Aaron Huff

Aaron Untitled 1Signature is King

Celadon Group using fast, paperless method for executing contracts

 



A longtime customer sends you an urgent e-mail. A load needs to move quickly. You reply with a rate that the customer hastily approves.

With this tentative agreement in place, you dispatch a truck and deliver the load. When it’s time to send the invoice, the customer bickers over the rate, fuel surcharge and accessorials and delays payment until the issue is resolved.

This situation could be resolved quickly if the customer had signed a rate confirmation sheet. In an effort to please the customer, you skipped over the process of getting a signature in person or by fax machine.

If you ever have experienced a similar documentation problem, you’re not alone. Last year, management of the Celadon Group, one of the largest long-haul carriers in the nation, decided that getting rate contracts signed quickly was an area that needed improvement.

Like many carriers, Celadon uses Microsoft Excel and Word to create rate sheets and contracts. Its sales representatives were e-mailing files to customers directly from Celadon’s homegrown customer relationship management system. The system kept a correspondence record of rates and acceptances.

“We used (e-mail) as a backing to a rate we gave out,” says Chad Hoffman, pricing manager for Celadon. What the company lacked was a process for capturing signatures in the same timeframe that it gave out rates. In many cases, sales representatives were delivering papers to customers in person and then e-mailing PDF images of the signed originals back to Celadon’s central office in Indianapolis.

This process took weeks – even months – to get rate contracts signed and fully executed. Last year, Mike Gabbei, Celadon’s chief information officer, saw a solution when he e-signed a contract with a technology supplier. In January, Celadon began using the same technology from Palo Alto, Calif.-based EchoSign.

“Life is good from a documentation standpoint.”

– Chad Hoffman, pricing manager, Celadon

Through EchoSign, Celadon now is able to e-mail the same Excel, Word and PDF files it already was using for contracts. After logging in to the EchoSign website, a Celadon associate enters a customer’s e-mail address, uploads a contract and establishes a few parameters for where to initial and sign the document. The customer simply clicks a link in the e-mail to enter a secure website and view a PDF version of the contract. The only person who can sign a document is the person who receives it. If the e-mail is forwarded, it will not work.

After clicking a button to agree to the terms, the customer types in his or her name. A signature font appears on the contract. Once the document is signed, the parties involved in the transaction receive a fully executed PDF document. Celadon saves the document in its imaging system without having to print or use paper again.

“This helps us get approval at the same speed, if not quicker, than e-mail,” Hoffman says. “It provides more clear documentation of the official agreement.” EchoSign keeps a history of when the document was sent and signed, and when the customer received the final PDF copy.

Celadon has received positive responses from customers using EchoSign. The pricing department has sent out between 200 and 300 contracts for signature, and between 30 and 40 percent of Celadon’s customers are e-signing contracts.

The volume will continue to grow. In a typical bid season, Celadon responds to between 400 and 600 bids. With EchoSign, the company can manage the signature process centrally, removing this responsibility from the sales force.

With rate contracts, fuel surcharges and accessorials being signed and filed electronically, Hoffman expects to see a decrease in the amount of revenue that is written off due to invoice disagreements. The initiative also should improve efficiency of human resources and obviously reduce paper.


Aaron Huff is Senior Editor of Commercial Carrier Journal.

E-mail ahuff@ccjmagazine.com or call (801) 754-4296.