Why Automated Billing in Trucking Is an Organizational Initiative
So, you're managing a fleet of trucks. As a result, you worry about productivity and costs. And you know that billing plays an important role in the efficiency of your department.
Likewise, you may notice that your company's billing activities rely too much on paper and labor. That may be costing your company excessive amounts of time, effort, and money. Your typical billing scenario may require more steps than it should. Let's say your back-office staff checks the invoice for accuracy and to ensure that it's unique in the system. Sometimes, they also validate numbers in BOLs (bills of lading) and POs (purchase orders). Afterward, they send a first invoice out by email or even by snail mail to the customer. Then, payment collections staff chases down payments, requests missing documents, and resends an invoice to the customer.
I've got great news for you, though! The days of low productivity in billing may be over in your trucking company thanks to automated billing software. Automated billing increases your company's productivity levels. Plus it eases the burden of handling bills, and it can dramatically decrease unbilled revenue.
In this post, you're going to find out how to implement an automated billing initiative in your organization. Doing this involves a great deal of change management. But it pays off by improving drivers' satisfaction and cash flow.
Let's start by discussing whether you may benefit from automated billing.
Should I Implement Automated Billing?
You may be indecisive about going for automated billing. If so, this section is for you!
Have a look at the following aspects of billing. Do you struggle with them?
- You wait for weeks to have all the paperwork ready to bill your customers.
- Your billing tasks include a lot of manual review.
- You need many billers to operate your business.
- Your drivers have to constantly go after paperwork.
- A great number of mistakes happen when manually inserting data into invoices.
- You often invoice the same customer multiple times for different orders.
- You take an eternity to find a specific invoice.
If several of these sound familiar to you, then you should definitely go for automated billing. Check out the next section for the advantages of automated billing.
What Do I Gain With Automated Billing?
The benefits of automated billing are huge.
- Cut down the time required to have all the paperwork ready to bill your customers. An automated billing system stores delivery documents digitally. And that's the first step to reduce manual intervention and speed up billing.
- Avoid the manual checking of every invoice for data completion. As a result, payment is quicker.
- Process the same number of invoices with fewer staffers. Or process more invoices with the same staff.
- Don't ask your drivers to collect missing paperwork for loads they delivered days ago. Drivers may scan documents, such as a POD (proof of delivery), with a mobile device. Then, a digital repository stores those documents. As a consequence, your staff may immediately receive alerts about missing paperwork. Also, your customer may receive automatically generated invoices in minutes. Even torn and crumpled documents can be digitized.
- Prevent mistakes and corresponding delays in payments. Automated billing eliminates manual data entry by drivers. It also integrates billing and dispatch systems. Therefore, data in POD documents automatically originates from dispatch data stored in your TMS.
- Save your customers' time by consolidating multiple orders in a single invoice. Your high-volume customers will be especially pleased. And you won't waste time repeatedly billing the same customer. Moreover, the customer will pay you faster. Isn't that your billing dream? I bet it is!
- And finally, quickly search invoices when you need to.
So far you know if and how you benefit from adopting automated billing software. Next, you'll find out how to move on to make that adoption a real thing.
Standardize Your Billing Process
Generally, the status that precedes process definition is chaos.
- No person executes the same task the same way, which causes high variability levels in activities.
- The same person can even perform the same task differently on different days.
- Sometimes, they can also forget a step from the process.
What guarantee do you have that every person executes all necessary steps in your billing process? And do they do so the same way, every day?
If you could have that guarantee, you could avoid mistakes in invoice processing. But most of all, you could predict the duration of the billing process. That would be terrific from the operational and management points of view, wouldn't it?
So, standardization is the first step to achieve automated billing. And it brings benefits to your organization.
- Higher efficiency: The failure to follow a set of predefined steps results in wasted time when processing bills.
- Consistent quality: The absence of a billing process means the quality levels of your billing will vary.
More than a billing process, you need to define a billing procedure.
- Define the exact steps everybody handling bills in your organization must follow.
- List the order of execution of those steps.
- Document the procedure.
- Inform all those involved.
Could you simply go on with a predefined billing procedure? Yes, you could. But then, how would you reach billing automation? Take a look at the next section.
Identify Automation Points in the Process
Not all of your billing process can be automated. You can arrange a TMS so that some chunks of information fill out automatically in documents. Some templates apply to some portions of the process, whether to invoices or emails sent to customers. Therefore, you must determine which chunks of information and templates can be automated.
When you're implementing an automated billing solution, transform those chunks of information into pre-filled data fields, and create the templates you outlined.
What's the next step as you implement automated billing?
Choose the Appropriate Software
The appropriate billing solution will pre-fill data fields and apply templates to the appropriate parts of your process. But that's not all. It'll also establish a digital communication chain and request action to every person involved in the billing process when necessary.
In the same vein, choose an automated billing solution that integrates your billing and dispatch systems. One way to reach that is to integrate an automated billing system into your TMS.
After all, efficiency is the key when it comes to process automation, and billing in trucking is no exception! Most important, automated billing allows your organization to perform billing tasks faster.
Now, you're ready to sail along the sea of automated billing benefits. Oh, wait! One very important thing is missing: organizational change management. Have a look at the next section for more insight on how to address that challenge.
How Do You Get Your Organization on Board?
Understanding your need for automated billing is just the first step. The idea of billing automation can help you plan your billing activities in a uniform and efficient way. After that, actual automation must happen in the points of the process that require no manual intervention. Last, the automated billing solution you choose should integrate with your TMS.
"Is that all?" you might ask. "Is it just a matter of setting up an automated billing software?"
You're right—that's not all. The automation of your billing process will affect the people in your organization. That's when organizational change management becomes a crucial piece of the billing automation puzzle.
It's a Team Effort
From your truck drivers to the back-office staff and the IT staff, automated billing is a team effort. Here's how to make that team effort flow smoothly, with a minimum of pushback.
- Involve drivers, back-office staff, and IT staff as you reinvent your billing process.
- Inform all of them on how automation will change their tasks.
- Train them as soon as possible. Do so before they have to use the automated billing solution.
- Set up support lines for issue resolution.
- Finally, monitor the process and adjust it whenever necessary.
Best of luck to you as you streamline and automate your billing process!
This post was written by Sofia Azevedo. Sofia has most recently taught college-level courses in IT, ICT, information systems, and computer engineering. She is fond of software development methods and processes. She started her career at Philips Research Europe and Nokia Siemens Networks as a software engineer. Sofia has also been a product owner, working in the development of software for domains such as telecom, marketing, and logistics.