Customer Reviews

Let’s start with a fun fact: the first known customer complaint is held in The British Museum and was written on a clay tablet 3800 years ago. The customer was upset that the wrong grade of copper was delivered. Etching a clay tablet seems like it must take a lot of effort, so it’s easy to imagine this must have been some pretty bad copper. It’s a lot faster and easier for modern customers to leave a review online, and companies need to be ready for both the threat and opportunity that review sites present.

The Importance of Customer Reviews

 

According to Invesp, customers are more likely to use your business and will spend more when they do if you have good reviews. It makes sense, right? If a customer can quickly see that they can trust you, a major factor in their decision making is already decided in your favor. 47% of customers won’t even consider using a business with fewer than four stars, meaning you can lose almost half your potential customer base without ever even speaking to them.

We’ve all had the experience of a customer threatening us with a negative review, too. Whether something has actually gone wrong with their order or they are just angling for special treatment, some customers will use your online presence for leverage. That can be a frustrating situation, especially if you don’t have a lot of reviews and you know one bad review will significantly lower your rating. If you get enough positive reviews, a few negatives are less damaging. They may even help, since customers will find large numbers of exclusively 5 star reviews suspicious.

How to Get More Reviews

 

Unfortunately, it can be difficult in the freight industry to get a positive review. Customers leave reviews when an experience is different than they expected, whether positively or negatively. A restaurant or product might get a good review because someone was surprised by excellent service or functionality, but a surprise with your freight is almost never good. The two possible outcomes for most shipments are either exactly what the customer expects or a bad experience.

So then what’s the best way to get positive reviews? There’s a deceptively simple answer: ask for them. It may be as simple as mentioning it next time you’re on the phone with the customer, but there are other good opportunities as well. Put a link in your email signature, post about it on your social media, or put a link on your website if you have one. You need to be careful not to trigger any spam or security measures, but a good rule of thumb there is just to be honest.

Take a look at any automated messages you send out, too. Got an email that goes out when a customer’s delivery is dropped off? Think about including a link to a review page. Same if you have a notice to a carrier saying that their payment is on the way. This is where you want to be careful though. If you have an alert going out to your customer saying their payment is late or to a carrier saying they damaged a shipment, it might be best to leave the link out. Ultimately, you’re just trying to remind your customers and partners about review sites at times when they might not normally think of them.

Review Sites

 

The largest review sites, like Google and Yelp, are important to every industry, but DAT and Truckstop both have places to leave feedback. It’s also important to be aware that if you’re an employer, you should keep a close eye on your ratings on Glassdoor and Indeed, along with any other job-hunting website. The first thing to know about any of these sites is that you can usually log in and manage your presence, and it’s good to do so.

Some common review sites in and out of our industry

Since reviews are all about making a good first impression, let’s start with maybe the most likely place for a potential customer to see your business for the first time: Google. Google reviews can be left by customers, current and former employees, suppliers, and just about anyone else. The mix of reviewers means that to keep your Google reviews high, it’s important to be a good partner to everyone. It also means that asking for a Google review is an option no matter who you’re talking to, so you have the opportunity to really build up your presence.

It’s also important to be aware of reviews on DAT. Carriers will be able to leave you (or the company you’re operating under) reviews based on their experience. Much like customers, drivers have the expectation that things are going to go smoothly, so they have either the experience they expected, or a bad one. Here again, the best way to make sure that they’re still leaving reviews when things go well is just to remind them. Just like with customers, you don’t need to harass your carriers for good reviews, making sure the link is readily available will usually get reviews steadily trickling in.

Responding to Reviews

 

Most review platforms give you a chance to respond to reviews. That’s important for a few reasons. First, if someone leaves a negative review, your response can be a chance to correct whatever went wrong. For readers of the reviews later on, they get a chance to see that when something did go wrong, you were active in trying to make it right. As an added bonus, a lot of websites use engagement as part of their algorithm that decides where you get listed. In short, if you’re active, you rank higher. There’s no big trick to responding – you’re performing the same customer service you do every day.

In fact, you’ve probably noticed an ongoing theme – none of this needs to be or even should be a major effort on your part. Reviews should be a small part of your daily customer interactions, not a huge initiative. The most important thing is that you don’t neglect this important part of your online presence.

The Importance of Customer Retention

Let’s face it, landing a customer is hard. We don’t always like to say that out loud, because most of us make our living based on how good we are at landing customers. Being good at it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s easy though. According to sales consulting firm The Brevet Group, it can take 8 cold calls to reach a prospect and 5 follow ups after a meeting to give yourself a good chance of landing a sale. Even then, up to half of all sales go to the first vendor that responds with a workable solution.

Of course, you need new customers to grow and even sustain your business, but it’s important not to overlook the value of customer retention and maximization. Both are exactly what they sound like: customer retention is how many of your customers continue to do business with you over time, and customer maximization means getting the most out of your existing customer relationships. Effectively, we’re talking about selling more to your customers, for longer.

Why is Customer Retention Important?

 

Okay, we all have a pretty good grasp on this on an intuitive level. It’s not like anyone reading the first section stood up and shouted “why should I keep my customers?” Still, it’s important to take this to the next level and quantify what we’re talking about, so you can make educated decisions on how to focus your efforts.

It’s an old adage in sales and marketing that it costs 5x as much to replace a customer as it does to retain one. Depending on who you ask, that number can be almost anything, but it’s always at least a few times more. Of course, if you’re a freight broker agent, you’re really looking for how you can make more money, more reliably. Simply put, it’s easier to run a business if you have a baseline of recurring or relatively easy to close sales each month. As an example, picture this: you reach out and try to make a sale with 20 contacts, 10 are existing customers, 10 are new leads – how many sales do you make to each group? If you’re an average company, you make 6 or 7 sales to the existing customers and 1 or 2 at best to the new leads. New leads are critically important, but when you’re planning out your day, you may want to focus a little more on deals that are very likely to land. There’s no better lead than a prior sale.

More reliable business is nice, but how much does this really hit the bottom line? One study showed that “increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases profits by 25% to 95%.” If you own your own business, that’s probably all you needed to hear.

How to Retain Customers

Business meeting in a booth

Develop a relationship with your customer

You’re going to find a lot of overlap between retaining and maximizing customers, and for good reason. Retaining a customer without maximizing them means that you’ve landed a recurring deal, and now you’re leaving a lot of money on the table by failing to do anything more with that customer. Maximizing a customer without retaining them means you’re either got great profit margins or a high percentage of the customer’s business, and now they no longer do business with you. Either way, you and your customer probably don’t interact much, and are indifferent toward each other at best.

We would all love to discuss a brilliant new strategy for this, but the bottom line is that you need to build a relationship with your customers. If you run a Google search any time for how to retain customers, you’ll get article after article full of great ideas. Honestly, it’s a great idea to run a search and read new articles often. Each of those articles is going to give you ideas on how to build and maintain relationships. In freight brokering, your customer stays with you because they’re confident that you know their needs, you’re reliable, and they’re comfortable working with you. Bottom line: handle their shipments well, and then make sure they know you can do that for more of their shipments.

That last part is also huge when we are discussing automation and technology companies that are working to get some space in the freight brokerage market. No matter how good their technology gets, there’s one thing they can never offer your customers: you. If your customer feels a sense of confidence knowing that you are available to them, then there’s nothing anyone else can offer that replaces that.

Maximizing Customers

Online shopper

Maximizing sales to a customer doesn’t have to look like this.

Just like retention, there’s no magic formula or big secret to maximizing your sales to each customer. Maybe the most important thing is that you keep this fact in mind: you should be maximizing sales to your existing customers. That has to be one of your goals. It’s a shame not to do it, but it’s easy to get so caught up in prospecting for new clients and handling customer service for existing ones that we forget that a current customer is also a sales opportunity. When it comes down to it, the best lead you’ll ever have is a prior sale.

There are a lot of great ways for any small business to maximize customers. This article breaks them down into three categories: increasing penetration, developing a plan of action, and building credibility and trust. So, what does that mean for a freight broker? It’s a good idea to read the article and think about that for yourself, but let’s quickly summarize each part.

  • Increasing Penetration: Are you currently handling a small part of your customer’s freight, or most of it? Talk to your main contact at your customer’s company and see if you can find out if they have any lanes or types of freight you’re not currently handling. See if you can find out if there is anyone else at the company that purchases logistics services, and if you can make contact with that person.
  • Developing a Plan of Action: Work with your customer to make sure you know exactly how they want their freight handled and make it clear to them that you understand. Consider combining this step with LDI’s CRM blog to give yourself an advantage in tracking and executing that plan.
  • Building Credibility and Trust: Do what you’re going to do, when you say you’re going to do it, and when that goes wrong, make sure your customer hears from you that you know it went wrong and you’re on it. The last thing you want is your customer hearing from their customer that there was a problem with their shipment. Do your best to be in front of any problems and honest with your customer.

If you take nothing else away from this post, just take some time to think about whether you focus enough of your time and energy on retaining your customers and maximizing your sales to them. There are a lot of ways to do that, but the first and most important step is to make it a priority.

Sales and Marketing During COVID-19

Coronavirus

COVID-19 has presented every business in the world with an unprecedented challenge, with Freight Broker Agents and the rest of the logistics industry being no exception. If you’re in logistics, your sales process is certainly different than it was last year. Considering the demand on the freight industry, you may have even seen increases in your sales, but whether you’re up, down, or even, you’re certainly facing new challenges. If you relied on trade shows or customer visits at all, two powerful sales opportunities have almost entirely vanished, and even if you’ve worked entirely online for years, your customers’ changing needs in response to the pandemic have almost certainly changed your approach. Hopefully you’re feeling pretty good about the ways you’ve adapted in the last 6 months, but there may be more steps you can take.

Marketing

If you’re running a business, odds are your marketing efforts have been primarily online for years now. If not, the good news is that you’re likely to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic in a better position for modern marketing than you were before. Even if you were already doing most of your marketing online, there are a couple of good ways to increase your opportunities.

First, make sure your business is listed on Google. For freight agents, you may be comfortable working with shippers all over the country, but there’s an advantage to being local. If a shipper in your area does a Google search for freight carriers, you may be more likely to come up based on proximity. From the customer’s standpoint, they may feel that you have a better understanding of their industry, truckers in their area, or unique details about your local market. You can set your business up on Google here.

If you were visiting trade shows and customers before, and giving out flyers and business cards, remember that there are virtual options for that as well. LDI agents should make sure to use the marketing materials available to you in our knowledge base (and get in touch if you have any questions). There are also digital business card apps like Switchit and My Vista by Vistaprint that let you share a card via email or text. Those apps will continue to be helpful even after the pandemic, since you don’t run out of or lose digital cards.

In terms of social media, it’s important to remember that LinkedIn is not the only one that can be valuable to you, but it is still your main online networking tool for business. It can be tough to find the time to stay active on those websites, so remember that you can share LDI’s posts on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Present yourself as an active and engaged expert on all things freight. You may find that contacts reach out to you because of what you post, but even if not, your profile will lend credibility to your efforts when you’re prospecting.

Prospecting

Reaching out to new potential customers is always critical, but in 2020, it’s a key to survival. The more uncertainty your customers face, the more you want to insulate yourself against losing too much of your business if one of your customers stops shipping. After the downturn in 2008, Forbes listed the biggest risks to a business and made a note of concentration risk – the idea that one customer representing a large portion of your business is a threat. Sadly, there’s a good chance you got a lesson in this in March by having one or more of your customers shut down production or shipping. It’s important to have a diverse book of business to insulate yourself against the risk of your customer’s business changing dramatically, and a lot of businesses change dramatically when this happens:

Major drop in GDP

One of the best ways to diversify right now is to look for businesses in the industries that are seeing more demand in 2020. While medicine and medical supplies are the obvious answer, there are several sectors that growing rapidly. There are also industries that have been deemed essential, and you can usually find those on state websites. It’s good to get this information locally, since each section of the country is facing different challenges right now.

States have been affected very differently by COVID-19

Whether your customers or prospects are up, down, or even, they’re also facing challenges they’ve never seen before. In addition to looking for businesses that are seeing increased demand that you can fill, look for businesses that have unique problems you can solve. As shipping costs rise and capacity decreases, a freight agent who can help a company book trucks and shop for pricing has even more to offer to a shipper than normal. Check out our free ebook on using Google Alerts for prospecting; that can be a great tool for getting in touch with your customer about the latest news that’s affecting them. When you set up your sales calls, you’re going to sell your freight capabilities, of course, but you’re also going to sell yourself as the solution to their problems.

Selling

Of course, all of your marketing and prospecting efforts comes to this: selling. Once you’ve done your homework and learned about your customer’s challenges, make sure your customer sees the results. You’re not just there to sell your freight services as a solution to your company’s problem, you’re there to sell yourself as a solution to your contact’s problem. If you’re on the phone or meeting with the right person, then having a good freight agent will mean less stress in their daily work, and in 2020 they probably have more stress than ever. Make it clear, you’re going to make it easier to do their job by taking some of those stressors and handling them with your own expertise and capabilities. This is what you do full time, and you’ve devoted your efforts to adapting to the current situation. Gartner published a research paper on logistics challenges presented by COVID-19 where you can learn more about the problems that are keeping your customers and prospects up at night right now.

It’s important to remember, too, that selling an ongoing service is a very personal process. Right now, many of your potential customers may be isolated in home offices, unable to take meetings and not seeing anyone at trade shows. When you can, try to find a way to add a personal touch. Handwritten cards, friendly messaging, even cookies or a fruit basket. That personable attitude that probably got you where you are today needs to show through, even in these times. For as long as the pandemic continues, it’s going to take a little more effort to make a connection.

When the Pandemic Ends

Despite how it feels sometimes, the COVID-19 pandemic will end sooner or later. As much as we’re all looking forward to that, it’s important to prepare for it to be yet another seismic change to the way every business in the world operates. If you have one of those customers who has been shipping more than ever during the pandemic, be prepared for their business to decrease suddenly and significantly. You may find yourself needing to ramp up your sales, marketing, and prospecting all over again when the pandemic ends.

One way to mitigate that is to remember your customers that shut down or had a major decrease in business during the pandemic, or your contacts from those companies that may have been laid off. Make sure they know they are still valued and that you’re still there for them. Those contacts and companies are likely to need a freight agent again, and you’ll want to be at the forefront of their minds when that time comes. It’s good to know that things will be normal again before long, let’s make sure our businesses are ready for that as well.

Should You Be Using Customer Relationship Management Software?

 

Starting a new business or becoming a freight agent can be daunting, but CRM software is an important tool to make your life much easier, and there are good systems that are inexpensive or even free.

What is a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system?

If you’re a freight broker agent or performing any sales or customer service role, you’re already managing customer relationships. You set expectations with your customer and make every effort to meet and exceed that expectation. Every chance you get, you do everything you can to maximize your sales to that customer, whether that includes calling, emailing, visiting, or otherwise engaging with them. You almost certainly have some kind of routine to help you do that, whether that’s a paper notebook or calendar, reminders set into your phone, sticky notes, or Outlook meeting invites. That’s what a CRM is, but in the form of a software system designed for that purpose. Think of it like an assistant, it organizes your notes, keeps track of your meetings, and helps you turn your long-term goals into daily tasks.

Since CRM systems are designed with a single purpose in mind, they can offer a range of purpose-driven tools that other systems just aren’t designed to offer. While calendar and email programs are designed to be versatile, CRM systems have one reason to exist: to help you serve and sell to your customers.

Why do I need a CRM system?

Small businesses that are just starting out might not need a CRM system. You might be the only employee, with a couple of customers whose needs you understand almost as well as they do. However, you’re probably planning to grow and attract new customers. Before long, managing that process with spreadsheets, calendars, and emails will be overwhelming.

CRM software, depending on the version and level of service that you have, is likely to have task management and reporting features organized into a dashboard that gives you the most up to date, important information for your business. If you’re not using CRM software now, you probably put that information in a spreadsheet or something similar to keep track of it. That process takes up valuable time and means you’re always looking at data that’s at least a little bit behind. If you have a good CRM system and are using it regularly, you can spend less time managing data and more time growing your business. You’ll get better, more recent information, and you’ll get it a whole lot faster.

What factors should I consider when choosing a CRM?

Price. We’ll discuss price more in the next section, when we look at a few examples of CRM systems, but you should be aware that there are free CRM systems available. Even if none of those suit your needs, there are cloud-based CRM software packages billed monthly. Years ago, installing a CRM system might have meant thousands of dollars in software purchases, a major installation, and possibly even a server. Now that most CRM systems are Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) models, it’s a monthly subscription fee if the free version doesn’t work for you. While migrating a long-established business to a new CRM system can be a time consuming and expensive project, small businesses can get started relatively easily.

Number of users. If you’re working alone, any CRM will have you covered here. However, if you have any partners or employees, it’s important to make sure that your CRM allows enough seats for every relevant person in your agency to use it. CRM can be a very effective communication tool for your agency to move everything related to a specific client from one employee to another, or to assign tasks between employees. There are several factors to consider, but if a CRM can’t support each user in your office, it’s probably not the right one for you.

Number of contacts or records. Most cloud-based CRM systems, especially the inexpensive and free services that work best for small offices, restrict the number of contacts or other records you’re allowed to upload into them. This makes sense, since if you are managing huge amounts of data or sales contacts, you’re probably not a small business. You’ll want to make sure that you’re not only able to upload enough data into the system for your current contacts and records, but that you have room to grow. You won’t need an exact number, just a good sense of the scale you’re dealing with. If one day you find yourself with so many accounts or sales prospects that you have no choice but to upgrade to a paid version of your CRM, well… you’ll probably be pretty happy about that.

Ease of use. Most of the time when a business implements a new system unsuccessfully, it’s because users found the system too complicated or confusing to use. Surprisingly, this is one of the hardest factors to judge, since every system has a learning curve and it’s hard to know if a system is showing you what you want to see until you get your own data into it. Check for user reviews online, and make sure the software comes with plenty of documentation and support. Free services are not likely to offer live phone or chat support, but they may have pretty active message boards. YouTube can also be a more valuable resource than you might think, since the company may have an official YouTube account or there may be experts in the software who create “How to” videos.

System integration. Think about the software you’re already using that has your contacts in it, especially if it’s been important to your success or if you just don’t want to give it up. It’s important to make sure any software you consider isn’t outright incompatible with what you’re already using, but it’s also worth reviewing whether there’s a CRM system that is specifically designed to work with your preferred program. If you’re using something common like Outlook or Gmail, the answer is almost certainly yes.

What are some available CRM systems?

Unfortunately, no one can tell you which system is best for your needs, but we decided to take a look at a few examples of CRM software. LDI offers our agents a CRM system as part of our proprietary software package, but there are other options as well. Naturally, these companies make updates to their policies and technology frequently, so it’s important to review what’s posted on their websites. We’ll place the current links to their download/purchase pages and support below for your review.

HubSpot’s solution hits a lot of the points we discussed above. HubSpot’s site says the free version of their system is available to unlimited users, can hold up to 1,000,000 contacts, and integrates with Gmail and many versions of Outlook. One nice feature here is that you can have both paid and free users, so if some of your employees need advanced features, you can still have employees on the free tier.

Zoho logo

Zoho is another popular and helpful CRM system that offers a free tier of service for up to three users. Their system also comes with reporting options and offers compatibility with many well-known business tools. As we discussed earlier, Zoho, HubSpot, and most other free services also offer a paid tier, so you shouldn’t need to worry too much about outgrowing your CRM system.

Salesforce logo

Salesforce. Salesforce does not offer a free tier of service, and starts at $25 per user, per month. Salesforce is a very well-known company and software, however, and in addition to the peace of mind that may offer you, there are a lot of Salesforce resources and experts available.

Additional resources

HubSpot signup page: https://www.hubspot.com/products/get-started

HubSpot support: https://help.hubspot.com/

Zoho free version signup page: https://www.zoho.com/crm/free-crm.html

Zoho support: https://www.zoho.com/crm/resources/

Salesforce pricing and purchase page: https://www.salesforce.com/editions-pricing/sales-cloud/

Salesforce support: https://help.salesforce.com/home

Logistic Dynamics Statement on the Coronavirus

Logistic Dynamics Statement on the Coronavirus

We continue to closely monitor developments and the global impact with respect to the coronavirus (COVID-19).

The health and safety of our Team Members is of utmost importance while ensuring there are no disruptions in our level of service to customers, carriers.

We are ensuring Team Members have the necessary equipment and ability to telecommute with all access and capabilities should the need arise. In the past, due to weather conditions or other emergencies, we have successfully supported our customers and carriers with full teams and offices working remote. This would be no different.

Internally, LDI has increased environmental cleaning and travel precautions are in place as we continue to monitor updates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other government agencies.

LDI is prepared to help you navigate potential shipping disruptions due to COVID-19 through our business capabilities. We will continue to monitor the impact to the industry and post updates to our blog, social media, and distribute information via email to keep you up to date.

Our customers, carriers, and Team Members’ health, safety, and businesses are at the forefront of our concerns and we will do everything possible to deliver a best-in-class experience through the potential disruptions.