June 2011 | Commentary | 3PL Line

Does Your 3PL Provide ‘Golden Rule’ Customer Service?

Tags: 3PL, Customer Service

John Rodeheffer is vice president of sales, Zipline Logistics. 888-469-4754

Outsourcing logistics can be hectic and stressful, especially if you deal with a provider more interested in the next shipment than the one en route right now.

Imagine a third-party logistics provider (3PL) that does whatever it takes to fix shipping problems, believes there is no such thing as “just a transaction,” and whose drivers smile when they make deliveries and are happy to go the extra mile for your customers. Imagine a company that believes every delivery involves a shipper and a receiver— and a chance to build a trusting relationship.

Go for the Gold

Sound like a dream? It’s one that can come true— with a 3PL company that employs ‘Golden Rule’ customer service. This means its staff treats others as they want to be treated, from customers to other internal employees to contracted drivers. It’s a 3PL that pays carriers on time instead of delaying payment to maximize cash flow, and is aware of the need for financial flexibility in difficult situations.

Golden Rule customer service means honest and transparent communication with people who not only admit when there is a mistake, but head off potential problems with proactive solutions.

Here are some ways to tell whether your logistics provider values and delivers Golden Rule customer service:

  • Browse the company’s Web site. What kind of ethics do the owners say they embrace? Read the Mission and Values statements and check for membership in the local Better Business Bureau and service organizations. Note any local, regional, and even national service awards.
  • Get to know the provider. What kind of experience does your 3PL have? Does it strive to do the right thing in every dicey situation? Does it push to get positive results for customers and live its values in every decision? A corporate culture establishes itself in every company, no matter the size. The best corporate cultures are intentionally cultivated and reinforced by management— from the CEO to the college intern.
  • Consider the provider’s communication policies. What communications channels are available when weather, mechanical problems, or road conditions delay shipments? Do you have to babysit your provider and worry about your shipment, or are you kept informed throughout the entire life of a load?
  • Talk to your peers. Ask industry colleagues who they prefer to work with, and what kind of experiences they have had. Have they pulled contracts from the logistics company you work with? Has the 3PL’s employees treated others with honesty, integrity, and loyalty? Also talk to carriers. Who do they prefer to take loads from? When a small hauler likes a 3PL, you can bet the company is worth a look.

At Your Service

An upside to this down economy is that the bar to entry in shipping has been relatively low. Many 3PLs formed over the past few years are building substantial business. Don’t settle for lackluster customer service when lots of entrepreneurs out there value good personal relationships and aim to do the right thing, in the right way, every day.

Do what’s right for your company and your customers, and connect with those in the industry who share your values. Golden Rule customer service companies stand ready to serve you.