Providing more upfront and lasting value to your shippers (i.e. your 3PL or freight brokerage's customers) is the difference maker for running a successful 3PL or freight brokerage. What we've found working with hundreds of 3PLs and freight brokerages over the past five years is that 3 key strategies separate the 10% of freight brokers who build profitable thriving businesses and the 90% who fail in their first year.
Be proactive with your shippers when issues come up
Many old-school freight brokerages have built a reputation for lack of trustworthiness with shippers - but this doesn't have to be the case. One of the biggest culprits in forming this perception is the lack of proactive updates from brokers, especially when bad news comes up.
Contrary to popular belief, the majority of midsize (50-500 employees) shippers we surveyed were more concerned with broker trustworthiness than with poor performance. In fact, all but 2 shippers surveyed expressed that proactive broker updates, especially about delays and cancellations, would be an added value.
Obviously, this should not come at the cost of providing excellent service - the same shippers are still looking for brokers that can provide 95% plus on-time rates and 90% plus tender acceptance rates (data gathered via FreightPath).
The majority of midsize shippers (...) were more concerned with broker trustworthiness than with poor performance
However, what the data shows is that freight brokers looking to provide excellent service should aim to let shippers know a shipment will be behind schedule before they figure it out themselves. Whether this is via email, text, phone call or a personal visit (yikes) is up to you.
To put this into practice, it means that you'll need to know where your drivers, carriers and loads are at any given time so you're up to date on any possible late shipments. At the most basic level, this can involve your agents making routine check calls to drivers and specifying this requirement on your rate confirmations. Your freight brokerage's TMS software might also be able to help you with automating this repetitive task - many of these software systems, including FreightPath, provide your freight brokerage with real-time location on drivers and current loads.
If you're using FreightPath, then it's even easier - your shippers get automated proactive alerts about shipment status updates, delays, changes and real-time GPS track & trace through email automation and the FreightPath customer portal.
Secure a carrier before confirming your loads with shippers
It's also not a good idea to build a history of unreliability in the eyes of the shippers you're working with. Even though the promise of instant rate confirmations and instant quotes may be tempting to shippers, it's incredibly frustrating for your freight brokerage's customers when confirmed loads are left hanging because you couldn't secure a carrier.
In fact, this is one of the top 5 freight brokerage complaints we recorded when we surveyed mid-sized shippers. It is absolutely crucial for modern freight brokerages and 3PLs to be seen as reliable experts in transportation procurement. This is shown even more so by the top reasons shippers gave for choosing a 3PL or freight brokerage in the first place - service, expertise and reliability.
So, how do you make sure that you can maintain your reliability while also providing faster quotes and confirmations for your freight brokerage's shippers?
It's simple - you need to build relationships with your carriers. And not just casual ones - you'll need to know their:
- Available truck capacity
- Available equipment types
- Available service levels
- Current status of their operating authority
- Current safety ratings
- Qualitative carrier reliability
- Contracted rates (ideally)
Having this information for hundreds of carriers as well as a close relationship is absolutely critical to respond to shipper demands quickly while also keeping your brokerage's reliability high.
If you're starting out, this might mean keeping a dedicated spreadsheet for carrier compliance, equipment, contacts, capacity and rates tracking. If you're a bit more advanced technically, your TMS software might even have a dedicated area for you to record this information.
If you're looking for the best way to connect with your carriers and instantly confirm loads, then maybe FreightPath's Digital Carrier Network is the right solution for you. Instead of the poor and often cheap carriers you'll find through the spot market or direct-freight-matching services like Uber Freight and Convoy, FreightPath's DCN is a tool for you to privately connect with your own carriers.
Keep shippers engaged and in the loop through a digital brokerage experience
In 2021 shippers are demanding that their freight brokers do more and provide digital tools to earn their business. With the growth of services like Amazon, Uber and Convoy - being a traditional broker is no longer enough to win repeat business.
What we've seen at FreightPath is that brokers who employ digital tools like a customer portal or real-time GPS track & trace are 40% more likely to see growth in their existing customer base, and almost 75% less likely to see customer churn (i.e. shippers leaving for a different freight broker).
The good news is, thanks to improvements in technology, building a digital brokerage experience doesn't cost you an arm and a leg anymore. Most TMS softwares for freight brokers will have some form of sharing or portal feature to help you communicate with your shippers. More advanced TMS software, like FreightPath will even let you create white-labelled solution where shippers can book loads with you online.
At the end of the day, the most important thing for you to consider when looking to improve your freight brokerage's value proposition for shippers is to think in your customers' shoes.
The three key strategies we outlined in this article - being a proactive freight broker when it comes to track & trace, securing your carrier capacity before taking on shippers' loads, and keeping your freight brokerage's customers engaged through a digital experience - all came from direct discussions with real shippers.
We encourage you to use these strategies, as well as your own that you'll develop from having 1-on-1 conversations with your customers, to take your freight brokerage to the next level and provide exceptional value to your shippers and customers.