When it comes to international commerce, one of the most important factors to consider to speed up every operation and make your logistics more efficient and ensure compliance is the selection of the right customs broker. But, what is a customs broker and what do they do? Customs brokers are trusted by their respective government to defend the country’s revenue and help importers and exporters meet Federal requirements related to their shipments. In other words, they take care of trade duties and fees of a shipment being imported into a particular country, so the shipment can enter the country and be delivered quickly. Depending on the country, there are different regulations and rules that need to be abided. A good customs broker- in the country you send shipments to- will have the necessary information, stay up-to-date on customs regulations and rules, and see that shipments are cleared accurately and in a timely manner in order to avoid hefty fines or penalties. If you want to know the specific functions of a customs broker, click here. Once you have decided it would be more efficient for your business to have a customs broker rather than doing the work yourself, here are some things to consider that will help you hire the best customs broker available to you:

Take into consideration your business size and number of imports:

Depending on the size of your business and the number of imports you’re handling, you may need one customs broker that will handle your account or, if shipments are coming in from different ports, you may need to hire a customs broker per port to handle those shipments for you. This is relevant particularly when it comes to importing to Mexico. This will entail better communication, management, and making sure the workload is properly delegated to avoid mishaps in your day-to-day logistics. In other regions like the US, you may want one customs broker to make sure you are consistent with your filings.

Check academic and professional background, and industry experience:

It’s important to work with a customs broker that is academically prepared, professionally experienced, and has the industry background that you need. That way, you can get a good sense of whether this could be the right customs broker for you. A well-prepared customs broker is a good sign of knowledge, speed, and customer service. In addition, if they have experience clearing your type of products and have previously worked with clients in your same industry, it will make the whole process faster and efficient.

Consider a licensed customs broker:

Every customs broker in the US and Mexico has to have a license to operate. This allows them to work with approved customs declaration systems and technology needed for optimal document transfer like customs permits, packing lists, invoices, etc. With their expertise, they should be able to understand laws and regulations your shipments need to comply with, notify you if there’s changes, and clarify taxes that must be paid. Also, brokers operating in specific ports should be affiliated to certain customs associations. Most importers feel more comfortable with a higher ratio of licensed brokers. However, having a license to operate is not the be-all and end-all. When it comes to customs brokerage, education matters the most. Jay Gerard, Head of Customs at Nuvocargo, says:

“It should give importers a certain level of comfort knowing the level of experience a broker has and the percentage of licensed brokers that are there to assist you. Certain brokers are commodity experts and subject matter experts, and in certain countries brokers are tied to certain ports. I like to look at a broker’s ongoing training, on topics such as changes to regulations and rules, as well as external webinars where they offer to their customer base opportunities to stay on top of this ever changing environment. That is key for a strong customs brokerage partner.”

Culture matters:

Overseeing logistics means having to monitor and keep a constant eye on all the shipments around your business. That's why culture and excellent customer service are necessary to look at when choosing a customs broker. If their culture shows they will go above and beyond to offer you support to manage your global customs, and be there when you need, it may be in alignment with what you seek. When looking at different customs brokers, ask about their accessibility, and whether you can talk to someone when it’s needed at any time, any day. Also, you should consider what Service Level Agreement (SLA) they will stick to: On time performance? Data? Compliance?

Include technology:

While technology is changing the logistics industry, it’s necessary to look for brokers that also work and invest in technology to manage their business, minimize mistakes, maximize compliance, and make the overall process more efficient. Technology in customs brokerage offers more visibility, security in terms of information storage in one place, data integration and reports, real-time updates, and more granular details to help you manage your customs and logistics operation.  

 

In Nuvocargo, we’re working to become the international commerce platform that helps you navigate all the complexities of cross-border trade and shipping in one place. Our customs brokerage team is expanding in order to offer you the best service possible. If you would like to know more about Nuvocargo’s growth and vision in customs brokerage, click here.