At some point, any commodity that is shipped is going to end up on a truck. Even if all you need to do is get something from a plane to a warehouse or retail outlet a couple of miles down the road, it’s going to be trucked – you’re not going to backpack it in, right? And regardless of what type of business you’re in, you will need to get your goods from Point A to Point B. Choose the right logistics company, and it’s smooth sailing. Choose the wrong one, and you can end up with a ton of aggravation.
Oddly enough, a lot of companies don’t give a whole lot of thought to selecting the right company to move their goods. Frequently, it’s an afterthought – the goods are at the airport or at the warehouse, and someone has to move them. Well, that’s what Google or the Yellow Pages is for, right?
Wrong. If you pick the wrong carrier just based on who comes up first in the search results or who’s “AAA” in the phone directory, you could make a huge mistake, end up with some extremely dissatisfied customers, and even lose money. So what are you going to do?
The first thing you need to do is think about what your customer needs. How soon do they need the shipment? Is the shipment perishable? Does it need to be there overnight, or is sometime during the work week equally acceptable? Can the shipment go by trailer or do you need a flatbed? Are there access problems? Does the freight have to be on pallets? Most truckers can tell you horror stories about freight that just couldn’t be delivered within the desired time frame, or trying to get a B-train into the loading area when the lot is the size of a postage stamp. You need to be sure that your carrier has the right equipment for the job, and can deliver on time.
Once you’ve identified your customer’s needs, it’s time to start contacting logistics companies.
Know Your Carrier
Ideally, you should identify a carrier that you can partner with, who can serve all your needs. In order to find just the right carrier, there are several things you should consider.
- Can You Speak with a Knowledgeable Person?
This sounds pretty obvious, but depending on the carrier, you may not actually be able to be in touch with someone who knows your routing, understands the type of equipment you need, and can ensure that your needs are met. We’ve all dealt with call centers at some point in our lives, and the sad truth is that often, the person you’re speaking with may have no idea what you specifically need, especially if you’re dealing with a huge multi-national company. Can someone working out of an overseas call center tell you that your freight isn’t likely, for instance, to get to Chicago this week because huge snowstorms are expected? Not likely. Ideally, you want to talk with someone who knows your area and knows your account.
- Can You Track Your Freight Online?
The better carriers will offer online tracking. This means that you know where your freight is at any given time, instantly, from any device. It also means that your carrier is committed to full transparency when it comes to the quality of their service.
- Does Your Carrier Offer Multiple Services?
You don’t always have to ship a trailer full of goods. Sometimes you just need a straight truck, or you might even want to combine a small load with other loads going to the same destination. Sometimes you might need flatbed or B-train. The perfect carrier is one that offers everything – all you need to do is pick up the phone and tell them what you’re shipping and when it needs to get there. They’ll look after the details for you.
- Do You Have a Dedicated Account Manager?
With the right carrier, you should always be able to speak with someone who knows you, knows your business, and knows what you need and how to get it for you. If you’re being bounced back and forth from person to person, that’s a good indication that the carrier isn’t really all that invested in making sure that you have a good customer experience.
- Can You Visit Your Carrier?
Good carriers are fully transparent. You should be welcome to visit their office at any time, and speak to anyone who is working there. If there’s nothing to hide, you’ll be welcomed. And when you visit, do the people working there seem to be happy in their job? Are they friendly and happy to chat? Happy people are passionate about their job, and eager to serve you. And if they’re not, that likely means that the carrier doesn’t have much interest in their satisfaction – and by extension, probably not much in yours either.
- Is the Pricing Fair?
Are there hidden charges? When you’re given a quote, how long is it good for? Are there minimum usage requirements? Will you be notified immediately if there are any price changes? A good carrier will offer full transparency.
- When Things Go Wrong, What Happens?
You might think that if you’ve found the right carrier, nothing will go wrong. But it will. Accidents happen, and no one can control the weather. So if your shipment is delayed or damaged, will your carrier contact you right away, tell you what’s happened, and let you know what they’re doing to remedy the situation, or will they go to ground? If your carrier doesn’t communicate with you, then you need to find another carrier, plain and simple.
The Final Word
When you’re choosing a logistics company, pricing is important, but it shouldn’t necessarily be the only consideration. Communication, availability, and full transparency are key. If your carrier is available to you even when things go wrong, if their staff clearly loves what they do and wants to do everything in their power to ensure that you have a good customer experience, and can provide exactly what you need when you need it, then you don’t need to look any further. You’ve found your carrier.