Maintaining Customer Expectations of Haulage Contracts

It can take weeks and even month to pick up on-going (repeat) haulage contracts. However, they can be lost again in just a few seconds. Here are a few useful tips as to how you can hopefully avoid experiencing the frustration of that scenario.

What not to do

Back in the 1970s there was a series of documentaries on TV following what can only be described as the exploits of what at the time were called “long-distance lorry drivers”.

They were patronizingly referred to by the programmes as “the last cowboys”. If you can find copies of these ancient documentaries, they are well worth watching for nostalgia, but also because they demonstrate some fairly commonplace attitudes that were simply not in the customer’s best interests.

Hopefully these attitudes and approaches to modern haulage contracts are now the stuff of history but just in case, try to avoid the following.

• Making collection and delivery promises that are reliant upon good fortune and best-case scenarios. If you have no choice, make sure the customer is well aware of your underlying assumptions and that they might not work out.

• Transhipping goods, unless you have again notified the customer in advance.

• Avoid your customer needing to call you to tell you that there are problems with your vehicle. That includes situations where chains or straps were requested but your vehicle and driver arrive without them.

• Sending inappropriate vehicles. Examples might include rigid vans when a tilt has been requested, or flat beds where the load was clearly stated to require a low-loader.

• Leaving your customers in the dark. The moment the customer has to telephone you to try and find out what is going on then you’re immediately in trouble in terms of keeping their goodwill and retaining their future business.

• Threatening your customers with demurrage when in reality the problem was caused by your vehicle arriving significantly late to begin with.

• Involving your customer in squabbles between you and a third party you may have sub-contracted the jobs out to, or who may have done likewise to you. In fact, if you have a direct customer relationship, you should never subcontract without making clear to them what is going on.

Things you should do

In the case of one-off loads, not all of these things will necessarily apply, but if you are talking about long-term regular haulage contracts, it would be a very smart idea to do the following.

• Get out of your chair, get your head out of the PC, put your mobile phone away and get out to see your customers! Personal relationships are inevitably critically important in cementing and maintaining business, and an e-mail or text with a smiley and “LOL” is no substitute for a handshake and the occasional lunch.

• Make yourself available quickly to your customers. Yes, there will be times that you will be unavailable when they call, but don’t let them need to keep calling you before they can find you. Make a point of always returning their calls as quickly as you can – even if you have nothing to say.

• Make sure your drivers or sub-contractors represent your business values. Careful customer service management and image portrayal can be ruined in an instant if an individual driver decides to start being ‘difficult’ over one thing or another on the customer’s premises.

These are just a few basic things but they were clearly not much in evidence in those now long-distant days of the 1970s! If you want to secure and retain those haulage contracts, it might be best to ensure that your attitudes are firmly rooted in the 21st century.

Norman Dulwich is a correspondent for Haulage Exchange, the world’s largest neutral trading hub for haulage contracts in the express freight exchange industry. Over 2,500 transport exchange businesses are networked together through their website, trading jobs and capacity in a safe ‘wholesale’ environment.

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