Even seasoned logistics organizations have difficulties when it comes to billing/invoicing. One study even showed that 82 percent of all third party logistics (3PL) provider respondents said that they lost money because of cluttered, disorganized records and manual processing. It's an alarming revelation, and it makes you wonder what, exactly, is contributing to these lost revenues.
The answer is simple: Labor-intensive manual billing workflows and unreliable charge capture are contributing. Plus, there's also the lost opportunity cost of using person hours for billing-related tasks instead of customer retention and revenue-generating activities. So the real question is: how can 3PLs get that revenue back?
How Automated Invoicing Helps 3PLs
3PLs can eliminate errors and ensure that all charges are captured if they automate the entire process from end-to-end. Because human errors can prove so costly (both because they can slow down payment and they can result in the wrong payment amounts) automation is key in ensuring billing accuracy and making the end-of-month billing processes much easier.
The same survey mentioned above showed that around 54 percent of 3PLs take three or more days before sending invoices to their customers. In contrast, 3PLs using automated billing systems (those who already have their transportation management system integrated into accounting applications) only need a few minutes to send invoices to clients. Automation and integration are crucial in reducing days sales outstanding for already performed services.
Okay, at this point you must be thinking, “Wait. It’s not that easy. You can just flip a switch and magically reduce all of the manual effort required in sending freight invoices.” While it’s certainly true that it’s not as easy as turning on a lightbulb, with the right technology you can automate these processes—and save considerably by doing so.
How to Automate 3PL Billing
Last mile logistics solutions can help businesses to adopt their current billing processes into automated ones. If your last mile solution truly covers the delivery process from end-to-end (i.e. from order creation to proof of delivery and everything in between), then it’s already gathering the information you need to bill quickly and accurately and settle with your drivers. How? We’re glad you asked...
- Document your billing logic: Every contract is different—and you need to find a way of building out the logic of each contract within a centralized system that can automatically apply the right rules to determine the right amounts. For driver settlements, for instance, you need to figure out whether you’re paying by distance travelled, number of stops, or some other metric. If you’re working with a software provider in the last mile space already, they may be able to help you build out software scripts that can automatically figure out the right rates for each driver or client.
- Make sure you’re capturing all the right data: One of the biggest challenges when it comes to invoicing in a timely manner is confirming access charges, discounts, etc. for each delivery. To make that process as seamless as possible, you first need to be capturing information via drivers in the field on the day of delivery. This means that for each order, drivers should be empowered to capture proof of delivery and notes and pictures that document unexpected stairs, tight corners, scratched floorboards, etc. so that the accounting team doesn’t have to manually track all that information down on an order-by-order basis.
- Integrate, integrate, integrate: If you’re capturing the right data and you have the tools to turn that data into accurate invoices, you’re almost at the finish line! To complete the workflow, you just need to integrate with your accounting software. This can be as simple as automatically generating a billing report as a CSV after you’ve confirmed all of the day’s charges.
How DispatchTrack Solves Billing Bottlenecks
DispatchTrack offers a way for 3PLs to get rid of billing bottlenecks by integrating routes and orders, tracking deliveries, and calculating invoices and settlements without manual intervention. Our solution lets companies speed up their cash flow, customize rates, and manage their billing more effectively by capturing crucial data in real-time: everything from client and customer information to driver contract rates to notes and accessorial charges on the day of delivery.
Here's how 3PLs can benefit from DispatchTrack's solution:
- Get cash flowing fast: Companies can get paid in days rather than weeks. This is because DispatchTrack automatically logs deliveries, refers to contracts with the client and driver to pull in the payment and billing terms, and then presents automatically generated invoices and settlements. You can review, amend, or approve these reports instantly, then send them to your accounting software as needed. Our solution allows businesses to know what's ready to be billed and the amount owed to drivers at the end of each day.
- Customize according to client: Companies usually have various deals with each driver and client. DispatchTrack's solution can match each order to the right contract, driver, and client. These allow the solution to calculate the correct amount to bill per client and how much each driver is owed. Translating contracts terms into code can be a complex process, but our support team does the heavy lifting based on your input.
- Gain control over your billing: The settlement report generated by DispatchTrack provides businesses with a clear picture of the day instantly, and can send out settlements and invoices before the day is over. Not only does this speed up your days-to-cash, it also gives you a clearer picture of your operations from a financial perspective. This clarity is possible in part because we’re able to include access charges, discounts, and other changes to the total amounts based on the notes that are captured alongside proof of delivery with each order.
Of course, all this is made possible by the fact that our solution is already poised to optimize every touchpoint across the entire last mile. Because we’re seamlessly tracking and collecting information about the day of delivery as it unfolds, at the end of the day we already have all the information required to generate accurate freight invoices. This is, in a nutshell, how the right solution can help companies speed up cash flow. Again, automation cuts the billing preparation process significantly, allowing businesses to collect their receivables much faster than manually preparing invoices. Plus, automation eliminates human error, which costs businesses money and delays payments further. In the end, automating invoicing can help 3PLs save money in a huge way.