You often hear about businesses striving to become a “shipper of choice” or preferred shippers.
Those terms refer to companies that are making changes to be more “carrier friendly”. That includes everything from shortening facility wait times and changing multi-stop routes to single stop routes to training employees and adding clean bathrooms to their waiting areas.
This – of course – is the right thing to do. It’s also good for business.
Shippers are working to improve the carrier experience
“When we think about the term “Shipper of Choice”, it boils down to our freight getting picked up in a tight market,” says John Reese, director of logistics and transportation at Truco Enterprises, the maker of On the Border chips, salsa and queso products that ships direct to retailers all across the country.
He continues, “Obviously, we want to make the experience for the driver as seamless and as fast as possible, so they’re not eating up hours waiting to get loaded. We also want to make our freight favorable to the driver population so that when they have the choice to pick up our load or someone’s load down the street, they are going to pick a Truco load. ”
A shipper of choice can secure higher quality carriers at better prices that help them develop long-term relationships and weather different market conditions.
Becoming a carrier of choice
You can help your business secure full truckloads, even during slower markets, by adopting some best practices for becoming a carrier of choice.
We sat down with three shipping professionals during the Mid-America Trucking Show (MATS) – John Reese, of Truco, Karen Stetner, senior supply chain manager at Garick LLC, a mulch, lawn and garden products distributor that ships to big box retailers, and Alexandra Alegria, director of supply chain at Waiakea, a Hawaiian bottled-water company that ships from the island to several warehouses throughout the mainland – to learn about what they look for in carrier partners, and how they’re building long-lasting business relationships with carriers of all sizes.
Here are three things they look for when selecting their carriers of choice.
1. Give feedback
Your feedback is crucial and can lead to major changes in shipper operations.
John Reese shares, “When I started at Truco, we had a lot of multipick and multi-drop loads. After hearing feedback, we worked to change that to a one pick one drop situation, and we try to avoid awkward mileage as hours of service and ELD mandates have come into place.”
He continues, “Feedback needs to be two ways. We provide carrier partners with scorecards and KPIs. We talk through those in our business reviews. But, there are very few carriers that have any kind of scorecard or give us that level of transparency back. Some of our best carriers have opened up their book on pricing. They tell us about what we need to work on to be more carrier-friendly, and in turn potentially improve our gross margins.”
Apps, such as Convoy’s, give carriers and drivers a place to provide ratings and feedback of their experience of working with a particular shipper.
But, feedback isn’t just for after the load is delivered.
Karen Stetner adds, “We like working with people communicate when there’s an issue. That way we can help them. We don’t want trucks to be in detention, but if we don’t know you’re in detention, there’s nothing we can do to try to help.
Carrier action item: Create a scorecard and objectively rate your partners based on criteria that is important for your drivers and your bottom line. Some areas to review are wait times, facility cleanliness, staff friendliness, ease of loading/unloading, etc. Share this scorecard with your partners one a month or once a quarter, and use the ratings systems in your trucking apps as well.
2. Understand their business
Showing your shippers that you have taken steps to understand their business will help you provide them with better service, and understand what their expectations are – as well as give you an opportunity to share what your expectations of the relationship are.
Alexandra Alegria comments, “We have a unique network in that we ship water in giant tanks. It’s very heavy. It’s important to us to try and find a carrier who is willing to take heavy loads, and deal with the shifting of things like iso tanks and flexitanks, and balance that with someone who can grow with us. We are a startup, so carriers need to understand where we can and can’t go. That is important. It’s important for us to make sure that we’re being true to our business, so It’s really important that we have that one-on-one interaction.
Carrier action item: Take 30 minutes to research your shipper’s business, or have a call with them to truly understand their needs and their goals.
3. Build long-term relationships
Making an effort to build relationships with your shippers will set your business up for success through ever-changing market cycles and volatility – and will set you apart from your competition.
John says, “It’s no secret that the market was extremely tight last year. What helped us navigate those challenging times was the relationships that we were able to build with carriers. Your long-term relationships really sustain through the market cycles and the changes in volatility. I think at the heart of this industry relationships are still very critical.”
Carrier action item: Learn what your shippers communications preferences are. You can personally follow up after each load, or on a regular cadence, which will help open lines of communication and develop a lasting relationship.
Putting each of these best practices into action will help your commitment to a long-term carrier-shipper partnership. What are you doing to become a carrier of choice?
To learn more about hauling with Convoy, visit the carrier hub or contact us at (206) 202-5645.