How logistics companies can improve customer service — and why it matters

Can you increase the speed limit for trucks on the highway? Make a steamship sail faster? Or magically reduce wait times at the port of Long Beach? Unfortunately for logistics companies, there are many factors that deeply impact your customer’s experience that you can't change.

What is in your control? Your company’s commitment to customer service.

That’s why quality customer service has become the biggest business differentiator in the logistics industry. It’s a must-have that customers demand and your business can’t afford to ignore.

According to our recent report, 2019 Logistics Tech Trends, 98% of logistics companies say that customer service is a critical piece of their company’s overall business strategy. And 55% said keeping up with customer service 24/7 is their biggest challenge.

What’s the importance of customer service in the supply chain? How can your logistics company improve your customer service? We spoke with leaders of high-growth logistics companies to hear their secrets for improving customer service.

1. Communicate quickly and thoroughly to build trust

Whether it’s a new business inquiry or a question about an existing order, your customers want one thing when they reach out to you: Answers.

“When it comes to customer service, our #1 priority is communication,” said Ben Cisneros, Sales Manager at Quality Material Handling, Inc. “We want to communicate with customers as quickly as possible, and as thoroughly as possible. We want them to know as much as we know.”

We gathered 3 key themes from teams who excel at customer service: they prioritize speed, consistency, and honesty in their customer communication.

Speed

“Speed of communication is the essence of customer service. The faster you deliver information, the faster you can act — and that’s what customers want,” said Cisneros.

In our recent report, 91% of leaders said they believed they could close more business by responding faster. But how fast is fast enough?

  • Only 25% say they respond in less than 30 minutes
  • 62% of companies say they respond within an hour of receiving a customer inquiry
  • 46% say it takes between an hour and 4 hours to respond to a new customer inquiry

Consistency

Carrier and Agent Support Manager at Logistic Dynamics, Andrew Whipple III, says consistent communication is critical to building a relationship of trust.

“We create and maintain business by establishing partnerships with trustworthy and quality enterprises. If we weren't great to work with, then we'd have no consistency and far less business,” he said.

“Answer everything. Even if you don't know how, explain what's happening and what you're doing to find the right answer for them. Silence is an assassin no one wants to invite over for tea and biscuits.” - Andrew Whipple III, Carrier & Agent Support Manager, Logistic Dynamics, Inc.

Honesty

“I tell customers I’m going to give them everything — the good the bad and the ugly,” Cisneros said. “I don’t promise that I will automatically know every answer, but instead, I assure them that I’m going to get them the solution they need.”

2. Build a process to fuel continual learning for employees

Being part of a high-growth business in a fast-paced industry like logistics requires support, sales, and account management reps to constantly learn. This means business leaders need to provide continual training to keep reps prepared and up to speed — especially when they’re juggling a breadth of knowledge on materials, regions, and systems.

Build a process for ongoing education to give reps continual training, on top of a regular training program for newly hired employees. This should be scheduled, structured time to go over process changes, share updates, or swap solutions that might be helpful for the rest of the team.

Methods to emphasize continual learning

  • Daily check-in: Gather the entire team before their day begins for a quick 15- or 30- minute meeting. Share a few top learnings for them to keep in mind for the day, plus updates they’ll need to be successful.
  • Weekly review: Bring the team together for a 1-hour session where you cover tricky situations and how to solve them. Have your team share from their own experience, so that you’re all learning from each other.
  • Rotational new hire training: When new reps join your team, have experienced employees lead their training and onboarding sessions. This gives everyone a chance to refresh and lets new teammates learn from direct examples.

“We go over new knowledge, review existing knowledge, and cover common situations that arise so we all know how to solve them if they arise again. ” - Ben Cisneros, Sales Manager, Quality Material Handling, Inc.

3. Minimize customer touch points with your team

When you submit a support request, it’s frustrating to get passed from one rep to another. Customers don’t want to hear from several members on your team — and they don’t need to see your team’s discussion and setbacks along the route to a solution. Customers just want to feel confident that your business can give them a solution.

Jesse Genet, CEO and Co-founder of Lumi, said this is key because teams need to be able to smoothly work together to solve problems — before they reach your customers.

"In the unpredictable and time sensitive world of supply chain, rapid internal communication is key to delivering results for customers," she said. "It's critical that cross functional team members can collaborate in real time to solve issues before they even reach the customer."

Methods to minimize customer touch points with your team

  • Take internal conversation out of email threads: Reps often forward emails to teammates to ask questions, chase down answers, and keep orders moving along. To customers, these long email chains look sloppy and complicated.
  • To do this, you can help your team stay professional by giving them a way to collaborate internally without forwarding email. One option is to try shared inbox software like Front, which allows you to chat internally directly on email threads, without customers seeing.
  • Set up automatic routing to get messages to the right person: Rather than forwarding an email to ask, “Can you handle this?” try using message routing to get it into the right teammate’s hands automatically.
  • You can set this up with traditional ticketing tools, as well as with shared inbox software like Front. Most commonly, teams choose to route messages by a rep’s expertise, their assigned region, or by particular customer account.

"When logistics teams implement automation, it’s not just about the hours saved. It’s about opening doors to higher levels of planning, strategy, and optimization across the supply chain.” - Jason Traff, President and Co-Founder of Shipwell

4. Take advantage of many communication channels

Customers expect to be able to reach you over email and phone, but many teams are expanding their availability to include options like SMS texting and live website chat. Being present where and when customers want to reach you is critical to a successful customer service strategy.

Top communication channels used by logistics businesses

  • Email: Email is the most common way customers contact you — for anything from new business to support. It’s easy, fast, and reliable.
  • Phone: Your customers want to be able to hear your voice when they need you.
  • SMS texting: Use a business SMS service to text customers real-time order updates, confirmations, and more. Try using a service like Twilio so customers can also respond, allowing you to have a two-way conversation.
  • Social media: Customers might tweet or use Messenger by Facebook to contact your business with sales inquiries or questions. If you’re not regularly monitoring these channels, you’re missing out on potential business.

5. Unify your communications

When you’re jumping from your TMS, to email, to Slack or Teams to chat with your team, information inevitably gets lost, and your team wastes time switching between platforms. Neither is good for the customer’s experience.

To eliminate this problem, businesses use shared inbox software, like Front, which unifies your communications into a single platform. It can hold all your team’s communication, like email, SMS texts, live chat, phone logs, social media, and more. Your team can collaborate on messages directly in the platform, so your inbox becomes a hub for getting work done and a reliable audit trail.

Quality customer service is memorable

Customers may never see your trucks, your warehouse, your committed drivers and packers, or even their own products. This is why leaders are finding customer service is so important — it's what your customers will remember about their experience with you.

Logistics tech trend report by Front