How To Know When It’s Time To Switch Carriers

One thing that we pride ourselves on is being educated about our industry and our customers. A while back, we read a post on 3PLWire that got us thinking. Read it for yourself and tell us your thoughts.

Top 5 Signs it is Time to Switch Carriers

In the interest of full transparency, we thought we’d address these items one by one.

1. Financial warning signs

The writer says that unfortunately, many carriers have recently reported losses. Knowing that you’re doing business with a company that has its financial house in order is of the utmost importance. When companies aren’t doing well, they may start to cut corners or become focused only on short-term gains or they might not even be able to deliver on their promises. We at Logistic Services Northwest, LLC have never had financial issues and based on our work product, we expect to keep it that way.

2. Uncompetitive rates

We agree with the writer’s statement that the phrase “uncompetitive rates” isn’t just about price, because low rates can sometimes mean a compromise in some other area. But in this era of a stagnant economy, it would behoove any smart person to assess his or her expenses, compare prices, re-negotiate, or even change carriers if necessary. Logistic Services NW LLC always strives to give competitive pricing—our rates are solidly in line with the standard—and we think our customers appreciate it. A fair price for the best service we can give, those are words we live by.

3. Service standards

As with many industries, customers have a choice when it comes to shipping. Sometimes it’s hard for consumers to know, which is the right option for me? To us, this is now, and always will be, a customer service driven business. We are here to make our customers’ lives less stressful and more productive. We aim to lower your cost while at the same time, increasing your supply chain visibility.

4. I.T. Dark Ages

Technology is your friend, so make it work for you. At Logistic Services, we believe we have created the perfect synergy between human beings and computers. We offer live support through our reliable and capable customer service staff—but we also give our customers the online freedom to check in on their shipment whenever they want. Our website is fully functional and we’ve made our online tools part of our standard of service.

5. Internal changes

You want to grow your business, Logistic Services wants to grow with you. If you feel your carrier isn’t performing the way you want or need, it might be time for a change. Don’t get left behind being stuck with a company that isn’t working for you—be proactive and seek the solution.

The Reality (and Un-Reality) of the Logistics Business

Have you seen that show called Shipping Wars? A&E describes it as a “real-life series” that follows independent shippers who transport items “that traditional carriers won’t touch.” The show begins with uShip, an auction site where truckers can bid for individual business.  Each trucker has to decide if the shipment will be financially worth it for them…and bid accordingly.

In case you haven’t seen it, one episode featured a trucker who transported an enormous orange statue of Willie Mays from New York City to San Francisco—first he cut the statue in half in order to get it in his rig and then right outside the city, he realized his load wasn’t balanced. He ended up buying a bunch of concrete to counter-weight it but when he got the statue to AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants, the general manager was astonished to find Willie was in two pieces. Dramatic? Yes. Professional? You get what you pay for.

What makes great TV doesn’t always translate into good business. Here at Logistic Services NW LLC, on every load we handle we worry (on our customers behalf) about insurance, liabilities, proper blocking and bracing, cost efficiencies, better ways to do things….so our customer doesn’t have to. We work with every individual customer to satisfy their needs and transport their goods on time and without damage. We’re not in this business to make a quick buck on one-off loads, we prove ourselves with our long standing customers on a daily basis and are proud that of our current business, 86 percent of our customers have been with us for over a year.

It’s fun to watch escapist shows sometimes and live someone else’s life for half an hour.  But we are full-time logistics professionals who have devoted ourselves to providing quality service at a fair price. It may not make great “reality TV” but we hope it brings our customers long-term success.

Be Sure Your Carrier Has Insurance (For Your Customers’ Sake!)

Question: Is it really that important to have proper insurance on shipments? Do carriers really need to know so much information about each load?

Answer: The short answer is yes. And yes.

Let us explain.

There is a reason insurance companies choose certain items to convey their message, like the umbrella or the two hands that make a cup. It’s to try to convince you that they’ll be there when you really need them. They call themselves “a good neighbor” or they say they’re “on your side.” But the truth about insurance is, you never really know if you’re truly covered until you need the coverage—and when you need the coverage is after the accident/incident has already happened. These are the instances where customers rely on their partners to have done all due diligence, so their problems are mitigated, and they have their problems handled fast and professionally.

So why risk it?

We get asked this question a lot: Do people really care about proper insurance and liability coverage in the logistics industry? And we always say, They should and we at Logistics Services NW, LLC do. Some companies factor in costs for paying claims as part of “doing business.” We absolutely DO NOT.

We recently did a carrier-wide audit of all companies we not only currently do business with, but have in the past. As of now, all carriers not only have the proper insurance levels, but we have adjusted our TMS to make it impossible to dispatch a load without having these documents on file.

Unfortunately, not every 3PL can say the same, because making sure that shippers carry insurance is somewhat of a lost art in logistics.

Not every company places a high value on insurance—but they should.

We offer customers something not every logistics company can: Peace of mind, knowing that their shipments are insured and for the right amount. If you wonder why we ask a lot of questions about load and weight and cubic feet and all that, know that there is a reason. The reason is this: we want to provide you with excellent service and if the rain comes, we’ll make sure you’re covered.

Do you have a question you’d like us to answer? Let us know and we’ll write about it in a future post.

Pride and Ego vs. Servicing the Customer – Hint: CUSTOMER ALWAYS WINS

I’m sure you’ve heard the old saying: There are two sides to every story. Or maybe even you even know the updated version: There are three sides to every story—yours, mine, and the truth. In business, though, the version of the truth that you should pay most attention to is your customer’s. If you aren’t giving your customer the benefit of the doubt, it could lead to a situation where being right ends up with you being wrong. And that just isn’t worth it.

Using contracted drivers is a common thing in the Logistics business—but can also be a common source of frustration. Recently, we were made aware of an issue that occurred between one of our contracted drivers and one of our customer’s end users. Once our customer brought this to our attention, we went to work immediately identifying exactly what happened and how we could fix it.

The problem, of course, with trying to find out information second-hand is that from the several people who witnessed what happened, we got several different versions of the truth. We knew that we had to live with the fact that we would probably never know the whole truth. But it didn’t matter—because the person we had to satisfy was, is, and always will be our customer. Exceptions, the non-standard issue, and how those situations are handled are the true measure of customer service. It is very easy to support customers when things are going well; it’s when things aren’t that you see the measure of a person, and a company.

To take lemons and make lemonade, this incident has led to updated procedures that have been implemented company-wide and will lead, we believe, to better overall customer satisfaction. When it comes to solving problems, it’s most important to provide proactive resolutions to not only fix the situation that occurred, but show you will ensure that this doesn’t happen again.

There is no benefit at all to being “right” if it means losing the trust of your customer—and every customer matters, whether it is a multi-million dollar account or a transactional one-off move.

All of us here at Logistic Services NW LLC take an inordinate amount of pride in what we do. However there are cases where the best thing to do is take your lumps, bite your tongue, and move on.

A Brief History of the Logistics Industry

by Jorge Bailey

Today, the word “logistics” is commonplace and shipping trucks aren’t just on the road, they’re in popular culture. Over 70 percent of shipped goods in America travel by truckload. But it wasn’t always that way. Before we look to the future of an industry, I think it makes sense to look back and see where it all started.

Before the 20th century was known as the “good old days” of the LTL (Less Than Truckload) industry. Farmers used co-ops to consolidate their crops to get them to market.  This was a community event where all the participants negotiated what was fair for the person transporting the goods, whether it was money or a portion of the food. But as time went on and our country grew, there was a need for a more sophisticated method of transportation.

In 1935, Congress passed the Motor Carrier Act, which gave the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) the authority to regulate the industry. The ICC began granting operating permits, approving trucking routes, and setting tariff rates. The ICC set uniform tariff rates for hauling freight and since the rates were uniform for all trucking companies, there was little or no competition due to pricing. At that time, it wasn’t uncommon to take 10 days or even 2 weeks to get a load from the east coast to the west.

Fast-forward several decades: The Motor Carrier Act of 1980 gave the industry further reform and by the mid-80s, deregulation. Many new firms entered the market—especially low-cost, non-union carriers. In the ten years between 1980 and 1990, the number of licensed carriers doubled—to over forty thousand.

Jumping from 1990 to present, there are only a handful of unionized long haul carriers left and nearly 1,400 carriers a year leave the industry either by acquisition or failure. It’s now more important than ever that a shipper trust the transportation provider. For years LTL carriers have done just one thing: move shipments throughout the country. They have limited abilities but suggest they do it all. They advertise services but must outsource them, so they are performed at a premium. With an asset-based carrier, if the customer wants something that’s outside the box, it’s discouraged by the sales team because it takes too much time to arrange and has limited rewards. It becomes all about the call cycle and paperwork, not the customer. As time goes on, the customer’s needs become less and less important.

The difference with Logistic Services NW is that we really are limitless as to our Supply Chain offerings. We have a uniquely strong alliance with our partners and we pride ourselves in providing a superior customer experience—we don’t just pay lip service to the term “customer service.”  Our team is an extremely diversified group. Our employees have been in the Transportation industry for over 100 years combined. There is virtually nothing in the Supply Chain world we cannot do. Give us your worst challenge and let us prove ourselves!

The Rules of Golf Echo the Rules of Life—And Both Are Vital to Future Success

“The most important shot in golf is the next one.” Ben Hogan

The above quote is one that I think works for the game of golf and also, the game of life. Focusing on the future is sound advice for everyone—in business, in life, on the golf course. And how you act during a game of golf, if you’re playing with a customer or potential customer, can greatly influence your future business, and obviously, your life.

This line of thinking came up recently because three of my operations team and I are headed this weekend to Bend, Oregon for a customer’s charity golf event. My colleagues and I have been discussing the age-old topic: When playing golf with a customer, or in a customer-sponsored event, what is the proper protocol? You want to be sure you’re clear on what is expected from you and just as important, how to turn a day of golf into a positive ROI event.

Following are 3 of the rules in the very unofficial Logistic Services NW LLC handbook on customer and customer-sponsored golf events (tongue firmly in cheek here):

1) If playing with someone of importance (i.e. any customer or potential customer) whom you have not met before, take a 2-iron (yes, plank of steel that is very hard to hit) off the first tee, no matter what. The comments you will get from your new playing partners will dictate if you can play at 110%, 80%, or totally sandbag the round to support a good first impression.
1a) Beating a potential customer in golf is not worth losing the
business. In golf, as in life, consider this: putting your ego aside in the short-term could garner you more success in the long-term.

2) If your new playing partner’s bag of 14 clubs is worth more than $1,000 retail, it’s a pretty fair bet that you can take off the blinders, shoot for the course record, and be OK. Learn to look at the bags on the putting green or in the cart prior to making it to the first tee.

3) If you are playing well, and want to add some strokes to your game to support POSITIVE CUSTOMER GOLF EXPERIENCE (see 1a), here are some simple ways to do so:
a. Overclub from a 9-iron to 6-iron on an approach shot or Par 5, and then add in some comments, such as “Man, what an idiot I am, grabbing the wrong club!” Self-deprecation goes a long way in golf—and in business.
b. Line up a long putt, and read the break exactly the opposite of what you see…. You can always use the disclaimer that you didn’t see it going that way, and get some scoffs while you are marking down a bogey or worse.
c. Play a ball that has been sitting in your bag since you found it 7 years ago in the forest. Much harder to hit a golf ball straight or accurately that has been chewed on by a golden retriever than a brand new Pro V1.
d. Swing like John Daly on crack (i.e. swing speed above 120 MPH) with your driver on a long par 5, but announce your intention well ahead of time. “I am going to try and really get a hold of this one.” 95 times out of 100, you will be well out of bounds or hit a screaming worm burner, but it gives some levity and discussion for the post game wrapup, while still adding strokes.
e. When in bunkers, instead of trying to splash the sand 1” behind the ball, try to imagine scorching a line in the bottom back half of the ball as if your sand wedge was a laser beam… Trust me, same swing, but different result.

Golf is a great game, and good way to network in our industry. The primary thing to focus on is, have fun! But just as important is to make sure everyone else in your foursome is having fun too. FORE! And many more!

Go From “Code Red” to “Mission Accomplished”

Here’s a scenario: That customer you have been chasing for months (or possibly even years) gives you an opportunity… Now what? You don’t want ever want to be stuck without your proverbial bat when the coach puts you in the game so let me share 4 key ways we became successful in handling new clients.

In the logistics industry, it is somewhat rare to “close a deal” that results in ongoing business within a short period of time. Far more common is the relationship with a long lead time: repeated phone calls, emails, updates, face to face meetings, you know the drill. Then one day you come into work and you get the email that you have been waiting for. In our case, it looks something like this:

“We have a ton of loads available, and from what we are being told, capacity is pretty tight—but see what you can do to assist us on month end.”

First the celebration occurs—all your hard work paid off! But then reality settles in: How are we going to handle this? Alarms go off, the bat signal is lit, and you call an all hands on deck meeting to rally the troops and save the day.

It used to be a common business aphorism that to keep an existing client is easier (and more profitable) than securing a new one. But in today’s marketplace, you need to do both. If proper carrier retention, partnerships, and ongoing dialogue haven’t been a part of your SOP since day one, there is a large likelihood that no matter how many resources you throw at business development, you won’t be as successful as you want to be. At Logistic Services NW LLC, we started with one customer, just like everyone else. But we grew because we were focused on the right things.

4 key ways that Logistic Services has become successful at handling new business are as follows:

1) We have the proper staff in place to assume we will be growing—and we give our people the tools to be successful.

2) We specifically brought on employees that can multi-task and flip job duties quickly to reassign workloads in regards to NEW customer needs and ONGOING customer needs – both are vital to our company.

3) We study the direction we believe the new opportunity will take and make some educated hypotheses about carrier capacity—that way we can plan for not only the daily opportunities, but the ongoing ones as well.

4) We don’t deviate from established processes that made us the company we are—not ever. Shortcuts don’t support excellence.

Sidenote: With one business day left in the month at the time of writing this, we covered, tracked, and processed 24 loads to support the customer. It’s all about sweat equity and keeping it real.