The Cure For First-Shipment-Itis Part 2
Based on the feedback I got from my June column it would appear that “ﬁrst-shipment-itis” is more rampant in the industry than I thought.
In case you missed it, the term refers to the pain you get from a customer’s first shipment because of a lousy rate or unexpected curveball. Unfortunately, many truckers will kill a customer relationship instead of finding a cure for what ails it.
Before I offer my remedy, it’s important to understand that your company brand must embrace every new shipper like it’s potentially your biggest account – regardless of the growing pains. Here’s where to start:
While running MSM Transportation, we used ISO 9002 corrective actions to figure out that bad information was the root cause of most service problems.
It’s amazing the correlation between garbage information and poor service. That’s why there will always be a higher probability of warts on the first shipment.
Build systems that produce orders with no blanks. At MSM we went so far as to tie our customer service bonuses to the quality of information that the team collected. It not only improved the service on Shipment 1 but also on Shipments 2, 3, 4 and beyond.
Attack both ends
Every new shipper comes with a great side effect: a new consignee that you can turn into a new customer. Our research into “ﬁrst-shipment-itis” at MSM revealed that a lack of consignee information is a painful symptom. The problem becomes magnified when you deliver to the wrong address.
While shipments were in transit (and we had leverage), we made a point to call the consignee to introduce ourselves, conﬁrm the information, and provide a contact should things go awry. It made a great first impression and gave sales a leg up when they called.
Unless you’re the cheapest guy on the block, you secured the first shipment for a reason. Something wasn’t working with Joe Trucker, and now it’s your turn to screw it up.
Find out why you got the business. Often the shipper is the real culprit, and if you can help solve their problems you’re more likely to have a healthy long-term relationship.
Humanize your brand
Even if the dung hit the fan on the first shipment, you must humanize your brand. When you connect on an emotional level the customer will respect you regardless of how many days the truck was late.
At MSM I mailed a thank you letter (yes, mail) to every new shipper and consignee, and it really set the table for future discussions. Where possible, we had an employee arrive with the driver for the first pickup or delivery with a box of Timmy’s in tow. Our clinical research showed that shippers love jelly donuts as much as we loved Shipment 2.
How’d we do?
Canadians aren’t complainers, which is why I’m no fan of customer surveys. That is, until I spoke at a conference last summer with award winning author and business consultant John Warrillow. He measures customer satisfaction with one simple question: “Would you recommend our service to a friend or colleague?”
Lose the form and pick up the phone. If the customer says yes, it’s time to talk about Shipment 2. If they say no, it’s also time to talk about Shipment 2. It just means the conversation is going to take a little longer!
There will always be bad customers, but don’t pull the plug on an opportunity based on one shipment. New customers are your lifeline. If you don’t figure that out, you’ll be chasing your sales tail forever.