At this point, most forecasts in the freight industry are indicating a lackluster peak season. With so many uncertainties in the trade markets, it’s hard to predict if this is a temporary situation or the new normal. Either way it doesn’t have to be all bad news. A slower market provides the opportunity—and the necessity—to make improvements to quality and efficiency that will pay dividends in any market condition.
Find efficiencies in your own organization
When our team has is less busy, we use that extra time to allow employees to cross train in other roles. The results have been excellent. Employees who are learning a role for the first time aren’t encumbered with the habit of “how it’s always been done.” They often ask insightful questions about processes that lead to more efficient ways of doing things.
Even in slower markets, various departments still get really busy at times. Cross-training allows us to temporarily reallocate team members from other departments to keep things moving smoothly. Having everyone able to stay busy goes a long way towards keeping morale high as well.
Find value for your customers
ITG has a network of over 2,200 carriers throughout the continental U.S. We select our carriers based on quality and value so we don’t usually have to question whether we’re providing the best rates to our customers. But in a down market, everybody sharpens their pencils.
We’ve leveraged some of the extra availability in the office to call around to our carrier network and have been able to secure a surprising number of rate reductions. That effort provides wins for everyone. We keep more business, our customers save money, and the carriers secure additional moves.
Make yourself indispensable
Marketing is great for attracting new business, but no amount of marketing will secure the loyalty of your customers. That comes only through a quality customer experience. For us, that comes down to 3 things: personal relationships, attention to detail and proactive communication.
We go out of our way to get to know our customers as we serve them. When speed and price are equal, personal relationships will always win business. On the business we win, we double check everything—our own work and the information supplied by customers—to reduce errors and make sure moves come together as planned. Finally, we try to be obsessively proactive in our communications. If we know it, we make sure our customers know it. When your customers see successful fulfillment as automatic when they work with you, it becomes hard for them to imagine working with other providers.
We’ve found that we’ve been able to maintain and even grow a little during the slow down by applying the strategies above. That’s very gratifying but we’re most excited by how much better we’ll be positioned when things turn around in the, hopefully, near future. If you’re able to benefit from these strategies, I’m glad. I’m also curious to hear how others are weathering the current trade environment.