4 Qualities an SMB Should Look for When Choosing a Freight Forwarder

Choosing freight services - 79830849

Modern small businesses must cater to online customers and offer memorable customer experiences to remain competitive. On the surface, competing with established eCommerce giants might seem like an impossible task. However, SMBs can leverage third party support services to manage critical parts of their business, such as handling logistics. 

Freight forwarders are an example of such a critical service provider. From ensuring timely delivery to smoothing international logistics issues, the right freight forwarder can make or break a small business’ reputation with its customers.

Here are 4 qualities SMBs must prioritize when searching for a high-quality freight forwarder.

Shipping visibility

Visibility and transparency are hallmarks of a high-quality freight forwarder. While an SMB might be outsourcing its logistics handling, customers associate shipping experiences with the business itself. This means that poor performance on the freight forwarder’s part damages the SMB’s reputation.

Delivering real-time visibility into shipment statuses and package locations goes a long way towards mitigating any negative perceptions a customer might have of a company. For instance, a delayed package is unlikely to make a customer happy. However, if they understood the reason behind the delay and the package’s location, they’re more likely to give the business another chance.

SMBs must evaluate freight forwarders for their ability to track and communicate statuses. In addition, good freight forwarders also communicate international customs rules and potential delays. These communications help an SMB get ahead of the curve and let its customers know of any potential issues.

For instance, when shipping from North America to the EU, customs delays and VAT concerns are routine. Letting customers know a package’s location and the status of the shipment will mitigate any concerns about deliveries.

Transparency is essential in last-mile deliveries, too. A freight forwarder must be able to provide SMBs (and its customers) delivery time slots to avoid inconveniencing the customer. Customers who know when to expect shipments will appreciate the concern and are more likely to reorder from a company.

Route design experience

Route design is a critical component in logistics. On the surface, route design seems uncomplicated. However, the shortest distance between two points on a map is very rarely the fastest route. Nor is the fastest shipment method guaranteed to deposit a package on time at the customer’s doorstep.

Customs duties, international regulations, and even local shipping laws complicate route design. Some third-party logistics providers have begun using AI to unravel the complexities behind route planning. While AI is not a prerequisite, SMBs must look at a freight forwarder’s experience in delivering shipments to customers in a region.

Some regions are more complex than others, while some countries impose embargoes on receiving goods from some parts of the world. In short, delivering shipments is not straightforward. A good freight forwarder will map out different options and give SMBs realistic delivery timelines instead of overpromising and under-delivering.

An easy way to evaluate route design expertise is to inquire about previous delivery attempts and discuss current regulatory changes in a specific area. A good freight forwarder will understand these issues and explain them clearly.

Local expertise

Businesses are increasingly selling worldwide, and picking a freight forwarder with national and international expertise is critical. Local connections are a critical part of international expertise. Most freight forwarders work with local logistics agents to ensure goods reach customers on time.

For example, a freight forwarder will work with a Spanish logistics provider when serving customers in Spain. They will lean on this local partner to execute last-mile deliveries, provide shipment statuses, and reverse logistics (package returns).

This situation leaves SMBs vulnerable to a company they have no connection with, making the freight forwarder’s choice of a local partner more important than ever. The key to choosing the right local partner is expertise in the region and experience.

Before choosing a freight forwarder, SMBs must ask for local partner information and understand the processes the company executes to ensure that packages arrive on time and in good condition. 

Asking for delivery metrics like on-time deliveries and delayed last-mile shipments is a good way to evaluate expertise.

Cost Consciousness

Logistics is a tough business, thanks to low margins. Some freight forwarders mitigate this risk by inflating prices when quoting SMBs, leading to less competitive shipping prices and margins when billing customers.

Naturally, customers are unlikely to pay for exorbitant shipping. SMBs must choose freight forwarders that understand the realities of the marketplace when quoting prices. In addition, the freight forwarder must behave like a partner to the SMB. They must offer payment plans and any other options that reduce the impact of shipping costs on retailer margins.

For example, some freight forwarders offer buy now pay later (BNPL) options to their customers, giving SMBs the option of spreading shipping payments over time, reducing its impact on cash flow. Similarly, good freight forwarders will present the right combination of delivery timelines and costs when offering international shipping options and reverse logistics.

An important choice for SMBs

An SMB’s choice of freight forwarder is an important one. Freight forwarders play a major role in customer experience, the key driver behind repeat business. To ensure the happiness of their customers, SMB owners must take the time to evaluate all options before choosing the right freight forwarder for their business.

Interesting Related Article: ·”Top Freight Management Mistakes to Avoid Making