You only need to speak to a handful of people responsible for shipping within their business to understand experiences with their freight forwarding company vary considerably, from excellent to poor. While some enjoy a fantastic relationship with their preferred freight forwarder, some struggle to maintain a happy balance, with unfulfilled promises and poor communication cited as common causes of frustration. So after spending your valuable time sourcing the right partner, how can you ensure your relationship is a successful one? Here are four recommendations to start your partnership on the right track.
1) Agree on expectations at the outset
Make sure you and your freight forwarding company understand your roles in the partnership right at the beginning. If expectations, roles and responsibilities aren’t defined, it’s inevitable that they’ll be a misunderstanding at some point. Avoid this happening by being clear about what you need from your new freight forwarder and what standards you expect them to deliver.
2) Plan for the unexpected
Unfortunately, the process of shipping isn’t always plain sailing (pardon the pun!), and inevitably sometimes it can go wrong. While it’s not usually down to the freight forwarding company, you do need to rely on them for information on the issue and how they’re dealing with it. For example, in September 2016, the Hanjin shipping line collapsed; in April 2017, there were enormous delays at Shanghai’s Yangshan Port and in June 2017, one of the world’s largest carriers, Maersk, experienced a Cyber Attack. If your business was affected by a problem such as these, you’ll know that communication is critical to help you mitigate the impact on your business.
Agree with your freight forwarding company the process they will follow in the event of any problems affecting your shipments. How will you be advised? In what timeframe? What actions will they take to handle it? By planning how you expect your freight forwarder to respond to a problem in advance, you can be confident they will deal with it to your satisfaction.
3) Make an effort to get to know each other
Relationships work best when we know who we’re working with, so make an effort to get to know your freight forwarding company’s employees at all levels. Introducing your staff to the freight forwarder’s operational team can really help establish rapport. A good personality fit is just as important as them having the right skills and experience to advise you properly. Remember, introductions don’t have to be in person if it’s not practical; emails, phone and video calls make it easy to ‘meet’ people even if you can’t be in the same location.
Understanding the skills and expertise your freight forwarding team can offer helps to establish trust and respect for the people you’re working with.
4) Ensure value is easily visible
If you’re considering or already using a freight forwarding company, it’s an absolute must that you can see the value they deliver. This goes beyond arranging shipments for you or getting you the best rates; it’s about working with you to achieve your objectives, whatever they may be. For example, if your business wants to reduce carbon emissions you could work with your freight forwarder to minimise freight miles by implementing port-centric logistics or consolidating shipments. You might want them to help you improve the service you provide to your customers by distributing to them directly from the forwarder’s warehouse on your behalf. If you’re going to pay a freight forwarding company for their professional services, a return on that investment should be easily visible.
When it comes to building a brilliant relationship with your freight forwarding company, remember it’s not all about services and rates. Naturally, they help, but it’s people that make the real difference to a great partnership. Working with people that have a good understanding of your business, culture and values can be really rewarding. Remember we’re all human, and it’s often the little things that make the most significant difference.