Looking for value

In 1998, when we teamed with the University of Tennessee and Coopers & Lybrand (later PricewaterhouseCoopers) to study supply chain decision making, service was the top concern, but the focus was on the tools, not the result. According to the recent Customer Value Report by Mastiogale (www.mastiogale.com), shippers are no longer vague about what constitutes good service.

Eight years ago, we asked shippers to provide their top concerns when selecting carriers in each mode. The study removed price as an option to avoid bias. When selecting motor carriers, shippers said they demanded customer service, track-and-trace capabilities, and they looked at operational capabilities of the carriers. Mastiogale's 2006 report is more explicit. At the top of the shippers' list of issues is overs, shorts or damage (OS&D). Next, shippers told Mastiogale, they wanted to see goods delivered as promised — "customer service for me and customer service for my customer."

Pricing was third in the Mastiogale report, right where it typically appeared in contemporary studies in the late 1990s. At that time, anecdotal evidence suggested pricing may have been the top concern but, at the height of the Total Quality Management (TQM) movement, survey results typically showed quality related issues in the first two slots.

If the Mastiogale results are clustered into a top, middle and bottom, the middle ground speaks to courtesy, knowledge, better communication and proactive solutions to problems. Lowest priorities for shippers are given to the carrier's corporate image, range of services, geographic coverage and financial strength.

The Mastiogale report is based on interviews with nearly 1,600 major U.S. shippers.

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