When business slowed down in early 2020 and continuing into 2021, Logistics Service Providers (LSPs) were forced to adjust staffing levels to match reduced volume. This has certainly presented challenges for both providers and their clients. Trusted LSPs and 3PLs are valuable resources for any business. They are the arteries through which supply chains function. Hopefully staffing cuts are temporary but, for now, they do add risk for clients.
Exporters, not LSPs, bear primary responsibility for compliance with regulations. In reality, though, many exporters rely on their freight forwarders to manage compliance for them. This has always been a mistake but even more so when the LSP reduces staffing. Documentation errors, misclassification, and failure to check licensing requirements are examples of the risk for exporters. Best practices in this area would be to review all documentation produced by LSPs, check shipments for “red flags”, and consider establishing a formal Export Compliance Program for the future.
Basic service levels are also impacted by LSP staffing cuts. Pick up and delivery routes will be combined so drivers are covering wider zones. This can mean late deliveries, missed pick ups, or late pick ups requiring overtime for the client. Remaining clerical staff may struggle to field customer service requests on a timely basis. Best practices here include gaining a comfort level with your providers’ on-line resources and developing problem solving protocols to save time.
Whether your logistics provider is a motor carrier, freight forwarder, customs broker, or warehouse, good customer service is essential. While information is almost always available at your fingertips, action requiring human intervention can be elusive. Logistics managers deal with changing schedules, equipment failures, weather delays, regulatory issues, and miscommunication on a daily basis. Most problems, however, are not new. The same situations tend to repeat themselves so they can be anticipated. Developing a set of problem solving protocols for the most common issues in your supply chain will save you time since you will not be starting from scratch when a problem arises. It will also enable your colleagues to act in your absence.
A basic protocol defines the problem and lists steps to be followed as well as the resources involved. Your logistics providers can help by providing relevant operations contact info for the identified problem areas. Your account rep should welcome the opportunity as it will save them time as well. Update protocols as needed and make them part of your account review meetings. Finally, if your account rep says “Just call me” don’t accept this response.
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