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San Antonio Zoo Betters Its Vendor Relationships Using AvidXchange AP Automation System

October 13, 2020
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Dana Nelson, finance manager at San Antonio Zoo, remembers what life in the finance department at the zoo was like before AvidXchange.

In a word, “awful,” she says.

She recalls that before implementation of AvidInvoice and AvidPay – automated accounts payable (AP) systems — invoices were stored in boxes and literally passed hand-to-hand across a 56-acre property between multiple locations for approval.

This was further complicated by the fact that her workplace is anything but typical.

“We have hundreds of species on the property and last year we had over 1 million guests. It’s not as if we are all working in a central office, nine to five, Monday through Friday,” Nelson says.

Grateful for AvidXchange when COVID-19 hit

“Prior to the implementation of AvidInvoice and AvidPay, this was a zoo in more ways than one. Thank goodness we had AvidXchange in place when COVID-19 hit.”

During the first three months of the COVID-19 pandemic, the zoo was completely closed to visitors.  During that time, says Nelson, there were “essential” staff members working on site – caring for all the animals – but no one else including her AP staff.

“We immediately shifted to remote work—everyone involved in invoice processing was working from home. Amazingly, we did not skip a beat. Thanks to AvidInvoice there were no time delays in invoice processing which, as you can imagine, our vendors really appreciated. As did the members of my virtual team, who were able to work safely from home without any loss in productivity.”

Prior to AvidXchange, Nelson and her team spent many hours routing invoices and checks for approval, as well as fielding vendor phone calls that often led to time-consuming searches into filed records.

“You can imagine what that would have looked like in this COVID-19 environment with everyone working from home. Our operation would have literally ground to a halt and with animals that need care, we simply couldn’t afford for that to happen. Fortunately, we now have all the AP processing information we need right at our fingertips and can address vendor issues quickly.”

For Nelson, AvidXchange has not only been a life saver, but a time saver, too.

“I probably save at least 10 hours each week, and everyone who uses the system is probably experiencing the same time savings.”

Vendor relationships that leave “no room for mistakes”

Of all the benefits that San Antonio Zoo’s AP team has experienced thanks to AvidInvoice and AvidPay, Nelson keeps coming back to the importance of vendor relationships. For her, it’s not just an intangible, overall “feel good” improvement, but one that is both tangible and critical to the zoo’s success.

“I can’t imagine how hard it would have been for us to keep making on-time payments without AvidXchange. Yes, the zoo was closed, but that doesn’t mean that we had no operating costs and vendors to pay. Our animals need to be cared for and fed and that costs real money. An interruption in payments – especially when it comes to animal care, our keepers, veterinarians and maintenance staff members – could have very grave consequences here.”

Using AvidXchange’s AP automation system, the zoo’s vendors aren’t spending money on paper and postage. They’re not spending time on the phone trying to track down a late or missing payment.

“When they do have a question, we can answer it almost immediately by pulling up the payment in the system and seeing all of the details,” she said. “Because our vendors know that they can count on us, we know that we can count on them.”

That’s especially important, she says, when you’re caring for hundreds of animals and running an operation that needs to support over 1 million guests each year.

“There just isn’t any room for mistakes,” she said.

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