An Improperly Completed Commercial Invoice can Impact your Customer Satisfaction

expect delays

A simple mistake or a rush job on the commercial invoice can delay your shipment at the border. Or worse, it can cause your customer to pay more duties and taxes.

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by Nadine Hogan

Sep 15, 2014

Key Points

  • A faulty commercial invoice affects customer satisfaction, as seen in a delayed jewelry shipment.
  • Neglecting commercial invoice details led to a disruptive border incident, stressing the costs of oversight.
  • Commercial invoices are crucial for international shipments, aiding customs in verifying admissibility and duty rates.
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A missing or improperly completed commercial invoice can impact your customer satisfaction Delayed shipments? Ain’t no-one got time for that!

I have a friend (Mark) who lives in New York City. As if that didn’t make me jealous enough, this highly talented friend makes jewelry for a living; jewelry that he pieces together from his travels around the globe. Are you green with envy too?

As you can imagine, Mark’s jewelry line does well. So well, in fact, that I no longer look for the ‘friend freebies’ and now support him by gifting these one-of-a-kind pieces whenever I can. Last year, when my husband’s birthday rolled around, I happened to be on Mark’s website when I saw the perfect gift. A necklace so unique that I didn’t even have time to call my friend, I ordered it on-line before anyone else could.

jewelery that was delayed at customs A few days later, I remembered to call Mark and thank him for this gift I was so anxious to give. Except, I couldn’t thank him because it still hadn’t arrived. I was eager to see the necklace in person and when it became clear it was way later than it should have been, Mark and I both became concerned.

Although I was frustrated that my husband’s birthday came and went without being able to gift him the jewelry, Mark was even more frustrated because this is his livelihood. I was an understanding friend, but most of his orders go to strangers who are less forgiving (especially if it’s their first purchase and they are not comfortable with the supplier).

As Mark began to search for the shipment it became clear that the trip from New York City to Ottawa was disrupted at the border. Even more frustrating was the knowledge that it was a simple mistake made on the commercial invoice (CI)  that had cost him all of this worry and confusion. Though he knew he had to provide a commercial invoice, given he was shipping a product outside of the United States, he neglected to take the time to ensure everything was filled out as accurately and clearly as possible. Although this extra step is time consuming, it’s necessary because customs officials need this information to help them determine two main things:

  1. The goods being imported are admissible (ie. are you allowed to import all the items in your shipment?); and
  2. The correct harmonized system (HS) code and rate of duty (ie. how much duty is to be charged on this import?)

Mark learned a very important lesson that day. The commercial invoice is IMPORTANT. Very important. The information on this document can either help or hinder you – which would you choose? That answer is as clear as Mark’s commercial invoices going forward. As a business owner, there is no question that customer service can make or break you. A little more time to focus on the commercial invoice and a lot less time trying to win back unhappy customers – that Mark’s new motto anyway!

What about you? Can your business/small business afford border delays? Do you have time to chase missing shipments? If not stay tuned. The commercial invoice is important enough to garner two blog posts from us. We will break it down in more detail next week.

Breaking Down the Commercial Invoice

About the author: Nadine Hogan

About the author

Nadine Hogan is a writer, blogger, yoga teacher and dessert lover living in Ottawa, Ontario. While she loves to send her nephews their Christmas and birthday presents from Ottawa to Calgary, she also loves to save money doing so. This shipping-made-easier information is what she shares, and as she continues to learn more she'll spread the word!
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