Not-so rapid response

Sept. 8, 2003
Were pretty deep into the age of Internet-based communications as one wag put it, the World Wide Web is now into its second century and yet for all the

We’re pretty deep into the age of Internet-based communications — as one wag put it, the World Wide Web is now into its second century — and yet for all the progress we’ve made technologically, that same old problem keeps coming up: ignoring the customer.

Just about every major company — logistics companies included — has a website now, and even the smallest mom-and-pop shops at least have e-mail addresses, so theoretically the channels of communication between companies and customers are always open, 24/7/365. That’s a nice theory, but of course it’s nowhere near being a reality.

The simple and sad fact is, responding to customers’ needs seems to be a lost art. The Customer Respect Group (, a research-oriented consulting firm, recently studied the transportation, distribution and logistics companies ranked in the Fortune 1000 to find out how quickly these logistics companies respond to online inquiries. The results were, in a word, pathetic.

“Too many firms haven’t gotten the message that treating customers with respect online will improve their business,” says Terri McNulty, CEO of the consulting firm. For instance, 39% of the companies studied do not regularly respond to inquiries made at their web site.

On a scale of 1-10, only two of the logistics firms studied scored higher than 7.1 in terms of online responsiveness — the U.S. Postal Service and FedEx, both scoring a perfect 10. Among other express/parcel carriers, UPSfinished a distant second, at 7.1, Airborne scored a 4.3, while DHL rated only a 1.4.

And unfortunately, that’s the good news — other surface transportation categories were even less responsive. The highest-rated national LTL, among those studied, was ABF, at 7.1; truckload carrier J.B. Hunt also scored 7.1; 3PL Pacer Internationalscored 5.7; freight forwarder Expeditors International of Washington came in at 5.4; and CNF, parent company of regional LTL Con-Way, had a score of 4.3. And again, these were the best scores in their categories.

Admittedly, all of these billion-dollar companies have proven to be very successful in their respective logistics niches, and clearly they have many happy and satisfied customers. That’s not really the point here, though. The real issue is: How come the biggest logistics providers in the country, armed with the best communications networks and collaborative technologies, are graded so poorly when it comes to something as simple as answering e-mail requests from customers?

That’s the kind of question you’ll see asked a lot here at Logistics Today because that’s what you — our readers — told us you need from a business publication: clear, no-nonsense solutions to your constant stream of logistics challenges.

One of the reasons, I suspect, that some companies take so long to answer their e-mail is lack of time. Time is a commodity we take very seriously here at Logistics Today, and we’re not going to waste any of yours.

We’re a new magazine, but one built on two award-winning logistics publications that most of you are familiar with — Transportation & Distribution and Supply Chain Technology News. We plan to build on the rich legacy both magazines established while creating an entirely new product that will be timely, relevant, informative and enjoyable. There are plenty of magazines vying for your attention that claim to be must-reads; with Logistics Today, though, we hope you think of us as a want-to-read.

Before launching this magazine, we surveyed subscribers to T&D and SCTN, as well as subscribers to our electronic newsletters and registered visitors to our websites, and we learned from many of you what exactly you’re looking for in a logistics publication, and just as importantly, what you don’t want to see. Rather than just regurgitating the same press releases that every business publication receives, we plan to deliver to you exactly what you asked for — strategies for improving your company’s logistics performance.

We’re sure you’ll let us know how you think we’re doing, and feel free to drop us a letter anytime, on any logistics-related topic, at [email protected]. And if your letter requests a quick response, you can count on getting it.

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