Trucks at Work

Freight customer service: What’s the value?

So Fatima Sullivan – VP of customer services for DHL Express Sub-Saharan Africa – recently argued that one the biggest “driving factors” for selecting freight services in the future is going to be the level of a customer’s intellectual and emotional engagement.

She pointed to a recent report compiled by business consulting firm Walker entitled Customers 2020, which claims that customer experience will overtake product and price as the key brand differentiator in the next five years.

Therefore, more emphasis will need to be placed on the experience a company delivers to create a competitive advantage, Sullivan (at right) stressed.

“The voice of the customer is therefore an important element to consider when planning your strategies,” she added. “Customers want to engage with companies who can not only provide a service, but are able to tailor-make solutions and respond quickly to changing demands.”

Thus, in the logistics industry – where unforeseen delays may arise, as we all know – Sullivan said that translates into the ability to “react quickly and proactively communicate” with customers.

“Engaged customers understand that things go wrong sometimes, but they need to trust that you are able to recover from it in a fast and professional manner,” she noted.

“Customers know what they want, and how they want it. You just need to listen to them,” Sullivan emphasized. “So it’s also not just about problem resolution. More importantly, it’s about determining the ‘root-cause’ to ensure that the problem does not occur again.” 

She added that DHL Express serves over 40,000 customers across Sub Saharan Africa and the only way the company is able to provide the service quality customers expect is by getting DHL’s personnel to understand the impact they can have on the customer experience, and focus on the smaller details that drive quality.

An insanely customer-centric culture can only be achieved if all employees have the same goal in mind – to delight the customer at every opportunity,” Sullivan noted.

Now, sure, many in trucking might roll their eyes at all of this and for some good reasons; the biggest being that, with a major trucking capacity shortage predicted just over the horizon, “delighting” shippers may not be required.

Indeed, Wall Street investment firm Stifel Nicolaus & Co. conducted an informal poll last month among 25 TL carriers spread out across the U.S. and found those trucking firms report that shippers  are  increasingly  “collaborating  with  them“ to  turn  equipment  more  rapidly  and  to  “treat  scarce  drivers  with more respect.”

Yet Stifel noted something else as well: due to the upcoming truckload capacity crisis projected for 2017 and beyond, logistics providers are becoming “more specialized and technologically innovative” in order to build relationships with shippers and help them “optimize their transportation and distribution functions.”

In essence, that seems to mean shippers are trying to make things more efficient on their end of the freight continuum in an effort to avoid being placed in vice grips by motor carriers when “the mother of all capacity shortages” finally arrives.

DHL’s Sullivan, though, feels that providing an excellent “customer experience” can short-circuit such wary circling in freight business dealings – and that good people is the key to doing that successfully.

“Your people are the golden thread that keeps it all together,” she stressed.

“You can have the best customer feedback tools, but if you don’t have the right people analyzing the data and implementing the solutions, your business cannot move forward,” Sullivan added. “It’s all about accessibility and speed of query resolutions.”

Something to consider as we head yet again into the peak freight season.

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