How Specialized Transportation Can Improve Customer Service
As a shipper, what does it look like to deliver on stellar customer service? Your buyers are looking for undamaged, on-time, seamless orders. But you are only able to control a portion of this. Somewhere along the way, a truck driver, warehouse worker, or dispatcher is involved in delivering on your customer service promises.
Typically, transportation providers utilize trucks and equipment from whomever can provide, looking just at cost, margin, and profit. Unfortunately, what is good for the masses can be disastrous for the few. Each market segment has its own set of expectations. Many transportation managers must do more than just find a cheap truck. They must coordinate the right type of capacity and equipment, determine optimized scheduling, know proper handling regulations, and be knowledgeable of different retailer requirements and timelines.
Leveraging a transportation partner that specializes in your industry can alleviate this burden while still providing cost savings. They will know your buyers, their facilities, preferences, timelines, and requirements. This translates into direct customer service benefits for you.
QUALIFIED NETWORK— A specialized provider will have a network of approved carriers available. You won't have to worry about the use of a contaminated vehicle or a driver without clearance showing up at your customer's distribution center. A specialized 3PL will also have a curated network that is familiar with your product, how your timelines function, and that may be familiar with the locations you are delivering to. This is an underrated value that can help you consistently deliver on your customer expectations.
EXPERIENCE— A specialist will have likely worked with your customers or receivers before, so they can inform you of their preferences—such as operating hours or paperwork—helping you improve on customer service. Additionally, as a vendor or supplier you must work to fit into the existing processes of your customers. This fact is particularly true for retailers. Every big box chain has its own set of lead-time requirements, fulfillment demands, communication standards, reliability benchmarks, and vendor scorecards. Knowing and hitting these standards can be difficult for anyone who is also responsible for account management, production, or sourcing. A specialized transportation provider can help manage these intricacies, educating your team and overseeing compliance.
HANDLING— Whether you ship cosmetics, furniture, ice cream, or chemicals, your product has unique handling requirements and its own list of transit concerns. Do you have to reroute for high altitude, prevent against shifting, worry about breakage or theft? A provider who specializes in your industry will not only be aware of these requirements but will know how to compensate for them and ensure your product arrives how it was intended to, keeping your customers happy.
INDUSTRY INTELLIGENCE— A specialized 3PL will have a pulse on the industry news and regulations that impact your business. They can keep you informed of new safety laws or driver restrictions that may impact your transit times and costs. Without an ear to the ground, a shipper could easily overlook a new transportation regulation and end up not meeting the delivery needs of a customer or incur extra charges and fees. A specialized partner can take that work off your plate, providing peace of mind.
OVERALL SERVICE— If you require high visibility and direct order updates it's likely that others who ship similar products do too. A specialist will have protocols, systems, and technology in place to meet these standards. They will be educated on your needs and will be able to communicate them to all stakeholders. The extra steps your product requires won't be out of the ordinary and all involved parties will be knowledgeable of how to handle them.
A generalist 3PL can certainly learn these intricacies, but there will likely be a period where you experience service failures or unhappy customers while they get up to speed. Or worse, a sales person can learn these intricacies and make promises that are not upheld by operations staff who work with a handful of different industries. Without full organizational alignment, you can expect some hurdles.
Working with a specialized transportation provider will save you time and headaches while keeping your customers happy and costs down. They will be knowledgeable of your product requirements as well as your customer preferences and can pass you valuable insights that benefit your overall business.