As freight brokers, we have been in the business long enough to understand that loads can go wrong. We all dread it, but it is just the nature of the business. We once had a load where an older driver had a stroke in his truck on the way to a delivery. When we spoke to him on the phone, he sounded dazed and confused. He was driving 40 mph on the highway and not feeling well. We called police to take him to hospital. When the police talked to him, and he said he was feeling fine, so there was nothing they could do. However, the driver took six hours to go 120 miles. He was late, and the load was refused. Then the driver had a massive stroke and had to go to the hospital, so the carrier flew out another driver. As the drama unfolded, we communicated with the shipper and told him what the carrier told us, so we could keep him informed and make alternative plans. Since the shipper knew what was going on as it was happening, and we all wanted to get sick driver off the road and safe, we worked together to adapt and deliver the freight to the juicer, thus solving the problem and preserving the relationship.

In such a case, many inexperienced or dishonest freight agents are tempted to lie to the shipper when the driver is first off schedule, thinking they will save a few dollars and make sure they get paid for the load. We believe this is very short-sighted, and the most important thing is to be honest and preserve the relationship, even if you lose a little money making things right. The old excuse carriers use when they are late is to lie and say the driver is stuck in traffic no longer works, because we can now check Google and there is not traffic, so the trust is broken, and we no longer use the carrier. In that case, the carrier could have preserved the relationship by telling the truth if the driver got a ticket or was late being unloaded, and then we could act accordingly to convey the information to the shipper and reschedule the delivery in real time.

At One Horn, we believe honesty is the best policy. Whenever someone calls me in a panic and cries, “My truck broke down,” or “I can’t find the driver, he just disappeared,” and then, “What should I tell the customer?” I always say, “Confess, tell them what the carrier is telling you, and give them a good solution.” We are all about honesty and providing constructive solutions. We want to build trusting partnerships with our customers. Things happen in this industry all the time, things that are out of our control. All we can do is our best to fix the problem and openly communicate with our customers so they can manage the expectations of their customers.

But sometimes you are working with a carrier who you suspect is lying to you. In this case, we tell the shipper that this is the story we are being given and convey our assessment of its truthfulness, and that we will get to the bottom of it, and keep them informed so we can find a solution. If the shipper drops you for doing this, there was no relationship in the first place. But as a general rule, here are the steps we follow at One Horn:

  • Step 1: Call and Confess. Tell the customer the truth if you believe the carrier or the story the carrier is telling you and that you will dig deeper and keep him or her informed as thing unfold.
  • Step 2: Offer a Proactive Solution.
  • Step 3: Continuously Follow Up Until the Situation is Fixed

As a freight agent, it’s always tough to admit to problems or even to mistakes you, personally, have made to your shippers. But you want to build a trust-based relationship, so telling the truth, providing proactive solutions, and keeping communications open until the problem is resolved are really the way to go. In the end, once the dust has settled, your relationship will be stronger, because your shipper will know that you are someone he or she can count on to be honest and have his or her best interest at heart.

Please come back to find out why freight agents should eat frogs in my next blog.

– By Cheryl Biron, President

*Click through for full references on books that inspired us: