The past year has seen unprecedented supply chain disruptions and delayed shipments. Recently, load tender rejections fell below the 5% mark to 4.93% — a new cycle low not seen since May, 2020, when the economy was shifting out of the lockdown-induced deep freeze. With the bottom around 4%, there’s not much further to fall.
With carrier compliance and freight acceptance so high, now is the time to think about normalizing the freight industry by leaning into excellent customer service. Following are three tips for improving your organization’s overall performance and customer service.
Increase customer communications and visibility. The number-one thing to think about is the performance of carriers. Which ones hung in there with you during tough times? What has acceptance been like over the past 12 months? And what are your on-time pickup and delivery percentages?
This is a time to reevaluate carriers and potentially source new ones to improve your carrier pool. By evaluating these variables and tracking compliance, you can ensure you have the best selection of logistics service providers moving forward.
This is also a time to improve visibility and communication. Efforts might include automating delivery notifications or investing in portals where customers can log in to view the status of their shipments in real time. By internally improving processes to ensure you’re proactive in your customer communications, you can ensure they have timely information from you while it’s happening.
Strengthen client relationships. It’s essential to connect with customers regularly to understand how their businesses are pivoting against shifts in the world and economy. Schedule check-ins at least once a quarter, if not monthly or biweekly. Discuss better routing solutions, ports and any other tools that might help them make better decisions.
By improving visibility and reporting, logistics managers can do their jobs better. Generate meaningful, customized reports that help them manage and report up their chain of command.
Be proactive within your own organization. During periods of slower activity, evaluate internal processes to ensure your company is as proficient and agile as possible. For example, consider evaluating on-time pickup and delivery rates. Presumably, you’re using GPS tracking; if so, you should also be recording this data. Compare the recorded arrival times to the parameters you set (for example, a two-hour window within which the carrier was expected to arrive). As a rule of thumb, anything 96% or higher is pretty good. Anything below 92% is suspect. There should be a good reason for a temporary drop that big, such as a last-minute order of 20 shipments from a single location, which didn’t give the carrier enough advance notice. If not, you must evaluate your systems to return to the 93% to 97% performance score range.
Tracking compliance is another back-to-basics essential. Are carriers updating tracking reports and providing updates? If these reports don’t comply with your standards, you must terminate the relationship and source new carriers.
The other thing to evaluate when reassessing the basics is the key metrics that are important to each department within the company. Make sure that each is pulling its weight. How many shipments is carrier sales doing per month? Is it in line with what peers are doing? What’s the fall-off percentage? Who’s leading the pack or falling behind? Are there enough outbound phone calls happening? You can ensure that your company is set up for optimal performance by identifying the right metrics and making them clear to each department manager.
Finally, you can improve the team's overall performance by providing staff with ongoing mentorship opportunities, and pairing low-performing team members with high-performing ones.
While many of these steps might seem obvious, they’re often overlooked during tumultuous times such as those of the past year. Now that we’re entering a period of normalcy, and the dust is starting to settle, it’s time to take a breath and revisit some of these basics — to retool any parts of the business that didn’t keep up with the fast-changing times, or maybe got lost in the shuffle.
Matt Lawrence is chief executive officer of Fox Logistics.
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