Calling customer service is probably one of your least favorite things to do. If it takes more than four or five rings for someone to answer, you may start to feel impatient or frustrated. If you were told that someone would respond promptly and it takes days to receive an answer, how confident are you in that business’s ability to execute?
Time is valuable, and being kept waiting can tarnish your experience and diminish trust in the vendor-client relationship. A client inquiry or complaint should be handled quickly and respectfully, with a resolution provided as soon as possible. When you keep your word and respond in a timely manner, even if the news is bad or you’re still working on a solution, clients are assured that you care about their problem.
Clear, direct, punctual communication is absolutely vital to business — between management and staff, customer and supplier, shipper and receiver. A breakdown in communication can make things go awry quickly, and trust can be lost. Clients need to feel confident that their needs are being met, and they want to be kept in the loop, whether things are running smoothly or not.
In the supply chain industry, mere minutes spent in uncertainty can seem like hours, causing anxiety and loss of confidence. “Where is my shipment? Why is it late? When will it arrive?” Delaying your response or withholding information can turn a relatively simple explanation into a big problem.
Businesses must establish procedures and training that emphasize the importance of providing a high level of prompt service. It all starts with your company culture — your hires should embrace the idea that great customer service is vital to the success of the business. When management places this goal as top-of-mind, it trickles down during training, and employees learn by example.
Providing resources and establishing procedures facilitates prompt, direct communication between your employees and clients. Front, an email platform that provides analytics on response time, is an effective tool for tracking response performance. It provides awareness to staff if a reply has not been addressed in a timely manner, ensuring that customers who correspond via email are not kept waiting.
This was an incredible asset when employees were suddenly working remotely during the early months of the pandemic. Logistics coordinators were able to respond to customers quickly and professionally, as if they were still working together in the same room. Our initial goal for email replies was 15 minutes or less; we are now averaging a 10-minute response time.
Incentives such as bonuses or time off can be used to motivate staff to improve response times. But if you establish a culture of excellent customer service and communication, and hire employees with integrity, they will embrace this work ethic and prioritize exceptional customer service without expectation of a reward.
Within the last 12 months, there has been great volatility in freight markets. Bottlenecks in the supply chain — the pandemic, the February 2021 Texas cold snap, cargo vessels unable to dock and offload due to worker shortage and the recent cargo ship that ran aground in the Suez Canal — severely hampered trade. All the while, ecommerce has accelerated nearly 10-fold, and consumers have stimulus money to spend. These issues presented a perfect storm of service disruption and delays.
As a result, it is critical to make it a priority to convey confidence to clients by employing proactive communication and creating a corporate culture focused on exceptional client care.
Michael Jarrett is president and CEO of Jarrett