Forwarders need to bridge the gap between shipper expectations and service delivery

Freight forwarders rate “reliability” as the most important criterion when it comes to creating competitive advantage, according to a survey of forwarders conducted by U.K. analyst firm Transport Intelligence. Reliability is followed by “proactive client notification” of problems of shipments in transit. Their ability to provide shippers with supply chain visibility through “track and trace capabilities” is considered the third most important factor.

Significantly, “price” is only considered by forwarders to be the fourth most important element in generating competitive advantage. This would seem to indicate that in their dealings with forwarders, shippers have adopted a more holistic approach to supply chain management. The capacity to plan production schedules around reliable inbound logistics as well as the ability to anticipate problems of supply through proactive notification and exception reporting offers far more potential benefits than a narrow focus on international freight rates alone.

A separate survey of shippers conducted by Transport Intelligence seems to support this conclusion. “Proactive problem notification,” “reliability” and “track and trace capabilities” were the top three service attributes looked for by shippers. “Price” was again fourth on the list, showing that there is a strong match in terms of priorities between shippers and forwarders.

However in terms of delivery a rather different picture emerges. Shippers rate freight forwarders as “less than acceptable” on “proactive problem notification” and the survey reveals that the average rating of forwarders’ reliability is barely above acceptable.

According to John Manners-Bell, chief analyst at Transport Intelligence, “There is no doubt that there is a meeting of minds between forwarders and shippers on the relative importance of key product and service attributes. This is in itself a major positive message to be drawn from the survey. However, at the same time there is still a large gap between shipper expectation and forwarder delivery. This shows that there is still a huge opportunity for forwarders to attain significant competitive advantage by focusing investment on these key areas.”

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