How to lower your shipping costs by streamlining your shipping invoices

Woman working in her office looking at her laptop.

Whether you’re running a small to medium-sized business or launching a startup, the prospect of managing your shipping invoices may feel like just another piece of admin work.

However, by staying on top of your shipping invoices, you can identify operating inefficiencies and potential oversights that ultimately could cost you money.

What is a shipping invoice?

A shipping invoice is the bill generated by a carrier for shipping charges and related services, whether for domestic or overseas delivery. International shipping invoices may include additional information associated with customs brokerage.

A shipping invoice is not the same as the commercial invoice. The commercial invoice is specific to international shipments and is required to clear customs.

The importance of effective invoice management

As with any filing system, it makes sense to store your invoices in an organized way. While paper copies may work for a while, managing invoices electronically becomes necessary as a business scales up.

The UPS Billing Center electronically houses all your UPS shipping invoices on a single platform and offers a customizable view into your business’ shipping costs. Customers can view all invoices for the past 52 weeks, and sort within the system according to payment status.

In addition:

  • You have the option to set up automated payment per defined criteria and avoid the worry of paying a bill late.
  • You can set trigger notifications for bills that are higher than normal and decide which types of invoices to pay manually and which to automate.

“It's basically a worry-free environment for paying bills,” says Danielle Prescott, customer technology manager for the UPS Billing Center. “Sometimes paying automatically can be frightening to organizations, but the UPS Billing Center allows the customer to set an alert to notify them via email if the amount due exceeds a desired limit.”

By receiving shipping invoices electronically, shippers have at their fingertips a billing software tool not only for paying invoices across multiple modes of transportation but for analyzing their shipping costs and improving commercial operations.

Analyzing shipping costs

Every penny counts when you’re starting up. It’s important to analyze your shipping invoices to identify areas where you can reduce overhead expenses and drive efficiencies. Are your international shipping costs higher than expected? Are you spending too much on non-urgent domestic shipments?

"Maybe someone is shipping by air in a local area, but it doesn't necessarily have to be there at 8:30 am or 10:30 am. Could they be using ground services instead?" asks Prescott.

Electronic management of your shipping invoices is also helpful when passing on costs to your customer, where your receiver is ultimately responsible for the cost of the shipping.

By tracking your shipping costs, your business can make smarter decisions around product pricing and how to factor shipping into your cost of goods. For example, if you’re charging a flat fee for shipping and handling, your shipping invoice data can help determine whether the price you’re charging customers is enough to cover costs.

UPS will also provide feedback on any dimensional audit charges so you can save even more on shipping by eliminating unnecessary packaging. 

To assist with this analysis, the UPS Billing Center’s invoice management software allows you to create six standard reports against the following categories:

  • Invoice Summary
  • Invoice Detail
  • Reference Number Detail
  • Tracking Number Detail
  • Address Correction Detail
  • Approved Reference Number Detail

alongside the ability to create a range of customizable reports.

Back to the basics: address verification

“You’d be surprised at how many people don’t know what their address is, or at least what it needs to be for delivery,” Prescott says, explaining that address verification is not only about keeping down costs but avoiding delay in delivery. “A customer ordered something from our shipper, and we want to get that package to them smoothly. Customer experience is often as important as cost control for a small business or startup.”

When you label a shipment with an incorrect address, UPS will attempt to make good on that service and deliver to the intended destination. However, there is a cost associated with correcting the address and being able to make service on the package. UPS shares the specific address correction information in the Address Correction Detail report through the UPS Billing Center so customers can correct their address book and not make that mistake and get charged for it again. 

Additional benefits of electronically managing shipping invoices

While paper invoicing no longer cuts it for most businesses, many companies are not large enough to warrant an enterprise-style electronic data interchange (EDI) solution. That’s where the simplicity and convenience of the UPS Billing Center comes in.

With the UPS Billing Center, you can easily download invoice information as CSV or Excel files and import these files into your systems to help with cost allocation and internal chargebacks.

"It might be a small organization that wants to be sure its departments' charge codes are applied to the shipping invoices,” Prescott states. “They can apply that information at a reference field-level when they ship, which will show up in their UPS invoice, so they can easily allocate costs to the relevant departments.” This removes the need to retype invoice data into your accounts payable system.

In addition to reducing the burden of reconciling and assigning shipping charges, the UPS Billing Center allows your company to:

  • Implement one billing solution across multiple modes of transportation.
  • Enable administrators to assign users different levels of access and restrict payment functionality to authorized staff.
  • Connect the UPS Billing Center with QuickBooks Shipping Manager for a seamless user experience. 
  • Access other UPS applications, such as UPS Quantum View Manage® and UPS CampusShip® technology, within the same UPS login credentials as the Billing Center. UPS Quantum View Manage technology provides user-friendly visibility into the whereabouts of all your packages, while UPS CampusShip technology helps businesses manage shipping across multiple users, work groups, and/or different company locations. Ask your UPS account executive about activating access for these programs through a single user log-in.

For total convenience, UPS Billing Center users not signed up to UPS Quantum View Manage technology can still easily access UPS Tracking information through hot links provided in the portal. By reducing your reliance on paper invoices, you’re doing good for the environment as well.

Making shipping invoice management easy

Managing shipping invoices shouldn’t be a pain point for startups and small businesses. Although it’s easy for smaller firms to overlook shipping logistics when planning for growth, getting a firm grasp on your shipping invoices will help drive efficiencies in your business operations. Find out more about how the UPS Billing Center can help your startup or small business gain a competitive edge while staying on top of your shipping costs.

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Find Out More

  • UPS Billing Center

    Find UPS shipping invoices and reporting tools to help you accelerate billing and payment, and track costs.

    Learn more about UPS billing services
  • UPS CampusShip®

    Find the best packaging materials and configurations for your products, with the help of the UPS Package Design and Test Lab. 

    Learn more about package testing and design
  • Manage Inbound and Outbound Shipments Like a Pro

    View and manage inbound and outbound shipments with interactive dashboards, delivery alerts and estimated delivery windows, with UPS My Choice® for business. 

    Sign up for UPS My Choice for business
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