The Stories Customers Tell Us About Their Freight Forwarding Business

Your insight into the things they would rather not be true…

Our service levels are not as good as we’d like

Our services are not as good as we’d like

The desk shook from the force of the impact.

Jeff, the Sales Manager, took in a big breath of air and straightened up his favourite blue tie. Glaring at the phone he had slammed upon his desk, he reflected on the brief conversation he just had with a good client. 

“So, what are we going to do?”

Carol interrupted his train of thought. He had forgotten that she was sitting across from him, waiting patiently for the phone call to end. But it was good timing, what the phone call was about is exactly why the two of them were meeting today in the first place.

Jeff came back to reality. “We can’t keep letting these customers down, Carol, and the longer we keep making mistakes, the more customers we lose. Not everyone notices but we as a company must have higher standards where we are not letting our customers down in the first place!”

Carol leaned back in her chair; she knew that something had to change with the services that the company was providing. “Often our clients don’t notice or don’t care but, when we do get complaints, it is normally customers that are of high value to us. For our business to do well we need to do everything we can to keep them happy. The fact is we just don’t have the resources available to provide the service levels needed to all our customers, all the time.”

Jeff straightened in his chair and gazed at all the facets of the room, searching for ideas. “We need to retain these high value customers and attract even more. We can only do this by increasing the value-added services we now offer. That’s what will make us successful.”

With some restraint, Carol held her tongue. Being lectured about operations, especially by sales, didn’t sit well and exploding wouldn’t help now. As operations manager, it was her duty to make sure that everything was running effectively and efficiently, which it was to a certain degree. Sales people like Jeff didn’t understand how punishing missing cut off dates was becoming and the reliance on temps to handle surging was not helping.

“Jeff, we need to focus on the core services. We need to stop letting down the customers we have now before thinking about attracting more. We need to focus our skilled resources into the delivery of our core services not these value-added services and more and more customised reports. Our operations can’t handle that without missing even more cut-off dates. We already let down more customers than we want to right now.”

Jeff knew Carol was right. But there was still an obvious difference in opinions on how to solve the issue. Surely, there was a median where the core services could be provided reliably whilst also enhancing the value to the higher-level customers. They just needed to find a way to do so with the limited resources they had available.

This issue is not easy to fix

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The recurring nature of this issue is a symptom of a deeper issue


The forwarder's dilemma

Analysis of the Our services are not as good as we’d like issue

The issue Jeff has is that as sales manager there is a lot of pressure being placed on him to increase the perception of value the market has for the company’s services. as Sales Manager Jeff is not involved in operations but the service levels he is committing the business to are delivered operations and affected by operational priorities. When Jeff applies pressure to operations he experiences push back from Carol who is responsible for operations.

This sales-operations tension is observed in many businesses and it speaks to the local optimisations that people make on when given roles that are accountable for the performance of one piece of the whole business. Ideally Steve, as CEO, would bring the whole business perspective to balance out the needs of the two functions. In practise Carol has the best understanding of the operational demands and Steve’s role is to ensure she is aware of the important business drivers at risk.

Carol could respond to Jeff by moving resources to ensure high value services are delivered. But in forwarding moving resources often means taking resources off another job or using resources that are less skilled like temps. Thus for Carol the overall loading of operations is key and in forwarding the load comes in surges which means that resources are often overloaded at the time they are needed for the high value services. Carol is caught in a no win situation and finds herself forced into trying to do the best she can.

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