Mastering the Art of the Terminal Tour
A terminal tour has long been a key element in the freight transportation purchasing process, particularly for medium and large size LTL shippers. After the sales, pricing and operations planning work has been done, a tour can be a turning point in either maintaining an existing piece of business or obtaining a new one.
In my work, I get to see a good number of terminal tours, hosted by a variety of carriers. I also get to see how shippers respond to these tours. No matter how good a job has done leading up to “the terminal tour”, this particular event can be a “make or break” in securing an account. In the competitive world we live in, a few mistakes can cause a shipper to pursue another option. In many cases, the carrier may not even realize the mistakes they made. Here are few tips.
Put out the Welcome Mat
Everyone likes to feel important and wanted. Putting a sign at the door welcoming, by name, the shipper representatives, is a good first start.
All of the salaried staff in the terminal should be aware of the visit. Anyone who may be involved with the account, whether in dispatch or customer service, should be coached as to the specific requirements of the account. There is nothing worse than bringing an employee into a conference room with no knowledge of the account who asks all the wrong questions.
Put Safety First
Making safety a priority is absolutely essential. The Terminal Manager should lead off by talking about the safety procedures in the terminal. The visitors should wear hard hats, safety vests and steel toes on their shoes. A focus on safety makes a loud statement about your company and your terminal. It tells the client that you are going to protect their people and their freight, that the freight is going to move free of damages. It says that your company pays attention to detail.
Since many shippers require their dock workers and forklift operators to wear safety boots, safety vests and follow similar safety procedures, it communicates the message that your two companies share common values. In other words, yours is the type of company that they should have as a business partner.
Keep it Clean
A clean terminal communicates a similar message. Since many LTL terminals have cross-dock operations with narrow docks, cleanliness in the workplace also sends a loud message. A dock that is strewn with broken pallets, has a large and dusty OS & D area that hasn’t been looked at in months, and is very congested, tells the shipper that this dock is an “accident waiting to happen’”.
Present your Freight Management Game Plan
The carrier should have a clear game plan for how they move freight and should be able to communicate this in a clear and articulate manner. The dock should have well marked areas for inbound and outbound freight. It should be clear to the shipper that this company is organized and knows what they are doing. This tells the shipper that the right freight is going to get to the right destination at the right time.
Demonstrate a Passion for your Work
Some companies have it; others don’t. You can tell immediately if people really care about their work and their customers’ freight. A passion for doing a great job, coming from different people within the organization sends a strong message. “We care about you. We value you as a customer. We will do a great job for you”.
Demonstrate your Systems Capabilities
This is becoming increasingly important to shippers. In the current environment, shippers want EDI communication, excellent web-based track and trace capabilities so they don’t have to spend all day on the telephone calling carriers and crisp, clear KPI reports in a timely manner. The IT person doing the demo should be able to present this effectively without stumbling or suggesting that IT is still a “work in progress” at his company.
Present a Team Effort
The shipper is there to meet the team that will take care of his company’s freight. They want clarity as to who will be the personnel servicing his account, who to call for a pick-up, to trace a shipment or for other tasks. For a sales rep to say, call me for everything undermines the credibility of the carrier and their ability to service the account. Running a successful trucking company is a team game. The “blocking and tackling” assignments of each person on the team should be clearly spelled out to the shipper.
Providing a very positive terminal tour experience can be decisive in securing a piece of business, even if your company is not the low bidder. Each carrier should put a “Terminal Tour Game Plan” in place just as they do for other events that can change the nature of their business.