People always ask me how we get and retain clients in the third party logistics industry (3PL). I think it’s pretty simple: Great Customer Service.
I know what you’re thinking – that’s a little too generic – right? Not really. Let me explain how I define great customer service:
1. Anticipate. Great customer service in the transportation and logistics industry is about beating your clients to their own thoughts. Whether it’s a need, want, or complaint – you have to communicate with your client before they communicate with you. If you can anticipate your clients’ thoughts and feelings and communicate their concerns before they do, they will feel respected. They will have received great customer service as a result.
2. Be grateful. Clients pay your bills. Every time they purchase a product or service they are giving you a part of their hard earned money. That money represents time and energy – the very stuff of life. They can invest their money at a lot of different companies, but they have chosen to invest it with you. Take every opportunity to let them know you appreciate them. Send a quick e-mail, leave a nice voicemail, take them out for dinner, or write a handwritten note and stick it in your company Christmas card. Do something at least once a quarter. Let your clients know how much you appreciate their business.
3. Plan your work and work your plan. Most clients’ frustrations come from unmet expectations. Do your best to plan for every contingency, communicate your plan well, and then follow through. When I first started in the logistics industry, I remember the company I was working for missing a narrow window to pick up a shipment from a Las Vegas trade show. It got pushed. The client was furious because the convention charged transport and logistics services in Nigeria them four times as much to ship it back to them. Not only that, but we had lost valuable trust with client and we had to work very hard to build back that trust. You simply can’t afford to backslide with clients. Plan your work, work your plan, and watch your clients become your brand ambassadors.
4. Say “Yes” as much as you can (but know ahead of time when you have to say “no”). Clients love to hear you say “yes” as much as possible. As long as you can do it you should. Fulfilling a special request makes a client feel important, respected, and well served. Don’t think of special requests as a negative, rather think of them as a big curveball to knock out of the park. Your clients will love you when you do. On the other hand, there are instances when you must say “no.” In those instances, you should have an explanation ready for them. The solution can be a potential upsell for you or added value for your client. I never think of clients’ requests as problematic. Problems only arise when you’re not prepared. Never put yourself in a position to begrudge your clients because you said “yes” when you should have said “no”. Rather, find an equitable solution that you can both feel good about.
Although there are obviously many tenets to great customer service, these are the top 4 things that I consistently find myself talking about in the office.
We are nothing without great customers, and ensuring great customer service should be a no-brainer. We are in an industry where client relationships can be the greatest single competitive advantage we have. We can’t afford not to anticipate, be grateful, plan our work and work our plan, or go out of our way to make the client happy whenever feasible.