We all want to have great business relationships.  Great relationships help us function more efficiently, and also make the day a lot more fun.  Natural sales personalities are inherently social beings and are great at building relationships. The ability to place yourself in someone else’s position can help strengthen relationships, but empathy does not come naturally to all people.  Well I found some great ideas to share with you on this front.  In reading an article by Daniel Goleman “The Focused Leader” in the Harvard Business Review’s December issue, I was struck by how Goleman’s ideas could help freight agents improve their relationships with their shippers.  You may have heard of Daniel Goleman from his book Emotional Intelligence*. He is also codirector of a Consortium at Rugters University that bears the same name, so there is a good deal of academic rigor behind his ideas that can help you build better relationships with your shippers.

I have adapted Golman’s Empathy Triad to the agent/shipper relationship to help agents figure out ways to improve and strengthen their relationships with their shippers:

  1. Seeing things from your shipper’s perspective: Here the idea is to put yourself in the shipper’s shoes to think the thoughts he or she might be thinking.  Perhaps your shipper is encountering a lot of pressure from the boss or from the sales department because their customers are very demanding and some shipments have been late.  Coming up with creative solutions about how you would solve the problem would likely be greatly appreciated by your shipper.  Perhaps having a long line of trucks waiting to get loaded causes problems on-site for the shipper.  Taking a look at how you can stagger the arrival times of the trucks could help take some of the pressure off.  At One Horn, we got to be the sole broker used by a shipper because we helped with just this issue.  By asking your shipper questions to uncover his or her greatest concerns, you will be able to see things from his or her perspective and help solve the problems.
  2. Feeling what your shipper feels: This involves sensing what your shipper is feeling during interactions, for example, if an interaction is making you feel stressed, it is likely that your shipper is feeling stressed as well.  Attend to his or her stressors and help alleviate them.  It also involves taking the cues from your shipper’s voice as well as his or her face and body language if it is an in-person meeting.  If you don’t feel this comes naturally to you, it is a skill can be learned. By becoming the observer during your interaction through detachment as if you are a fly on the wall watching the interaction, you can separate yourself from your feelings so you can identify with your shipper’s feelings and better understand the situation from his or her perspective.
  3. Sensing what your shipper needs from you: Closely related to feeling what your shipper is feeling, this type of empathy helps you figure out what you should do to help your shipper.  What would you want someone to do for you if you were in the place of your shipper?  This can be useful when a load goes wrong and your shipper may be angry and actively expressing that anger towards you.  Don’t take it personally, identify with the anger you would feel in his or her place and find solutions that would make you feel better.  Coming up with scenarios and finding solutions or creating a protocol in advance can help you better solve issues when they come up, so you can diffuse your shipper’s anger and move forward toward a solution-based mindset.

Goleman’s ideas can help in more than just the agent-shipper relationship.  Using the Empathy Triad in your relationship with your boss, your employees, your spouse, or your children can enable you to improve those relationships as well.   In my next blog, I will share 6 Tips for Overcoming Feelings of Isolation and Enhancing Productivity as an Agent Working from a Home Office.

– By Cheryl Biron, President

* Click through for full references on books that inspired us:  http://onehorn.com/agents/get-inspired