When it comes to shipping and logistics, the importance of good carrier relationships can hardly be overstated. Vendor-client relationships must be carefully managed and cultivated in all businesses, so as a shipper, it is vital that you work to nurture your carrier relationships. After all, if it weren’t for your carriers, you would not be able to meet the needs of your customers.
Whether you ship goods directly to customers or you deliver merchandise to stores or other businesses, you need carriers you can depend on to deliver orders promptly and ensure that everything arrives safely. Using the right packaging and shipping materials protects items while in transit, but you still need carriers you can depend on to deliver your goods with care.
Establishing a great relationship with your carriers is the best way to get the most out of their services. It is easy to forget that these companies are more than just equipment and machines that get the job done. They are made up of people with real goals and needs who have their own strengths and weaknesses. Keeping that in mind enables you to establish and maintain mutually beneficial relationships.
Here are a few simple yet effective methods of improving carrier relationships.
Most carriers no longer accept all the freight that is offered to them. Instead, they look to work with companies that add value to their networks. Work closely with your carriers to determine which services and lanes are most beneficial — both for your business and theirs. When you show that you are concerned with adding value to help them meet their goals in addition to having your own needs met, you can form long-term mutually beneficial relationships that will keep you both happy.
If you are a shipper, you want the best possible rates. That’s understandable. But a good carrier is not going to just bow to your demands and give you the exact rate you are looking for. Seeking out the cheapest rate may seem like a great strategy, but it is a terrible way to start a relationship.
Negotiating rates is important, but don’t forget to consider things like expectations and values. Establishing these criteria ensures that both you and your carrier are on the same page and makes a better first step toward building a strong relationship than focusing on cost alone.
If you plan on holding your carriers to their word — and you should — you need to honor your word to them, too. They provide you with pricing based on the information you give them, so you need to be honest and forthcoming about things like monthly volumes and freight characteristic percentages. It is also extremely important that you ship in the tonnages and lanes you commit to. If you fail to do so or you provide inaccurate or, worse, dishonest information, you could find yourself needing to renegotiate or find a new carrier much sooner than you expected.
When new business opportunities arise, present them to your partner carrier before talking to anyone else. If you can come to a mutually beneficial agreement, everyone wins. And your carrier will feel honored that you thought of them ahead of any other company. You’ll save a lot of time and expense and reap a lot of benefit from a smooth transition — and the carrier will earn more of your business. These types of situations go a long way toward strengthening relationships.
Drivers have a difficult job. They are forced to work with numerous customers and often face the brunt of the frustration when something goes wrong. Anything you can do to make your drivers’ lives easier helps your carriers retain them and avoid the cost of hiring and training new drivers. Treating long-term drivers with respect also helps make the delivery and pickup processes easier and more efficient. Plus, showing a bit of kindness and respect is just the decent thing to do.
Communication breakdowns between shippers and carriers can cause huge problems. Ideally, you should hold meetings with carriers quarterly. These meetings provide opportunities to review performance metrics, address new services or options and strengthen relationships. These meetings are also a good time to discuss strategies to reduce costs and avoid increasing rates. Working together to find solutions prior to renegotiating a contract strengthens the partnership and helps ensure that everyone’s needs are being met.
As a shipper, you probably expect your carriers to provide you with real-time data regarding where shipments are, when they are expected to be delivered and if any problems arise. Carriers work extremely hard to implement technology that makes this type of real-time tracking possible, and that sort of technology comes at a steep price. In return, you should be willing to implement and use technology that enables accurate data transfer without requiring any additional work from your carrier. The carrier will appreciate your efforts, and as a bonus, implementing this technology in your business means you will have less manual work to do, too.
Whether you are beginning a brand-new partnership with a carrier or your needs have changed dramatically, don’t expect the carrier to be able to accommodate your needs overnight. Allow time for them to prepare their systems and train staff as needed before expecting them to take on new freight and lanes. If you fail to allow time for planning and demand that they accommodate your needs immediately, you risk damaging an existing relationship or getting a rocky and expensive start to a new relationship.
When working with carriers, always provide accurate data and ensure that everyone involved is treated with respect. When all levels of the organization have good relationships, shipper/carrier partnerships are more likely to remain strong and healthy.