For a shipping company, precision is key. Your clients are counting on you to deliver their orders on the exact schedule you set. Arrive too early and they won’t be around to load what they ordered; get there too late and they’ll be left waiting for the parts and supplies they need to do business.
Clients also need you to follow their handling instructions precisely, lest you damage their items on the road. That’s why carriers place a premium on precision, endeavoring to fulfill clients’ specific requests as closely as possible.
Yet, for all their focus on precision, shipping companies often neglect it for a vital part of their operations: documentation.
Many firms continue to suffer serious paperwork problems, gathering information from clients that’s either inaccurate, incomplete, or both. This gives rise to a host of operational problems that can weaken your company or even put it out of business. By understanding the full impact of paperwork errors and finding a strategy to reduce them, your company can improve its precision, profitability, and long-term prospects.
The Dire Impact of Documentation Errors
Documentation errors take many forms. From failing to fill out forms completely to using outdated information to getting the signature of the wrong person, both you and your clients risk making serious mistakes during this part of the shipping process. And while these may seem like minor administrative issues, they can have a negative impact on your company by:
- Preventing Payments - Depending on how your clients are paying for your services, documentation errors can slow down the payment process or stop it entirely. These include not just errors involving the payment information you take down, but also problems with signatures, supervisory approval, and countless other elements. Payment interruption isn’t just bad for you. It also harms your clients, making them uncertain about how to incorporate your fees into their broader financial plans. The more you make your clients go through this, the less likely they are to purchase shipping services from you again.
- Shipping to the Wrong Site - In addition to payment errors, documentation issues can cause you to get the shipping address wrong and deliver your client’s order to the wrong location. This is a particularly serious problem if a single client needs items delivered to multiple different places. While it’s easy enough to separate orders for distinct clients, keeping track of multiple orders from the same one requires precise documentation. When this happens, clients won’t be able to use the items they ordered until you correct the mistake, causing their productivity to suffer; few clients will be willing to work with you a second time afterward.
- Causing Corrections - Whether the error involves the order’s destination, the payment information, or any other element, you’ll likely have to go out of your way to correct it. This may involve traveling directly to the client and getting them to sign your forms again. This wastes time and money, thereby making your business less profitable while distracting you from serving other customers.
Along with all of these problems, recurrent paperwork errors take a toll on your reputation.
Once current and potential clients learn that you frequently suffer from documentation problems, they’ll view you as irresponsible and disorganized. This will make them less likely to trust you with their vital shipping services. And no, it doesn’t matter if many of the paperwork errors are the clients’ fault. It is still your responsibility to go through important documents and make sure they were filled out properly while there’s still time to make corrections.
Passing the buck to clients makes you look even more irresponsible, while sending potential customers the message that you’ll blame them for your failures. Thus, if you want to please clients, you must take responsibility for all paperwork errors and do everything you can to keep them to a minimum.
Keeping paperwork errors to a minimum, of course, is easier said than done. Given that clients have to fill out many of your documents in person, and that your drivers may be the only people who come into contact with those clients, it’s hard to make sure that they’re getting everything down correctly. But thanks to recent advances in digital technology, you can improve the accuracy of even the most remote documentation by investing in:
Mobile Capture Methods
Mobile capture is the art of filling out shipping paperwork remotely, with the help of a tablet, smartphone, or other mobile device. It involves taking a high-resolution picture of the document you need to fill out, uploading it to a central database, and sharing it with everyone in your business who needs the information you’ve recorded. With many forms, it’s also possible for the client to fill in the info digitally, so that you never need to print your paperwork out.
By adopting mobile capture technology, you dramatically reduce the risk of documentation errors.
If you are having the client fill out the form digitally, you won’t need to wait until the driver reaches them, giving you plenty of time to make sure the client chooses the right person to fill it out, includes all the requisite information, and doesn’t leave anything out. Even if the client has to fill the document out in person, because your driver can upload an image of it instantly, you can make sure they’ve filled it out properly before the driver leaves. This will give you a chance to make corrections before the driver heads back. This dramatically reduces the difficulty of making corrections and ensures that such corrections are made before they cause you and your client to suffer payment and delivery problems.
Microdea has recently launched our own Mobile Capture software. Check out how it can help reduce errors, improve efficiency, and speed up your business processes.
Microdea is a rapidly growing enterprise software company focused on the development, sale and support of document management and business process automation technology for the transportation industry. Founded in 1995 and headquartered in Markham, Ontario, Microdea serves hundreds of customers spanning multiple countries and a range of transportation fields including rail, transit, truckload and LTL carriers, shipper private fleets, brokers and 3PL.