Freight Forwarders are third party logistics providers. They secure the best pricing by cutting volume discount deals with truck lines, rail roads, air freight companies, and steam ship lines. In addition, freight forwarders streamline the shipping process and coordinate the shipment of goods from point A to point B. The service they provide is invaluable, but finding the right forwarder for your freight is not as easy as it should be.
What are freight Forwarders?
Freight Forwarders send out sales reps to make sales calls on companies that export. They identify sales leads by looking at Customs export data and by word of mouth. Many sales reps are not college graduates with little industry training, but they are well versed in the school of hard knocks. Meaning, the schmooze factor of a freight forwarder sales rep is off the chart. They will take you to lunch, bring you Christmas goodies and say almost anything to secure your business. Then they are nowhere to be found when something goes terribly wrong with your freight. Unfortunately, this is all too common and encountering a sales rep who knows what they are doing and is willing to do more than take you to lunch to support your business is rare.
Compare qualified transport agents
Which is why I always ask to meet the ocean and air managers as those are the people who will be touching my freight. I need to vet them and see if they are responsive and know what they are doing. The sales rep is meaningless and has almost no impact on how well your freight will be handled. But I do go to lunch and let them ply me with free pens, after which, I insist on meeting with their managers before I tender any freight to them. People make the difference in the freight forwarding industry. ISO 9000 certification is meaningless if the people behind it are incompetent or lazy. I look for air and freight managers who are go getters and know their business. I also look for signs of burnout which can be a harbinger of poor service. Here are some sample questions to ask an air and ocean freight manager:
Questions to check knowledge of a container freight expert
- How long have you worked in this field?
- Who are the best air or ocean carriers? (I want to hear ocean container lines like Hyundai, K Line, Lykes, and Maersk as those tend to be the better steamship lines.
- Who are the worst air and ocean carriers? (I always find these answers educational. In addition, this tests how forthright the manager is going to be with me. People who hem and haw on this make me nervous. Every freight company has strengths and weaknesses. Some air and ocean carriers are best avoided and it’s really not a secret.
- Which air and ocean carriers do your work with?
- What kind of process approach does your office use to ensure customer requirements are followed every time?
- How do you handle mistakes?
- Give me an example of great service your office has provided.
- I don’t want to have to call looking for paperwork or shipment details, can you guarantee that this information will find me without follow up from my end?