We LTL truckers do things that drive our customers crazy. That's not to say we don't do many things well. Of course we do!
But over my 40-odd years in LTL trucking, I've spent countless hours with shippers, receivers, 3PLs and brokers. Expressed in those "conversations" was more "what I hate about you" than "what I love about you"— only natural.
I was fortunate in that I was a bit immune to repeated criticisms, as I'd been through the same thing during my dating life. I tried not to take it personally.
I'd submit that salespeople unwittingly contribute to a customer's negative focus when they lead the conversation with, "Any problems I can help you with?" I always cringed when that question was posed.
(I mean, would you ever start a conversation with your sig-other with, "Tell me all the ways I annoy you"? Always lead with a positive statement!)
That said, it is important that we not ignore opportunities to understand our failures and weakness, especially when those service issues impact productivity, efficiencies and budgets.
So, I reached out to several experienced, trusted and respected people I know who've sat across from me for many conversations, service discussions and negotiations. Most still work in the industry, but I also talked to a couple of industry "dinosaurs" to determine if some of these issues have persisted as long as I think they have.
It turns out, they have.
7 things customers most hate about LTLs
Or, if that's a bit strong, you can think of it as: seven improvement areas for LTLs.
I hate having to call customer service!
It isn't always consistent or reliable, I hear.
It's quite understandable that a carrier would want to outsource customer service to save money. But wouldn't it make even more sense to ensure that those answering those urgent calls for assistance know the product and can advise and communicate solutions clearly?
And, customer service performance is best measured not by how little time was spent on the call but how well the quality responses resolve the issue in one call. "One And Done," we used to call it at American Freightways.
I hate it when you guys reclass my freight
Customers especially don't like it when it happens with little, or no, justification.
One of my respondents shared that every shipment out their door is identical and has been for years. Suddenly, 50% of their shipments were being reclassed. This isn't an isolated story.
Sales intervention, and perhaps a little applied logic, can resolve these issues. But, you have to ask yourself, "How does this happen, all of a sudden?"
I'd guess that many of your reclass issues come from 3PL broker clients. The 3PL could do a much better job assisting you in this area with a little customer intervention of its own. Carriers should demand it.
I hate it when you interline shipments destined to points listed as direct
"Why can't carriers tell me which destinations they will deliver direct and which ones they'll be handing off?," they say. This one was a biggie.
Route guides (electronic and otherwise) need to be constantly updated. I know from experience that operations folks change direct point coverages as frequently as they change their underwear.
Making your changes weekly, as opposed to daily and arbitrarily, and sharing those changes with your salespeople and your customers will go a long way in resolving this. Computerized routing has made frequent updating even more important.
I hate it when sales expertise is sub-optimal
Study after study reveals that customers want a salesperson who is knowledgeable and trustworthy.
A 2020 LinkedIn study reported that 47% of buyers said they valued trustworthiness as a top quality in a salesperson. It was 44% for responsiveness and 40% for being an expert in the field. But, those virtues don't always accompany the pretty face through the customer's door.
"This is improving," stated one of my respondents. "However, there are still some sales folks that could use some transportation education."
But you know as well as I that LTL customers have memories that elephants envy. It only takes one ineffectual salesperson to destroy years of good will.
Salespeople can't be over-trained or over-educated.
I hate it when dimensionalizing freight doesn't make sense
When it comes to dimensionalizing freight, "no one has a damn clue what's going on here."
This a direct quote from one of my respondents. And, I've heard that same statement from customers who were caught unaware of the rules and applications which vary from carrier to carrier.
For example, some carriers only selectively "dim" while others "dim" extensively. Many carriers don’t "dim" at all. As a result, shippers can anticipate varying rates for identical consignments depending on the carrier, making budgeting all the more complicated.
And to complicate matters even further, carriers aren’t always prompt in sending their corrected invoices. It might be six months before a shipper receives notice that they owe hundreds of dollars more than they were initially billed.
Just as salespeople need training and education, so do the customers, especially in an area that can greatly impact their budgets. If ever there was an area that could be improved through industry standardization, it would be this one.
I hate it when there's a slow API connection
Why should it take over a year to establish an API connection?
Although customers, especially 3PLs, literally beg to be assisted, many carriers refuse to provide the proper support to produce an efficient process, letting information technology professionals take the lead.
Big mistake, in my opinion. As one IT person commented to me, "They don't pay me enough to actually deal with customers." You get the point.
I hate it when there aren't proactive notifications
Customers are told to expect them, but few actually get them.
Failure to report broken appointments, shortages, damaged shipments, reweighs and reclasses drives customers practically insane. Rather than place the onus on the customer to react, Carriers need to "fess up" proactively. And, odds are, your technology allows you to do that.
Your customers don't expect perfection. They expect communication.
Lanny Fleming began his career with Roadway Express in 1977. He was with American Freightways and FedEx Freight for 20 years, and UPS Freight for six. Views don't necessarily represent those of Transport Dive.