The Stories Customers Tell Us About Their Freight Forwarding Business

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

Sometimes we miss cut off dates

Sometimes we miss cut off dates

Carol stormed into her office and tossed the reports onto the pile towering on her desk. The conversation - no, the argument - with the CEO still played out in her mind.

“Steve,” she said, “he was just a new hire. Maybe we put too much --”

“That’s enough,” Steve cut in. “No more excuses. Without a doubt, you’re the best operations manager this company’s ever had, but your staff are falling short. I don’t know whether it’s who you employ, how they’re trained, or what their attitudes are that’s causing the poor quality. I don’t care about the reasons. These quality problems have to be addressed once and for all. Got it?”

“Got it,” Carol said to herself, now in the silence of her office. She felt drained, worn out, weary. She wondered how many warnings Steve had left to give her. The employees she’d brought on board were in trouble, and so she was in trouble too.

Carol settled back in her chair and lifted her pen, twirling and clicking it while she mentally reviewed her staff. Who was slacking? What led to the decline?

“Four times in four weeks,” she heard herself say. Mistakes and failures, ranging from missed deadlines, incorrect or incomplete billings, faulty delivery instructions, mishandled phone calls, and more. And now, because of the compounding troubles, one of the company’s top clients had their processes collapse for the second time this month.

Steve had not been happy. Her staff had dropped the ball, and the client had missed a shipping deadline. Carol had committed her whole morning to pulling some strings and calling in favors. Even though she had sorted things out, the shipment was left on the wharf anyway because of glaring flaws in the documentation.

“It’s James.” She brought the pen down, tapping it furiously on the desk. “What’s the actual issue here? He’s new... But he came with great recommendations, qualifications, and he certainly seems capable enough. Is our training no good?”

Tap, tap, tap. Carol’s thoughts turned to Jo, and how this other new hire had seriously underperformed the previous week. “Hired her a couple of years ago. Lowered our sights a bit to save wages costs. Jo’s not a rocket scientist, but her role is pretty straight-forward. And she’s usually reliable.”

And, of course, there was Chris. Carol said, “He’s usually reliable too, though he’s dropped a ball or two in the last few weeks. So what is it?” She considered the possible answers, tapping her pen point-by-point. “Staff selection? Training? Attitude? Motivation? Do we have enough staff? Do we have the right staff? Do they get appropriate support?” Tap, tap…

Carol dropped her pen on the pile of paperwork. This is ridiculous, she thought. Not only am I talking to myself, I’m just going down a list, one-by-one, of what I already know. Every employee has strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes they compensate, sometimes they compound. Instead of criticizing individuals, I should consider the whole. Our whole department. Maybe our processes are too complicated. Maybe we feel too rushed? Maybe we’re too…

“That’s it,” she exclaimed, straightening in her chair. “What do we all have in common? Stress. We’re all stressed. We are under pressure to provide more and more services and our staff are overloaded.”

“But, I can’t fix that without more staff and Steve won’t approve more staff…”

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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

Carol is fighting hard to maintain quality whilst the volume her people are managing rises. Naturally the incidence of missed cut offs, incorrectly keyed data and quality faults has risen.

Depending on the industry and the person the amount of loading that is safe varies. It doesn’t just affect forwarding but other businesses too. When you put people under strain they will respond by speeding up what they are doing (more faults) or becoming resigned, cynical and helpless.

The primary determinant of what is a safe loading and what is unsafe comes down to when do the stress levels jump. In Carol’s team this threshold has been exceeded yet the business needs are adding more load and more stress to operations rather than calming the noise and stress in operations.

It short Carol’s people feel overwhelmed and as are racing hard to keep up with expectations.

For the business reducing the volumes is not a viable option. Growing the volumes with capped staffing costs is necessary. For Carol increasing the load is therefore causing increasingly service failures.

Carol’s solution is to ask for more resource. Steve and Rob, the financial Controller, are telling her she can’t have more resources. This means Carol must find a way to take the stress out of her operations whilst at the same time accepting a rising load. That’s not easy and will necessitate a step change in productivity.

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