Being a small business owner is hard, and dipping your toes into the world of international shipping is one of the reasons. Choosing the right freight forwarder for your shipment is vital to the success of your business as a whole. Your product has to make it to you safely in order for it to hit the market. Picking a company to trust with your shipment is hard, so how should that decision be made? We’ve culled some helpful decision-making standards from our users and industry experts in order to make your choice easier. When picking a freight forwarder, concentrate on expertise, reputation, and customer service.
Commodities: You wouldn’t let just anyone take your child to school. You’d want someone who knows how to handle children, and your child in particular. Likewise, smart business owners will choose a freight forwarder who has handled the type of goods you are shipping. There are many variables at play, not only the type of good but mode of transport, regulations that must be followed, the country of origin, and the destination. The right freight forwarder will be able to anticipate and correct problems before they happen. Some freight forwarders may have experience with one but not all of the variables of your shipment. When you talk to a freight forwarder, ask them if they’ve handled a similar shipment. Once your shipment hits the water (or air), it’s no longer under your control – so it makes sense that an experienced freight forwarder is the one to entrust with an international shipment.
Financial stability: Another part of expertise you’ll need to examine is the company’s financial stability. Many new shippers do not realize just how much this matters because they incorrectly think that their payment will make sure the shipment reaches its destination. It’s actually the freight forwarder’s ability to pay the carrier that will make sure your shipment is released. If for some reason there is a cash flow problem, your goods could be sitting in storage (and racking up demurrage and detention fees) instead of making their way to you. A company with experience and strong understanding of the business will also have the appropriate insurance coverage. “Are you fully licensed, insured, and bonded?” might just be the most important question to ask a freight forward during your initial decision-making process. If your freight is damaged or stolen or lost at sea, a strong, experienced company will carry cargo insurance to make up for the loss.
Network: A wide network is vital to a reputable forwarding firm. If a freight forwarder has many contacts worldwide, they can maneuver your shipment more deftly by tapping into their network and thus ensuring that a rush order gets on the next plane or ship instead of waiting for their one or two carriers to make space available. Having a large network of company agents all around the globe is a good sign that you’ve chosen a reputable forwarder. This could make a big difference if your shipment runs into problems (such as a workers’ strike or a customs mix up) upon arrival that need to be fixed quickly. If the shipment requires door-to-door service, an agent at the other end of the journey will need to be on hand to coordinate the final leg.
Association: Choosing a reputable firm to get your shipment from point A to point B is more important than you may think. Reputation matters in all areas of day to day business, but it is vital to international shipping. Freight forwarders should be enrolled in various trade associations, and have an extensive network to draw upon. And the fact that your freight forwarding company is part of networks such as the WCA shows that they have the qualities to be allowed membership – such as financial strength and efficiency – which makes them more likely to be a great freight forwarder. There are only a handful of organizations for this trade, and a company that is a member is more likely to handle your cargo with care than a non-member.
The longer your chosen forwarder has been in business, the more likely that they will be a reputable company. It isn’t all that hard to start a freight forwarding company – the difficult part is to keep that company in business.
All businesses that want to remain in business have stellar customer service. Tracking your order and talking to a freight forwarding company shouldn’t be painful, it should be easy. And if the company you are considering has good customer service, it will be. But how can you tell if your chosen freight forwarder has great customer service? If a company has a dedicated person, or team of people with specific roles, to your shipment, you know it will be getting personal care. Ask how the company plans on staying in contact with you, and who will be responsible for your shipment, and find out which method of communication they plan on using – phone calls, email, or an automated tracking system.
Just as it is important for you to be able to tell customers where their goods are, it is also important for your freight forwarder to be able to keep you notified of the cargo’s progress. Find references from previous customers or ask for them. Find out if the previous customers happy with the company’s level of communication and service. With Fleet, this is an easy task because other shippers have already written reviews of the forwarding companies you are considering.
References: Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org about references.