November 2009 | Commentary | 3PL Line

Is Your 3PL a Brand Builder?

Tags: 3PL

Abrand represents many intangible aspects of a product or service; it's a collection of perceptions about quality, image, lifestyle, and status. In short, a brand represents a promise made and honored.

When was the last time you challenged your third-party logistics provider (3PL) to help you build your brand? For most shippers, the answer lies somewhere between seldom and never. But when you think of your 3PL as the face of your brand to your customers, the stakes are incredibly high. If your 3PL provider makes a mistake, you own it.

Successful branding programs begin with superior products and services, backed by excellent customer service that permeates an entire organization. Is your third-party logistics provider delivering your brand promise?

Consider the following key areas to assess whether your 3PL is building your brand or giving it a black eye:

  • Setting common goals. One of the most important, and often overlooked, factors in assessing the brand-building potential of your third-party provider begins with setting common goals and objectives. Do both sides truly understand the business needs of all parties—including your customers?
  • From the tone and manner of customer service representatives to driver appearance at the dock, every brand touchpoint matters. Your 3PL must thoroughly understand each touchpoint to ensure that positive, brand-enhancing policies are part of what you expect from the relationship.
  • Sharing a culture. The best 3PL relationships develop when there is corporate philosophical alignment. If one party has a mentality of "good enough is fine," and the other player has a "dazzle me" expectation, no one will be satisfied.
    What is your cultural expectation of your employees? Be sure to partner with a 3PL who can deliver that same expectation for your customers to truly make a brand-enhancing impression.
  • Establishing transparency. In today's global economy, complete transparency is incredibly difficult. For a global company, cultural nuances, language barriers, and technology issues often make communications difficult, becoming a barrier to transparency.
    Sustainable, strategic relationships require continual improvements and creativity. Much like a good marriage, the best 3PL relationships develop in an atmosphere of open and frequent communication. Is there a mutually beneficial ability to quickly resolve any issues that arise along the way? Trust and commitment are key components in reaching consensus and continuously moving the business in the right direction.
  • Enjoying the win/win. Expect your 3PL to be willing to share both risk and rewards. Does your 3PL care about your business as much as you do? Does it allow you to focus on your core competencies and take on complete responsibility for its role in your brand? Is it investing in your success by improving service offerings and upgrading technology?

In today's tough economy, the answer to all those questions should be a resounding yes. It doesn't cost more to expect more from your third-party logistics provider. One thing is certain: Partnering with a 3PL who is a positive reflection on your brand could make an enormous positive impact on your company's future.