Selecting a freight forwarder

Ed Marsh | Mar 14, 2012
This post first appeared on  www.morethanshipping.com - and was contributed by our own Ed Marsh - an international business veteran. 

#1 - don't make it my concern

freight forwarder is important partner in export and international business developmentDid you ever wonder why most forwarders advertise themselves the same as every other? Are they all exactly the same? Of course not. And yet so often their pitches are identical. But as a business owner I’m savvy to that, and I’ve developed a “secret” method of evaluating a potential service partner. 

It may sound harsh – if so I apologize politely for offending you, but not for quickly screening overtures that would otherwise waste my time. 

Here’s my secret…. I don’t care about your NVO abilities, house bill of lading, the ISF filing or any of that junk. And yet every time I hear from a logistics provider trying to get my business they start rattling off the same list of acronyms and industry terms. Do you not realize you sound like the last 73 people that called? And did it occur to you that I am not interested in any of it? 

To be fair I understand that it’s important to you. This is how you buy your children’s Christmas presents. I get it. And I also understand that all those details are important in making sure that my product moves quickly, safely and as cheaply as possible. But the ability to toss around terms hasn’t helped all the acronym empowered logistics firms that have failed to move product as promised. 

Will I even know you're there?

So here’s my standard – are you transparent? If not, don’t waste my time. I am only interested in working with you if you can promise that I won’t even know you’re there! 

You think that sounds crazy? Here’s why it’s not. You think you are coordinating the movement of freight. That’s way too simplistic a view. You are actually:
  • Determining the success or failure of my lengthy new customer acquisition. Screw up their first shipment and my work is in vain.
  • Controlling the new product release for the company awaiting these materials for final assembly and synchronized launch
  • Impacting the huge late delivery fines that I will have to pay if this product isn’t delivered as scheduled
  • Carrying the livelihood of my workers who need that machine to arrive on time to allow them to increase productivity and manufacture economically here in the US 

My "nine neins" - or "are you the right one?"

That’s not melodramatic. Your TEUs are just stats and triplicate forms, but they are my livelihood. So before you assure me your service is “the best” here’s my “nine neins” list of questions. Answer no to any of them and save us both time. Don’t bother! 

1. Are you transparent?

No offense intended, but I don’t want to know you are there. I have enough to do. When I get off a plane 12 time zones away after 24 hours of travel and have to deal with personnel questions, that’s my job. If I am fighting an email outage, that’s my burden (but rest assured my checklist for IT providers is similar to this!) But answering logistics questions that should have been asked and answered long ago is not. 

2. Can you get me accurate prices, quickly?

Too often deals come down to small details like shipping cost. We know it’s work for you. Sorry, but we are asking you because we are being asked. And, if we ask for CIF, don’t send DDP. Details matter! 

3. Will you provide consistent pricing?

We’ll reward you with loyalty, and won’t waste your time with extraneous requirements. But don’t waste ours by making us compare rates. Treat us fairly every time. 

4. Will you take responsibility?

I could care less about the local delivery complications. You’re the forwarder. End of discussion. 

5. Will you learn my business?

If you know I normally ship DG, then “double check” with us when you see a shipment which doesn’t indicate that. 

6. Will you proactively feed me information?

If I have to call you to find out what’s happening, you’ve failed. You should be keeping me up to date on any wrinkles, including how you are addressing them, and provide an on-line tool for me to track any shipments in transit. 

7. Is your invoicing easy to understand and invariably accurate?

If I have to read through 30 line invoices for a single shipment to catch the ones which are incorrect, you are wasting my time. 

8. Are you going to honor your quotes?

Demurrage may be a “standard charge” but you had all the details when you provided a quote. You knew how far the delivery location was from the port, and how long the turn would take. Not my problem. 

9. Will you anticipate my requirements before I do?

Will you take the initiative to address details that I don’t know are important? Will you proactively keep my shipments “on track”? 

Bonus Question: Is “Well, I assumed you knew” part of your lexicon?

Remember, logistics is your business, not mine. I don’t expect you to understand anything about my manufacturing, but I don’t care to understand the intricacies of what happens once product leaves my dock.
 

I’m sorry (not really) if this sounds harsh. But it’s reality. My customers demand precision and dependability every time. If you want to share in my success you will also share that responsibility.

Ready to work with an expert to help you improve the areas of your export / international business development program that aren't as smooth as you'd like?

Created on 04/07/12 at 10:39:46  

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