Three Major Ways of Improving Customer Service in the Logistics Industry
Recent studies have shown that customer service is at the heart of the strategic objectives of over 90% of logistics service providers across the world. Specifically, several logistics industry players consider the ability to meet pressing customer service demands at every time and every day of the week, as a major challenge. Equally, being able to meet customers’ needs 24/7 is one of the most important performance indicators in logistics.
Speed, cost, and safe cargo delivery are the most critical issues of concern to customers in the logistics industry. Despite these pressing needs, logistics agents are hardly able to meet customers’ expectations. In other words, the ability to deliver cargo faster, safer, within a pre-determined cost limit, translates to excellent service. Excellent service can only be achieved when customer needs are consistently met and occasionally exceeded.
“Commitment to excellent service delivery is the most important service differentiator in logistics.” (Kanayo Nnamani).
While the challenges associated with delivery speed, cost, and safety may remain in the logistics process, the following measures can be useful ways of improving and maintaining excellent service and customer relationship:
Honest Communication: Honest communication helps to build mutual trust between service providers and customers. From the first phone call, email, or face-to-face conversation on customer needs, honest answers must be provided. While customers understand that challenges could occur, they should be promptly informed about existing and all potential challenges, as well as the cost implications, if there are any. Response time to customer requests/queries is another key consideration for logistics service providers.
A survey conducted by FrontApp.com on logistics service providers shows that over 60% of logistics service providers respond to customer requests within 1 hour. Again, the timeline for customer communication should be defined with the shortest timeframe of 30 minutes to 1 hour or 2 hours maximum. Importantly, one of the several ways of building trust is the willingness to keep the customer informed of all requirements, the true situation of things at every point – including challenges or potential challenges, the cost implication of those challenges (if any) to avoid unpleasant surprises.
Maintain a Single TouchPoint with Customers: Studies have shown that having multiple touchpoints or having to relate with more than one contact person from the providers’ end can put customers off. Since majority of customers feel more comfortable with a single contact person, it is important to ensure you have specific individuals delegated to manage individual customers. This important step helps to gain customer confidence. However, this does not mean the absence of teamwork. While the entire team works towards customer satisfaction, a dedicated contact point for customers helps the team to stay professional. Alternatively, automatically routing specific enquiries to employees with the appropriate technical capabilities to handle them is one of the most effective ways of gaining customers’ confidence. For instance, since the shipping and logistics industry has diverse areas requiring the right competencies to handle, routing can be based on subjects like sea freight (containerized cargo), airfreight, loose cargo, dangerous goods, etc. Enquiries in these specific areas are automatically routed to individuals with the requisite competence to handle them.
Obtain regular customer feedback and plan for improvement: Structure your feedback system to obtain daily, weekly, monthly quarterly feedback either through a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) technological platforms/database, online, or other conventional media. The key objective must be understanding and analyzing customer behaviours, antecedents, consistency, pattern of request, key requirements, and so on to improve their overall experience.
Most importantly, definite timelines for resolving complaints arising from such feedbacks should be defined and closed out satisfactorily. In other words, if a customer complains of incurring unanticipated cost during their transaction with you, all you need to do is to address the root cause of that problem, articulate required corrective actions, close them out within a realistic timeline to avoid re-occurrence, and monitor the effectiveness of the measure(s) you have put in place. How then do we measure whether close-out was satisfactory?
This could require a follow-up with the customer to obtain their feedback. Also, a request for quotation or an enquiry on a fresh job can be good indicators of a satisfactory resolution of customer complaint.
In conclusion, the foregoing among several ways of improving logistics services are critical steps towards maintaining healthy customer relationships. Though cost, delivery timelines, and safety are key considerations in logistics, commitment to excellence and customer-centric values are the critical drivers of customers satisfaction, customer retention, and continual improvement on customer service outcomes.