Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Why Bother?

A Case Study in the Payoffs of Persistence


Our truck delivers a load of apples at the retailer’s DC on time and perfect temps.  It happens to be a Sunday morning.  The driver is informed that 35 cases were damaged, somehow, and this fact of course was reflected on the BOL.  And yes, the pictures taken clearly show damage.  

But how did it happen?  Was the product found like this upon delivery?  Where was it in the trailer?  Could it have happened during the unloading process?  Were some cartons already compromised which led to them breaking down and falling?  Did the driver drive like a crazy man?

It’s a Sunday, and there are other trucks to unload, so the driver is asked to leave with the damaged cartons.  Of course, because it’s a Sunday, information about how this happened, from the lumper service’s perspective, is hard to track down.  

Monday morning, Aly gets on the phone and starts the process of gathering answers.  By the end of the day, after multiple emails, phone calls, and lots of waiting, she had her answer.
Cause?  A pallet broke during the unloading, product fell, so now she was better positioned to discuss responsibility for the damaged product.

Here are five payoffs that resulted from Aly’s persistence:

Payoff #1:

This effort gave us the opportunity to strengthen our reputation, with all parties involved, for following through with problems.  In this case, the truck and buyer know us well, so we delivered on their expectations for how we work.  However, this would have been a great opportunity to begin creating a record with a new freight or carrier customer.  

Why is this a big deal? It’s similar to something I learned watching a horse trainer work with a young filly.  Deal with a problem in a significant, memorable manner now, for ‘the next time.’  Meaning, down the road, having this experience will give credibility and create greater trust.  People will be confident that we know how to handle issues, and WILL handle issues, fairly and promptly.

Payoff #2:

This effort paid off for the truck.  Two things to note. First, their claim will be at least half of what it would have been had Aly not dug in and discovered the answers.  Remember two posts ago when I wrote about being an advocate? This is what I was talking about.  Do the right thing!  Get answers and then stand up for whoever should have that support.  

Trust me, Aly had other things she could have been doing on Sunday and Monday, but she chose to follow through.  And calling the shipper to point out their part in contributing to the damage was not on her ‘Most favorite thing to do’ list.  It’s not fun, but it is necessary.

Interesting to note, the owner’s response when Aly told him the details,
“I know you do everything for us.  Thank you.”

The second thing this did for the trucking company is give the owner an opportunity to go back and train/remind his driver about expectations and responsibilities involved in moving produce.  It’s not about getting in the truck and driving from A to B.  The driver should have been asking more questions at the time of the delivery so that Aly would have had more information to work with closer to the actual event, when the facts were still fresh in everyone’s mind.  This is very important in resolving claims!

Payoff #3:

This effort actually cost the shipper, at least in the short term.  The company was willing to help with the claim, primarily because there was not a lot of information about how or why it happened but there was adequate information to indicate that it was not entirely a truck issue.  

The BIG payoff here, for Pam Young & Company, is that we were able to learn more about our customer’s preferences.  Every company wants their business handled differently.  Some freight customers don’t want to hear a thing unless there is major damage.  Some want to handle things themselves, but not over the weekend, so they are prepared to pay a layover, if it is warranted, when the time comes.

This whole process opened necessary dialogue for the future (sound familiar?  Another ‘For the next time’ scenario?) so that when the next question or problem arises, we will already know how to take care of things according to the desires of our customer.  

Payoff #4:

The buyer, also a current customer, once again saw us work away at a problem, very unlike several of his other transportation providers.  We were showing HIS customer that we had the experience, competence and willingness to follow through.  This is one of the main reasons we are one of his preferred partners!  Aly rewarded him for his loyalty by solving a problem.

Payoff #5:

This effort resulted in at least two new contacts with the lumper service.  Now they know Aly with Pam Young & Company, Inc.  Now we know who to call and get good answers when we have delivery issues.  This will not be the last problem we have at this DC, but because we now have people who know what to expect from us when we need help, we know who to call.

So why are any of these paybacks really worth it?  Why does any of this effort really matter?

We believe that our ‘why’ is always a critical consideration when we have choices about how we work.  Our reason for being in this truck brokerage business is to be a part of helping our customers be successful in getting their product to market, whether it’s fresh produce or a truck service.  

Think about it...going to market with a product or service can be exciting, for sure.  But the real thrill or reward happens when the product or service sells, and sells well.  So our view of customer service is not only about what our customers experience when they work with Pam Young & Company, Inc.  It’s actually more about our desire of helping our customers experience success with their customer.

Tools in the logistical trade are like every other tool. A person has to know what to use (persistence) and when to use it (anytime your customer needs you to!)

Taking an active role, being diligent in and through a problem, has been one of the key differentiators in our brokerage service for over 30 years.  It’s who we are!

Aly really didn’t know how this would all turn out at the end of the day.  And honestly, we have had many situations where the outcome was not affected by the final facts.  But one thing we know when the dust settles on any matter that requires lots of persistence is that we did the right things and chose not to leave any paybacks on the table.  

Do you work with a broker?  Hold them accountable when you need them the most.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Three Hats your Broker Should Be Wearing - Part 3: The Partner

I love horses. Their actions often remind me of people and how we interact with each other. Many of their behavioral characteristics are similar, but the difference is that there is no underlying guile, hypocrisy, or fear of being misunderstood. In other words, what you see is what you get. Sort of refreshing, isn't it?

Because they are herd animals, their buddy system has to be pretty solid or life gets pretty intense. This is particularly true for pasture horses because everything they choose to do will probably result in some interaction with another horse, friend or foe.

I put my horse Parton in the pasture the other day and watched his pal Dually stroll over to greet him. I enjoyed watching their reunion and was struck again with the unique partnership horses enjoy. They eat, sleep, play and work together. They defend and groom each other.
Sometimes these friends can get so close that it become difficult to separate them, which becomes a problem when new horses are introduced into the pasture, or if one needs to leave the pasture to train or get farrier/vet work done.

As I began to work on this post about how important partnerships are between brokers and their freight and carrier customers, the relationship dynamic between equines came to mind. We leave so much opportunity behind to be closer to the people who are so important to us because we choose not to work on the partnership for some reason.
Some of the obstacles?

People can be unapproachable. Some individuals don't know how to communicate well, and are either unwilling or unsure about how to learn this skill. Often there is an underlying assumption that satisfying friendships have no place in business. No news flash here, but of course, time and effort, sometimes in great measures, must be spent in bringing an acquaintance to a true partner.

We are officially in 2016, and already there are many discussions, some new and others continuing from last year, about significant issues that have great potential to disrupt both the produce and transportation industries.
Companies can choose to move through these challenges either on their own or with support from others in a better (stronger, more strategic, bigger etc) position to help them navigate down the paths ahead.

Can you see how a broker can be the perfect partner in these situations?

Being in the middle, having competently and carefully advised and advocated for the people who most depend on them, a broker is wonderfully positioned to be the friend indeed to those in need.
As I have read through all the updates and articles on food safety, E logs, safety scores, and so on, there is a fair amount of uncertainty and confusion about what the final outcomes will be, both in terms of implementation and enforcement. And worse, as those things happen, what will the effects on businesses be? 
Greater costs, liability and accountability all begin to weigh on those responsible for compliance, financial growth, employee satisfaction and a myriad of other considerations will 
Things may be daunting, sort of stressful, definitely complicated...yes, all of the above. But, it is here that the door is wide open to forge great partnerships with people. Why go through the transitions alone? 

Share information, learn from each other's mistakes, try new things together, and in the end, grow together. There is strength, wisdom and serious reward awaiting those who work (and hopefully play) together.

And speaking of together, there is one last illustration from the horses that is very true of people.
Not all horses get along. And some are just plain brats and bullies. When there is a problem out in the pasture, the first thought, of course, is that it was the troublemaker who started it.
Yes, my point is...choose your partners wisely. Not only will you need to depend on them, but here's something to think about...and it's probably something you had a parent or teacher tell you.
Who you hang out with may say a lot about you, true and untrue.

We don't know how some of the upcoming changes will affect us, or if and when there is a problem, how courts will interpret rules and allocate liability. But having partners that have helped you build a credible reputation for integrity, thoroughness and a high regard for people will be very valuable.
I left the gate where I had watched Parton and Dually, and turned around to see my son's filly resting on her friend's back. Horses definitely use each other. There is a good measure of 'I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine.' But it's more an attitude of 'Let me get that itch for you.' See the difference?

It's a good place to be with a good safe friend.

If you are a produce or freight customer, interesting times are ahead. Don't settle for a broker who is disinterested in you or your company as a partner. There is too much ahead to risk not having a true, interested friend with you in and through the upcoming turbulence.

And if you are a broker, step up and be the partner your customers need you to be. Be accountable, proactive and learn what you need to so that you have answers when questions arise. Be prepared to serve your friends in the industry and experience the rewards of true partnerships.

Have a great 2016! And no matter what is going on, don't forget to find time to just hang out and enjoy your friendships.