When I first started in the transportation industry, some 20 years ago now, I was told about the importance of communication. Of course, back then we still used pagers, fax machines with rolled paper, and the entire office shared a bag cell phone. We had to keep in constant communication with our customers, provide updates, and keep a log of all correspondence. In today’s high tech world phone calls are tracked, email time stamps everything, and mobile technology allows automated communication between the truck, the office, and even the customer. We probably spend less than half the amount of time using the phone today as we did then, yet accomplish more with these tools.
So, what is the one thing that has not changed over time? That would be the need to utilize the technology available and maintain consistent communication with the customer that they can count on. This has been the one desire of customers that I have heard over my entire career, and I don’t expect it will ever change (nor should it). Customers understand that things will happen, they just want to know about those events right away, and not just occasionally, but every time they happen.
There are two ways for us to know if we had a quality week with exceptional service in the transportation department. The first is 100% on-time pick-up and delivery. The second is 100% communication with the customer, even if we did have delays. Looking at a recent week we delivered approximately 625 shipments. One of those shipments was late due to a breakdown. What I’m most proud of with my team is how they kept in constant communication with the customer on that one load, which included recovery of the load, and on-time delivery per the adjusted schedule.
I would much rather work with an operation that leans towards the side of over-communicating. This can be tweaked to fit everyone’s needs as the relationship continues to develop, but a one-time failure in communication could lead to disasters across a supply chain. I would suggest expectations for communication be established early on in a relationship between the trucking company/3PL and the customer, and don’t forget to make sure you are taking advantage of today’s technology as well to ensure your communication efforts are as efficient as possible. Constant communication throughout the supply chain means customers are never left wondering where their freight is.
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