Strong business relationships are key to achieving long-term success in the freight industry.
Carriers don’t just have to win new contracts to stay ahead of the competition — they also have to maintain existing client relationships. Minimizing churn is vital for short-term cash flow and long-term growth and diversification.
To maintain a competitive advantage, you must proactively manage, nurture, and optimize your accounts. Here are five freight contract management tips that can help set your organization up for long-term success:
1. Research and vet prospective customers
To build a lasting business relationship, you need to make sure it will be sustainable to begin with. Performing a shipper credit check is an important first step to ensure you’ll get paid on time, but it’s not the only factor to consider.
By researching your freight sales leads before you close a deal, you can better tailor your lead nurturing to their unique situation. Investigating a prospective customer’s business model, business relationships, and reputation within the industry can help you identify red flags that might indicate it’s not a good fit — before you waste resources on an account that won’t be profitable.
2. Manage your CRM data quality
Many companies, both large and small, are limited by their data quality. A surprising number of carriers still rely on paper-and-pen record keeping, and even those who have digitized their operations may not follow best practices for CRM management. The result is low-grade information that affects speed, efficiency, and visibility.
When your CRM is littered with bad data — missing fields, data entered in the wrong fields, outdated information, typos, misspellings, duplicate entries, etc. — team members have to spend time tracking down or confirming data, which disrupts their workflow and impacts efficiency. This is true for all teams throughout your organization, including sales, marketing, customer service, billing, and leadership.
Modern supply chain logistics move at the speed of customer demand. In a global marketplace, that often means offering outstanding customer care any time of the day or night.
When it comes to retaining clients, customer service speed, availability, and quality are all critical. For example, quoting freight rates as quickly and accurately as possible cuts down on turnaround and limits the costly and time-consuming mistakes that sour customer relationships.
For global companies, in particular, 24/7 availability can set you apart from competitors — after all, when your client in Hong Kong has a pressing question, they won’t want to wait for the workday to start in Chicago for a response.
However, customer service isn’t just about answering questions and solving problems as they arise. Nurturing existing relationships requires actively identifying ways to improve service. Frequently communicating with clients about their needs, challenges, and concerns can help you discover opportunities to expand existing contracts.
4. Regularly review and share reporting
The data you collect is only as valuable as the reporting you undertake. Regular, thorough review and reporting of business practices and relationships allow you to identify your most valuable accounts, so you can allocate the resources needed to retain them.
Fortunately, modern data collection helps make reporting easier. Advanced big data processing can help you identify the kind of business relationships that are most profitable for your organization and accounts that are not performing as well and could use optimization.
But don’t keep all your reporting in-house — be sure to continually share reports with clients for maximum transparency. Your regular reviews demonstrate that you’re committed to their success, but they also present an opportunity to discuss areas of potential improvement and offer new solutions that expand your contracts.
5. Reduce and manage your administrative burden
From nurturing to onboarding to reporting and beyond, freight contract management throughout the client lifecycle can be time-consuming and labor-intensive for your in-house team.
When too many resources are used on contract management, your internal processes can get bogged down, and customer experience can suffer. Also, dormant contacts may fall through the cracks and not be nurtured, resulting in lost business.
Especially when margins are tight, and the business climate is uncertain, contract management requires careful attention.
To recap: researching prospective customers, managing CRM data quality, delivering excellent customer service, performing regular reporting, and managing administrative burden are all ways to ensure your organization wins — and retains — the most profitable contracts.
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