Carriers: Why e-Invoicing Isn't Just About Cost Cutting

How e-Invoicing Also Boosts Customer Service and Data Quality

By The Maritime Executive 05-03-2013 01:37:00

By Rod Agona, Managing Director, Electronic Invoicing, INTTRA

INTTRA recently conducted a global e-Invoicing study that showed 100 percent of surveyed shippers/freight forwarders want to receive invoices electronically from their carriers, with 81 percent requesting it before the end of 2013. Yet today, most carriers still process their invoices manually, and therefore, so must their customers. What is the holdup for ocean shipping carriers when many in the commercial and government sectors adopted e-Invoicing a decade ago?

Maersk Line is one carrier that has made invoicing a top priority for better customer value. Soren Skou, Maersk Line CEO, recently spoke at the Journal of Commerce TPM Conference and highlighted improving invoicing efficiency and reducing dispute resolution time as two of eight key targets of the company’s newly developed Customer Charter.

Customers are demanding a process change, but you may be wondering how will making this change benefit the carriers? In addition to financial benefits, below are three sure ways e-Invoicing will help businesses in the maritime industry grow and stay competitive in the years to come. 

1. Make Your Customers Happy – Then Grow

All shippers that participated in INTTRA’s survey said they are currently want to engage in e-Invoicing with their carriers. Why now? The global trade slowdown is driving companies to improve their supply chains and remove major inefficiencies. Manually handling invoices that should be a quick, easy digital transaction result in unnecessary work for customers. This extra work leads to customer frustration – and establishing an unsatisfactory process as the ‘norm’ when there is proven technology to resolve it only aggravates them more.

As a rule of thumb in business, companies try to focus on the satisfaction of customers and employees. Faster and more accurate invoicing helps cut costs and labor, and as a result, employees can focus resources on more strategic priorities such as achieving customer satisfaction.

2. Create Visibility for Both Sides

E-Invoicing platforms give both billers and payers a centralized system of record and a rich source of accurate, real-time insight. So when real disputes occur, resolutions can happen faster.

Imagine a scenario when a carrier is on the phone with a customer identifying inconsistent charges because each side is looking at their own system. After a frustrating discussion, both parties realize the information does not match because it was re-keyed off a paper invoice incorrectly. E-Invoicing eliminates this type of dispute altogether, allowing both sides to reduce stress and use their time more efficiently.

3. Ensure Data Quality

The trick to achieving successful invoicing is data consistency. With e-Invoicing, companies can achieve dramatic improvements in their existing processes and data quality – which in turn means receiving more payments on time.

With manual invoicing, two shipper personnel sitting right next to each other could interpret the same type of carrier charge differently when re-keying it into their own system. By automating the translation of electronic charge types from the carrier, all charges are recognized consistently, which enables better invoice approval, auditing and reporting. Time and money are not wasted cleaning up data for decision-making.

Is e-Invoicing Right For Your Business? 

E-Invoicing can increase customer satisfaction, enable decision-making based on quality data, and increase profit margins by cutting costs in this challenging economic climate. By eliminating costly manual work on both sides, ocean carriers and their customers both realize benefits. The end results are clear: time savings, fewer disputes, faster resolution of billing issues, and the ultimate benefit for the carrier – getting paid in a more timely fashion.

This formula has worked successfully in other industries for many years. The longer carriers choose not to implement e-Invoicing, the longer they will continue to find themselves in difficult situations with large customers who already enjoy the benefits of e-Invoicing from their other suppliers.

While making this type of process change requires strategic support within the organization, the good news is that benefits are already being seen among early adopters – in most cases within the first six months.

Now is the time for carriers to embrace e-Invoicing and allow customers to save money and invest savings elsewhere to grow their business. One hundred percent of shippers agree.

Learn more at www.inttra.com/e-invoicing.