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What Makes a Great Freight Forwarder?

Freight Forwarder Air Cargo

All forwarders claim to be great. But they can’t all have the best, most dedicated and knowledgeable employees. They can’t all be negotiating the best rates for the service provided. You could spend a career sorting through forwarders to find the ones who actually do what they say they will. Or, you can ask yourself these questions to quickly separate the mighty from the merely mediocre.

  • Do they call you regularly? This isn’t a chatty sort of phone call that eats up your time. Instead, it’s candid and constructive dialogue that can only occur when both of you are working on the same goals. Truly great forwarders contact you often enough to understand your business—upcoming shipments, projects, and problems—so they can make your job easier. They collaborate with you on how to help your company grow, comply with regulations, and develop innovative solutions.
  • Do they listen? Talking is where it all begins, but if the talking doesn’t end so you can say something, you’re in the presence of a mediocre forwarder. Listening is the telltale sign of an exceptional forwarder. They listen to what’s troubling you, where there are gaps in service, what you need, and what you want. Often, your words and their follow-up questions will suggest the very idea or combination of services that can put you on course to resolve any difficulties.
  • Do they follow up? When you call a mediocre forwarder with a question or problem, expect (a) the runaround, (b) a response on the order of “that’s your problem,” (c) a headache or (d) all of the above. A great forwarder believes in finding the answer. If they don’t have the information themselves, they will track it down through their vast trove of industry resources. And they will follow up, exactly as promised.
  • Do they act as your eyes and ears in the supply chain? Mediocre forwarders think their job is done if they can deliver your shipment on time. For great forwarders, that performance level is the bare minimum of service. What sets them apart is the additional value they bring, such as technology, data, and analysis of your shipping patterns. They anticipate your high volume season and offer a helping hand—a suggestion or a phone call—so you’ll know they are always there for whatever you need. They anticipate your ever-changing needs and provide solutions that align with your organization’s strategic goals.

What do these questions reveal about the essence of a great forwarder? These are people you want to know, who are as passionate as you are about the safe transit of your products and your personal success. They get to know you, respect you, and willingly invest their time with you, building a strong business relationship. If they weren’t around, you would be missing something important. In fact, sometimes, you might forget for a moment that they are salespeople because they are so earnest about keeping your best interests front and center.

Do you agree with this definition? What would you add to the definition of a great freight forwarder, and what other tips can you offer for recognizing a mediocre one?