(Editor’s note: This is the second of a four-part series that will appear each Monday. The series is by Kevin Rutherford and will promote ways to be successful in your broker relationship. View part one of the series here. )
The shipper is their customer. I’ve said this before, shippers like brokers. That’s why they’re not going away. You always have that opportunity to go compete with them. That’s the problem here. That’s why he’s frustrated and why he kept telling me, “You can’t let them come on the show and talk about customer service.” Well that’s exactly what the show is about. The show is about how we come together. Brokers and carriers coming together, working together, and brainstorming to provide outstanding customer service to our mutual customer. We have a business-to-business model. We need to provide service and value to that broker and we need to come up with various ways to do that. One of the really powerful ways we can do that is to help them provide more value to their customer. That’s what the show is all about.
So, of course that’s what we’re going to talk about. We’re going to talk about providing customer service. Is it all talk? For some people, of course it is. A lot of businesses talk about it and never do it. The ones that do it rise to the top. That’s what I want here. I want to help you rise to the top. I want to get to that place where we are working together. We as carriers are providing value to your customer, whether that’s a broker or a shipper. So again, if you believe that brokers are not providing customer service to their customer, the shipper, then competing with them should be drop-dead simple. All you have to do is go to the shipper and actually provide customer service — don’t just talk about it.
If you think the brokers are just talking about providing customer service, well then this is easy. Just go do it and you’ll have shipper-direct freight. The only people who believe that it’s easy are the people who have never been out there trying to sell freight to a shipper. It’s a difficult job, it is a competitive world. That doesn’t mean you can’t do it and there’s a lot of money to be made if you can.
So, there’s the problem. We’re not identifying our customers and we’re not providing outstanding customer service and value. How do we do that? Here’s what you need to think about. The first thing you have to do is identify your customer. Now I gave you the big clue here. Whoever’s check you’re depositing in your bank, that’s the customer. Sometimes you can have multiple customers. I run a business that is somewhat complicated in that sense. I have multiple customers and sometimes the needs of those customers even conflict. That becomes a real challenge at times, but that’s OK because I love challenges. So, identify your customer. It’s the entity or the person writing the check that you deposit. In this business, if you are leased to a carrier, then that carrier is your customer. Now look around, how many owner-operators talk about their carrier as though they are their customer and they’re doing everything they can to provide value to them? Almost nobody, and it’s very rare when you find it.
Is it any wonder we have such high turnover? There is such a huge failure rate as owner-operators because we haven’t done step No. 1. We haven’t identified the customer. If we don’t know who they are, how can we provide value to them?
Identify your customer. If you’re leased to a carrier, it’s the carrier. If you have authority and you’re using brokers, it’s the broker. If you’re using shippers, it’s the shipper. It could be a combination of the two. Most likely it will be a combination of the two — a broker and a shipper. Identify your customer and then really start to think that way, that they are your customer.
If you can’t get your head around that they are your customer and you should be providing value, well then maybe they’re just the wrong customer. If that’s the case then fire them and go find a new customer. Nothing wrong with that, I’ve had to do that many times in business. Again, identify your customer and make sure it’s somebody you respect enough and want to provide value to them. If not, then go find a new customer.
Then you have to have an outstanding product or service. Outstanding means it’s not the same as everybody else. You could point to something and say, “This is why I’m different and better.” That’s what you have to have. Otherwise, you’re a commodity and the only thing that is going to matter is price. I hear that all the time — all the shippers care about is price, all the brokers care about is the rate. Well, then that’s your fault. You are not showing your customer why you’re worth more. It’s not their responsibility to pay you more and then hope you do better. That’s not how business works, you have to provide the value first.
You have to have outstanding customer service as well. I’ve talked about companies that frustrate me because they have an outstanding product, something I can’t find anywhere else, and yet they fall down in customer service. You have to have both. You have to have an outstanding product or service to offer then you have to service your customer really well.
There’s a couple other things that will help you get there. You have to be a critical thinker, a problem solver, and an innovator. When you put those things together, you are the 1 percent. That doesn’t happen very often. It happens about 1 percent of the time. You know the big examples of this, companies like Apple, Southwest Airlines, and Tesla. Those are big companies, those are the ones we know and we hear about.
People make examples of them because they’ve done all these things consistently over and over. There are a lot of examples of this in every industry. I look for this everywhere I go, I seek this out. I try to find the companies that do this really well and I love when I find little companies that are working every day to do those things. They have an outstanding product, they have excellent customer service, they are critical thinkers and innovators, and they solve problems. That is a very unique combination. If we’re in business, that’s what we should be striving for.
Here’s the question of the day: How are you providing value to your customer? Give me something unique that you’re doing to provide value to your customer. If you’re in business and you want to succeed and you can’t think of something, well then that is your assignment. You have to figure out who the customer is and how you provide value to them. It is completely up to you.