Evaluating Your Forwarder in Tough Market Conditions

It’s not uncommon for businesses to stay in unhealthy relationships with their vendors. We see it happen all the time in the shipping industry. A freight forwarder continuously underperforms and lets down their clients – in small or big ways – but the relationship never changes. Many shippers are under the impression that “the devil you know is better than the one you don’t know,” and so they choose to put up with their current freight forwarders despite repeat failures.

While it’s often difficult to gauge the health of a vendor relationship in typical seasons, tough market conditions certainly expose weak points in a forwarder-to-shipper partnership. If you’ve been shipping over the last year, we presume that 2020 presented several inconveniences and difficulties to your team. Given what you experienced, here are a few things to keep in mind as you evaluate your freight forwarder based on their recent performance:

Immediacy and Availability

The whole point of having a freight forwarder is to work with a vendor who is experienced in the shipping industry, has established networks and relationships, and is available to take action when needed. If 2020 created anything, it was the need for immediacy in decisions.

Tough market conditions put vendors to the test on how prepared they are to take action immediately when necessary. Did you feel like your freight forwarder was giving you the time of day? Do you feel they prioritized other clients’ shipments above yours? Do you feel they were taking care of you as a customer, or playing “catch up” to simply stay afloat amidst unforeseen market changes? Were they leading, or simply reacting to the market? Is there even a good time to switch forwarders?

Ability to Take Action

There is nothing more frustrating than talking to an agent who doesn’t have the power to take action. When your freight forwarder account manager’s only capability is to escalate your requests for action to an uninvolved supervisor, you’re in trouble.

Market conditions such as those in 2020 demonstrated just how important it is for freight forwarder employees to be empowered to make decisions when necessary. If you’re reaching out about an issue in an ongoing shipment, it needs to change immediately, and if the freight forwarder agent you’re working with isn’t empowered to make decisions before seeking approval from uninvolved managers who don’t know the situation, it may be time to start evaluating whether they’re right for you.

Active Listening

It’s hard to tell whether or not your vendor is really listening to you, but end-of-year results speak for themselves. One of the biggest frustrations shippers have with their freight forwarders is the apparent lack of translation between conversation and action. You may think your freight forwarder is listening to you, but if they continue to make the same failures or fail to adjust their process to optimize aspects of your shipping process in the changing market conditions, you can guarantee they aren’t practicing active listening.

Strategic Action Plans

This is what freight forwarders exist for. They’re not meant to be an ad-hoc service provider. They are there to serve as a source of value for you and your team. While they have the wherewithal to execute shipments and move product from point A to point B, the real value of a freight forwarder comes through their expertise, connections, insights, and ability to strategize.

What better time for instituting strategic action plans than 2020? When market conditions change drastically, the capabilities of your freight forwarder are brought to light. Did your freight forwarder take time to have a conversation with you regarding what you or they can do to improve your process? Have they talked to you about the benefits of alternative shipping methods or modes, different routing options, or consolidation practices?

Starting a Conversation

We all learned a thing or two coming out of the last year. Unfortunately for many shippers, the faults of their freight forwarders were illuminated, and it’s left many feeling lost in their logistics process. Are you getting the best deal on your shipments? Are you getting the greatest value out of your freight forwarder? If you feel unsure or frustrated over how your shipments unfolded in the last year, or are just wondering if there’s a better solution out there, don’t be afraid to simply start a conversation.

Reaching out to other professional freight forwarders is the best way to get a read on how healthy your current forwarder relationship is and whether or not there’s something better waiting for you. If that’s where you’re finding yourself at, please don’t hesitate to reach out to one of our team members! We would love to hear how the last year has impacted your team, how your shipments have unfolded, and answer any questions you may have.


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