Printbuyers Online

Getting an accurate invoice

A satisfactory experience with a print supplier means more than just getting on-time delivery and an acceptable quality product. As buyers, we want to work with suppliers that make our jobs easier - or at least not more difficult. One way a supplier can reduce our workload and stress is to make the billing process as hassle-free as possible.

Since each buying company's needs are different, you can help your suppliers help you by specifying your expectations for the invoicing/billing up front. Better yet, put your expectations in writing for them. Here are some points that you may want to discuss with your supplier.

  • The must-haves - Tell your supplier what must be on the invoice. Do you need your purchase order number on the invoice? Do you need to see the quantities broken out by marketing code?

  • Who does it go to? - If the invoice goes to someone other than yourself, you'll want to make sure that you tell your supplier who that person is, their department, and address if different from yours.

  • When do you need it? - How quickly do you expect to receive the invoice? Some companies, particularly design firms and advertising agencies, want the invoice a few days after delivery. They may need to use this invoice to bill their customers.

  • Format - If you are buying a component package with several pieces being produced at the same time -- it can be a hassle to receive separate invoices for each piece, and particularly frustrating if the invoices arrive at separate times. Therefore, be sure to specify how to treat the billing for a component project. Or perhaps you want to see the bill broken out in per/m pricing, as well as a total price. Specify this as well.

  • AAs and COs -- When you make changes to your job once it is in process, what is your expectation for the billing of author's alterations (AAs) or change orders (COs)? Is a summary cost sufficient or do you need to see a detailed explanation? And to what level? Do you need to see supporting documentation?

  • Accuracy and detail -- Inaccurate invoices or those that lack detail can, at the minimum, cause confusion and more work for both parties and slow down payment. At worst it can create a distrust of the supplier.

  • "Surprises" -- Surprises on the invoice can also cause distrust. Here's a typical communication problem between the supplier and the buyer: While the job is in the works, the customer service rep tells the buyer that those last-minute changes are going to "cost more." When the buyer asks how much, the CSR replies vaguely, "oh, not that much." After the buyer receives the invoice, however, she is disappointed to learn that her idea of "not much" is far different from the CSR's.

It's frustrating to work with suppliers that continually submit inaccurate or incomplete invoices or invoices that lack detail. For this reason alone, some buyers take their business elsewhere. On the other hand, suppliers that take the time to get this right stand apart from their competitors. They are perceived as conscientious, organized, and aware of the entire buying experience. By communicating your billing expectations up front, you will help your suppliers provide you with better service.

Do you have comments on this article or additions to the above list? If so, e-mail me at Title your e-mail "invoicing suggestion."

   © 2016 Print Buyers, Inc.