A Retailer’s Guide to Parcel Audits
Running a retail business isn’t easy. Many factors go into getting products into customers’ hands, and it can feel like there’s not enough time to handle them all. But it’s worth taking the time to ensure your shipping process is running smoothly. Why? Because spotting a problem early is always better than letting it continue undetected.
That’s the purpose of a parcel audit. And if your retail business isn’t currently using them, you should.
What Is a Parcel Audit?
Simply put, a parcel audit is the process of reviewing your shipping invoices. This gives you the confidence that your shipping partner is charging you correctly. It reveals inaccuracies, missed discounts or mistakes — all of which can lead to unnecessarily high costs.
Why Should I Do a Parcel Audit?
The biggest benefit of parcel audits is also the most obvious: they can save your business money. Audits help confirm your charges are accurate — and if they’re not, you can take action. You can file a claim with your carrier for reimbursement. Big or small, that’s money you don’t need to leave on the table.
But the perks of parcel audits go beyond spotting errors. If you’re being charged correctly, but your totals are still high, parcel audits will make you aware of it. You can then optimize your supply chain and work to cut costs on your end.
There’s another benefit that might surprise you: audits can help improve your relationship with your carrier. It might seem that pointing out a carrier’s mistakes would have the opposite effect, but your carrier should want to be transparent with you. They know that to keep your business, they have to provide excellent service. If they’ve made a mistake, they’ll appreciate the opportunity to make things right.
What Should I Look For?
First things first: make sure your carrier is charging you the rate you agreed to! Especially if you’ve just negotiated your shipping services agreement, it’s possible your carrier forgot to apply the new rate. This is more likely to be a one-time catch than a repeated mistake, but it’s still important to consider. If you do catch an error, your savings could be massive.
Once you’ve confirmed your rate, the next step is to dig into your ancillary charges. Many major carriers add surcharges on top of your base shipping rate, for factors like package size or delivery area. Check to make sure these were all calculated and applied appropriately. Plus, if you negotiated for any discounts or waivers in your shipping services agreement, make sure those were applied as well.
Finally, look at your delivery windows. Carriers understand how important quick shipping is for retailers’ reputations. They strive to deliver packages on time, and if they fall behind, they may offer a late-delivery rebate. However, there’s a catch: the window to file a claim for a rebate is quite short. For most major carriers, it’s about two weeks after delivery. If you want to claim the rebates you’re entitled to, it’s important to stay on top of your audits.
Of course, most retailers would rather have on-time deliveries than rebates. If your carrier fails to improve its on-time percentage, you may not have an audit problem on your hands. Instead, it may be time to consider a new carrier.
Performing parcel audits is a good idea across the board. For your retail business, the cost savings and peace of mind are incredibly valuable. And for your carrier, the process is just as rewarding. It’s in their best interest to review all invoices. Not just to balance their books, but also because they want to be the best possible shipping partner for your business.
A reputable carrier cares about your business as much as you do. Making parcel audits part of your regular process can help you get the most out of that partnership — and set you up for retail success.