Nobody wants a business partner chosen purely out of necessity, least of all when it comes to logistics. Managing a supply chain is a tough enough task without miscommunication, distrust or clashing values muddying the picture. That’s why developing positive relationships with preferred shipping partners and reducing the stress associated with shipping and distribution is such a crucial factor in every company’s supply chain.
Here are a few steps logistics experts can take to improve their odds of earning the title “shipper of choice.”
Characteristics of a shipper of choice
Being a shipper of choice means being the type of business carriers actively seek out and value partnerships with. When given multiple options, carriers tend to pick shipping partners who treat them with respect and make the process of delivery easy and painless.
To become a shipper of choice, shippers need to consistently demonstrate the following characteristics:
- Forward thinking
- Minimized dwell, detention, and delays
- Ability to consistently pay on time
- Makes data-driven decisions
- Offers clear communication and transparency
- Treats carriers with respect
One way good partners plan ahead is by providing sufficient lead time – give carriers enough time to plan and schedule their own operations, and they’ll be more likely to work with you in the future. While it’s not always possible to know shipping schedules in advance, the more lead time you can give, the better. Most carriers prefer at least 48 hours of lead time.
Minimized dwell, detention, and delays
Drivers want to get in and get out of facilities as quickly as possible. With strict monitoring through ELDs (Electronic Logging Devices), drivers know every minute spent on the dock means minutes off the road. Most drivers consider detention a big problem, ranking it in the top five challenges of their business.
Here’s what your company can do to build a reputation for short loading/unloading times:
- Be sure you have enough people available to load/unload.
- Pre-load as much as possible.
- Plan out shipping routes, taking into account weather and market conditions.
- Ensure availability at terminals, warehouses, and other facilities.
- Have all the paperwork in order and ready to go.
Paying on time
Everyone deserves to be paid on time and in full. A shipper who pays their invoices quickly and takes care of any added fees on time helps keep shipments moving. For some carriers, there isn’t much flexibility in their finances, which means the timing of every invoice matters. Payment terms should be no longer than 30 days – if they are, it might be time to talk to your finance team about how to cut back on lead time for payments.
Leaving some wiggle room makes a huge difference to carriers. If they know docks will be open early or late, on weekends, and even on holidays, they can limit downtime and even play catch up if they have fallen behind. Opening appointment times increases the pool of available drivers and makes their freight more attractive to carriers. Allow early delivery for even more flexibility.
Industry tools, trends and data do more than just improve workflow. The world of logistics runs on data as shippers look for the optimal routes and rates to move goods. Data can even help forecast potential weather or traffic issues that may threaten to delay delivery.
Clear communication and transparency
This is one of those universal truths for any relationship, business or otherwise: clear communication is essential. Any rates, values or relevant company policies need to be easily available to potential clients. Often, all it takes is a quick email or phone call to ensure everyone is on the same page when an unexpected delay occurs.
Treat carriers with respect
Dedicated partnerships are formed through building relationships of trust and mutual respect. That means treating everyone as a true teammate all the time and to expect employees to do the same. Seemingly simple services like clean bathrooms and a break room for carriers can go a long way.
Small adjustments make a big difference
Remember these simple steps as you work to formulate new business partnerships, make specific operational adjustments, improve company culture and take care of your carriers. Good communication, flexibility, and basing decisions on industry data will make a significant impact on your business’ overall efficiency.