualified distributors across multiple systems

•Exporting the data back to the ERP where the remittance, cheque, points, etc., are allocated, depending on the company’s reward system and the different tiers they have

As we can see from the list above, these manual tasks can be easily automated.

A rebate system of this nature involves IT input and, most times, the department backlogs rebate tasks due to IT prioritization. This often leaves the rebate program unmanaged and poorly executed, creating limited visibility in processing and expected return date. This limited visibility and rebate management irregularities can make the difference between profit and loss.

No matter the industry, manually managing the volume and complexity of rebates and incentives is challenging. For companies looking to automate rebate systems, there are some challenges that limit manufacturers and other high-tech companies from transitioning away from previous solutions.

•Many are relatively new—not everybody knows about automated rebate management platforms and programs.

•Many companies struggle with configuring and extending an automated rebate program solution to suit customer preferences. Rebate management often requires high levels of customization to suit each company’s customer requirements, existing technology, nature of distribution channels and other factors.

•The finance team typically handles the rebate program at many companies, and IT is only involved during data migration. This makes IT departments often push back rebate tasks into the backlog, delaying the process for every stakeholder. Similarly, getting IT departments to recognize the urgency of prioritizing automated rebate loyalty programs as part of the company’s overall digital transformation can be challenging.

Despite these challenges, there are steps that manufacturers and companies in data-intensive industries can take to further educate the organization on this approach while ensuring that it offers attainable benefits and a competitive edge. The following action plan sets the stage for the implementation of a sound rebate management program.

Four-Step Action Plan

1. Evaluate the current rebate management system to identify common error areas and how to improve them. Assess the success rate of the existing program.

2. Check the different rebate management solutions out there and discover the solution that fits the company’s unique requirements—budget, rebate program features, IT strength and support, available time, etc.

3. Begin a pilot program. Start small and evaluate the results.

4. Measure the impact: overall customer retention, overall employee efficiency (time saved), claims processing error rate (should go down), time to payment (should be faster), real-time visibility.

While implementing an automated rebate solution, work with an experienced rebate implementation partner with specific experience on the solution adopted. An expert is better positioned to integrate and expand the rebate solution to optimize the efficiency and results of the program by:

•Setting up best practices to streamline the rebate operations

•Allowing easy submission of rebate claims with acknowledgment

•Providing visibility in rebate processing, expected amounts and date of return

•Connecting core systems to pull all the pieces together

•Personalizing the rewards journey by setting up a personal loyalty program

•Automating eligibility and validation process by creating workflows

•Including other add-ons, integrations and configurations that will optimize the rebate management solution

Adopting these steps and a strategic approach to implementation can help increase the ROI of the solution, which reflects a successful automated rebate management program implementation.

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