When looking for an ocean or air freight forwarder, there are a number of standard questions you should ask to figure out if they’re the right fit, such as: “How many containers do you move per year?” or “Which steamship lines do you contract with?”
However, those types of questions won’t tell you how a freight forwarder will treat you as a customer or if they’ll be proactive in trying to learn your business’s unique needs and requirements.
To get a better insight on how a freight forwarder will work for you, ask these five questions instead.
1. How and what will you communicate with me?
Say you need to get ahold of your freight forwarder. How will you do that? Between email, social media and phone calls, contacting someone is easy, but that doesn’t mean you’ll get great customer service. If you have to wait two days for an email reply, or call an 800 number and speak to someone who doesn’t know your account beyond what it says on his or her computer screen, you can spend a lot of time trying to resolve a problem. That’s time that could be better spent on other areas of your business.
A freight forwarder that assigns a specific person to your account can make all the difference in ensuring your questions are answered and resolved in a timely manner. An assigned representative not only knows your account beyond what a computer screen tells them, they also know your industry and have a complete understanding of your specific requirements. They don’t have to relearn your account every time you contact them and will already understand your shipping needs.
Another benefit of having an assigned representative to your account is the consultative services they provide. They can guide you in choosing Incoterms, advising sailing schedules to meet your deadlines, as well as communicating any issues or special requirements between you and your supplier or customer. They’ll be proactive in learning your business goals and in providing you information about your shipments or industry changes that could affect you.
2. What tracking or other reporting technology do you provide?
The days of manually tracking your shipments via Excel or email are over, or at least they should be. A good freight forwarder provides you with hassle-free tracking technology that not only tells you when your shipment leaves port and arrives but also alerts you of any delays or changes — without you having to email or call them. Additionally, the ability to provide detailed tracking information down to the purchase order (PO) or item level provides important visibility into your company’s supply chain.
Also, on a practical level, how customizable and easy to use is their system? Today, flexibility is more important than ever. Are you able to access tracking information via desktop, tablet and mobile?
This information will determine whether shipment visibility is relegated to a meaningless tracking number or a powerful tool in your day-to-day business.
3. How do I know my shipments/company will be a priority for you?
No matter if you have one less-than-container load (LCL) shipment or 500 full container loads (FCL) , your shipments are important to your business and should be treated as such. But will you be a priority for a freight forwarder if you don’t ship as much as one of their larger customers? If your freight forwarder does little more than telling you when your shipment arrives, they’re not making you a priority.
A simple way to determine if your freight forwarder will make you a priority is to ask if they have other customers with requirements similar to yours.
They should sit down with you to learn your business and create a set of standard operating procedures (SOPs). Establishing who needs to be contacted under what circumstances can save you time and money in the long run. If you need additional services once your shipment reaches port, such as delivery to your warehouse or to your customer’s door, your freight forwarder should arrange that for you. Not only that, your freight forwarder should learn your customer’s requirements and work with you on meeting them so you avoid costly penalties or delays.
4. What is the strength of your network?
A freight forwarder’s network is more than just what shipping lanes they have access to and what trade associations they’re members of. (Though those are very important!) Does the freight forwarder have relationships overseas that have on-the-ground knowledge? If there are any issues at origin or destination, your freight forwarder’s local contacts can help resolve them.
Local expertise and relationships are even more important when dealing with a crisis in the market. Whether it’s a port strike or massive congestion caused by the peak shipping season, you need local experts with an understanding of how to get things done.
5. How do you ensure I am compliant?
Don’t get stuck with penalties you otherwise could have avoided! Your freight forwarder should work on your behalf to ensure your shipments are compliant . This means helping ensure your goods are classified correctly for customs (if they are acting as your customer’s broker or coordinating with your own), and your importer security filings (ISF) are submitted in a timely manner to avoid penalties and delays. Are your containers being returned on time? Your freight forwarder should handle that for you as well.
How will your freight forwarder work for you? By answering these questions, you’ll get a good understanding of how they’ll benefit your business.
If you’re looking for the right freight forwarder that becomes your business partner and works to help you succeed, 2022lpl may be right for you. You’ll get one-on-one customer service with your assigned account representative, and avoid costly problems or delays with our unique TrakIt! tracking system.
Find out more about how Dedola can work for you by contacting us today .