On a recent flight from Miami to Minneapolis, I had an interesting conversation with the passenger seated next to me. It started out with the usual (Where do you live? Do you have kids? What were you doing in Miami?). But it was after I mentioned that I’d just attended the Transportation Marketing & Sales Association’s annual conference that my conversation became more than idle chitchat.
I explained that I work for a logistics company in Minneapolis, managing our social media strategy.
“You mean, a company like C.H. Robinson?” he asked.
“Actually, that’s my company,” I replied.
“I use you guys for my transportation,” he said.
What an opportunity! Who needed a customer survey when I could talk to a customer in a non-business setting and get his honest opinion on our service, relationship, value, etc.
I soon learned we coordinated both his domestic and international transportation. He’s been using us for many years, and as the president and owner of the company, he appreciates our people and service offerings.
He inquired about his options with ocean transit times. I shared what I’d learned at the TMSA Conference There, a trade expert gave his opinion on some current trends with transit times and what he sees happening in the future.
“That’s the type of information that you, as a logistics company, can provide to me,” he said. “It helps me to make more strategic decisions.”
We talked about China. He’s imported consumer electronics from the country for many years and has visited multiple times. I asked him what he thought about the near shoring debate.
“Some back-end manufacturing and assembly might take place in the U.S. and in Mexico,” he predicted, “but the main manufacturing of goods such as electronics will never move back to the U.S.” This surprised me. He acknowledged that as parts of coastal China become more developed, the costs of goods are increasing. But he explained that with such an enormous, relatively inexpensive labor pool, most manufacturing for the foreseeable future will likely remain in China.
As we started our descent and our conversation wound down, he made one final point. He understands most of the rules and regulations that are important to shippers, and even how to deal with some of the large retailers and their process. But in his industry, he frequently talks with new shippers that struggle with transportation.
“Why isn’t there an open space or forum that allows customers, carriers, and suppliers to communicate better, something that gives people the ability to see past responses and posts?” he asked.
My response was short and sweet. “Social Media.”
This is why experts like Adrian Gonzalez keep pushing social media in the supply chain as a way to stay informed. Shippers want information. They just aren’t always sure where to look. Already, much of this information is more widely available and sharable through social media. Many expect that trend to continue as more and more people discover the value of this growing resource.
While the TMSA Conference was interesting, in some ways, the in-flight conversation was even more valuable. Conversations with your customers—the best way to learn what you’re really doing right and wrong—are a real gift. So next time you’re on a flight put down the book or iPad, and start talking. I was really happy I did.