How to Avoid Business Disruption When Onboarding With a New Freight Invoice Processing Partner
Fast, efficient and accurate freight invoice processing is essential for long term success in the 3PL, transport and logistics industries. This ensures that a shipping and transport company gets paid the proper sum in a timely manner, while simultaneously eliminating the burden of freight invoice processing on limited in-house staffing resources. Those human staff resources are subsequently freed to focus on more pressing or higher-level tasks. But many companies struggle when the time comes to transition from in-house processing of freight invoices to outsourcing this task to a third-party freight invoice processing partner.
Starting a new outsourcing relationship can be a challenge. This is true whether your company is working with a third-party processor for the first time or switching from one service provider to a new outsourcing partner. Many companies experience disruptions to their business operations, with losses that can have a significantly adverse and unacceptable impact on profitability and customer experience. But ideally, an outsourcing partnership should bring only benefits to a business. This is particularly true when dealing with back office processes, especially those that are mission-critical such as in the case of freight invoice processing.
Many business leaders are subsequently left wondering how to avoid business disruptions when onboarding with a new freight invoice processor. Fortunately, there are a number of measures you can take to minimize and avoid disruptions as the carrier or transport company works through the onboarding process.
What is Freight Invoice Processing and What Are the Benefits?
Freight invoice processing entails the creation of a key document which is issued by the transport carrier. Freight bills include essential information such as the following.
- Freight load contents description
- Freight size, quantity and weight
- Shipment point of origin
- Shipment destination
- Miscellaneous charge descriptions and amounts
- Shipment costs
- Total amount due
Under normal circumstances, a shipping company or carrier’s logistics managers will handle the creation of the freight invoice. But the sheer volume of shipments can result in delays, errors and other challenges that make efficient freight billing impossible. This is where outsourcing comes into play, as business leaders can opt to shift some or all of the company’s freight invoice processing tasks to a third-party service provider. Many of these service providers also provide related services such as freight invoice auditing.
The Primary Benefits of Working With a Freight Invoice Processing Outsourcing Company
The benefits of working with a freight invoice processing and auditing service provider are many and varied. Some of the key benefits include the following.
- More rapid turnaround – Rapid turnaround is important for a transport company’s cash flow and overall financials. Outsourcing partners dealing in freight bill processing will have the staff and technology required to process these mission-critical documents quickly without compromising quality or accuracy. In fact, accuracy is another advantage of partnering with a third-party freight invoice processor.
- Improved accuracy – A company that specializes exclusively in processing freight bills will have the tools, resources and experience required to achieve unmatched accuracy. Greater accuracy translates into greater profitability.
- Cost savings – Freight invoice processors can provide services at competitive rates that bring about significant cost savings. This is especially true in cases where the outsourcing partner has software and other technology that improves efficiency.
3PL companies, shippers and carriers should seek outsourcing partners that provide a fair balance when it comes to cost, quality, and turnaround.
What’s more, these service providers will have processes and technology in place to ensure freight bill accuracy.
But finding a reputable and efficient outsourcing partner is just the first step in the process. These transport companies need to ensure that appropriate measures are in place to minimize and ideally, avoid any disruption to their business operations as freight invoice processing responsibilities are shifted to the new service provider. This can be a bit more challenging in cases where a company is opting to replace a processing partner versus shifting invoice processing tasks to a third-party service provider for the first time.
The keys to onboarding success are rooted in careful planning for the transition and lots of communication. Some aspects of the planning process include the following points.
The process usually begins with the identification of responsibilities both on the part of the shipping company’s in-house staff and on the part of the freight bill processor outsourcing partner. A few key areas to consider include:
- IT and Security – What technology will you be using? What security measures will be in place to ensure that all sensitive data remains protected?
- Account Representatives – Who will be serving as account representatives on the carrier’s behalf and on the part of the invoice processor outsourcing company? These account representatives are critical for ensuring effective communication during the onboarding process and well into the future.
- Process Experts – Who are the process experts? Their insights will be essential for crafting a workflow and process flow that brings about efficiency in the freight invoice processing operations, both during onboarding process and beyond.
Once you agree upon which invoice processing and auditing processes you wish to shift to the outsourcing partner, you must perform several additional steps to create a transition plan.
- Identify which carriers and customers will be shifted to the outsourcing partner.
- Create written customer processing rules. These procedures will ensure that the same, uniform process is followed for each and every invoice.
- Identify your training needs and establish a schedule for training sessions. This ensures that all of the in-house staff are well versed on the tasks that are required to achieve a smooth transition.
- Develop a transition plan that spans the timeframe immediately before and through the onboarding process. The transition plan must denote a timeline and schedule for the transition. You will also need to determine how customer accounts will be transitioned. Generally, you begin with the largest and most complex accounts and then work your way down to the smaller accounts. Testing rules must be established too, with triggers created to govern the process of going live with each carrier and client account.
Put your transition plan into action as you transition the freight invoice processing responsibilities from in-house staff or another service provider to the new outsourcing partner.
As you begin the transition process, beta testing is essential to ensure that you maintain both accuracy and quality.
Additionally, shipping companies and carriers must take time to review key metrics to ensure that all service level agreements (SLAs) are being met.
Remember to schedule frequent check-in meetings too. These essential communication touch points provide you with an opportunity to review the transition process and all of the related activities and efforts. Frequent meetings will also position you to respond quickly and decisively in the event that an obstacle or challenge arises.
The Right Technology to Avoid Onboarding Disruptions
To find long term success and to avoid business process disruptions, carriers must work through any and all issues until the onboarding process and transition is complete. Step away too soon and you risk a situation whereby you may need to take a few steps back and extend the onboarding process.
At iTech Data Services, we specialize in providing freight invoice processing solutions that improve profitability while simultaneously reducing risk. We invite you to contact the iTech team to discuss your freight invoice processing needs.