One of the things you may have adapted to when working with a carrier or broker is your point of contact. Your point of contact is the individual you communicate with at the provider, often a salesperson or customer service representative.
The point of contact is generally the person who initially responded to your quote request and works with you before, during and after each shipment. Sometimes, your provider will introduce a new point of contact — often with little to no notice. While this can be jarring at first, by taking a few simple steps you can adapt and keep your business running as usual.
At Anderson Trucking Service (ATS), we’ve been working with customers, vendors and partners for over 68 years. We take pride in building our business on trusted relationships. Over the years, we’ve seen plenty of change in the individuals we deal with, both here at our headquarters and with our various partners. While change isn’t always easy, learning to pivot quickly has been a key to our success.
In this article, you will learn the benefits of a consistent point of contact, why that individual may change and what happens when they do. With this information, you’ll be prepared to navigate changing relationships with your broker or carrier.
The Benefits of a Consistent Point of Contact in Trucking
Having a single contact is the easiest way to communicate with your carrier. You know who to work with if your specification changes, if difficulties come up during transit and throughout the billing process.
Your point of contact relies on you as well. They count on having easy access to information at your company and someone they can partner with on changes.
If you’ve worked with your contact for some time, you are also used to how they operate: if they prefer email or call, their response time or how much time they spend on chitchat.
A consistent point of contact benefits both shippers and their provider. However, nothing is permanent and sometimes your point of contact will change. People leave jobs, have life changes or are promoted within the company. In some instances, you will have little to no notice when that happens.
While it can be confusing or upsetting to get a new point of contact (or in some cases, a relief), rest assured it will be business as usual for your freight and eventually for you as well.
Building a Relationship With the New Contact at Your Carrier
Remember: this point of contact probably doesn’t change the business you were used to doing. The lanes, types and frequency of shipments are determined by the needs of the company, not the individual. In many ways, a change can be business as usual.
When you meet your new representative, spend a few extra minutes getting to know them. This doesn’t have to be a difficult or deep conversation. You may start out by telling them a couple of sentences about yourself and your company, then lead into how you prefer to do business:
Hi, I’m John. I’ve been with ATS about six years, and we usually ship three to four loads a month from our Minnesota manufacturing plant to warehouses around the Midwest. I used to email Jane with our proposed loads for the month and she would respond with quotes. Will that work for you?
You can include a few additional details in each subsequent message. Your point of contact is as new to the relationship as you are and they are also trying to build trust. It may take several exchanges to get completely comfortable with this person, but in the meantime, you can work together professionally.
Saying Goodbye to the Previous Point of Contact
You may also want to know about the past point of contact, either as a way to say goodbye or just out of curiosity. Remember that the new point of contact may not know or be able to say what caused the change. If the original contact is dealing with sickness or a family matter, or if they were let go, the current representative is bound to keep that information confidential. It’s okay to gently ask once, but don’t press the issue.
If you were connected with your previous point of contact via social media, you may learn more information there. Otherwise, it’s best to let them connect with you if they are interested.
How Shippers Can Change Your Point of Contact
Sometimes your company will be introducing a contact person to vendors or strategic partners. There are some things you can do to ease the transition.
Introduce the New Point of Contact
As soon as possible, introduce your new point person. The existing contact or manager is the ideal person to facilitate the introduction. This can be done via phone or online meeting, or by email. If you make the introduction via phone or in a meeting, be sure to follow up as soon as possible by email.
Providing an introduction will eliminate confusion for the recipient. If they receive an unprompted message from an unknown person, they may not open it for fear of a phishing scam. Even if they do open the email, providing context will help them understand that this is their point of contact going forward.
At a minimum, your introduction email should include the name and contact information of the new representative. Inform your carrier that they will be the contact person going forward. You may also include a few personal details (with their permission).
ATS, meet Jane Sample. She will be taking over in the role of national sales representative. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 555.555.1234.
Jane is new to the ATS team but has 10 years of experience in logistics. She is also a die-hard Minnesota Twins fan!
When making the introduction, send an individual email to each person. This may mean you have to send a lot of emails, but it will be worth it in terms of building trust and relationships. (And no one wants to receive a mass email.)
Introduce a Temporary Point of Contact
If the point of contact is going on sabbatical or medical leave, or will otherwise be unavailable for a few weeks or longer, introduce the temporary contact. The process is the same, but be sure to clarify when the original contact person will return.
Again, there’s no need to stress why the original individual will be out of the office (unless it’s good news they want to share). A straightforward introduction will convey everything that strategic partners need to know.
Team, I will be out of the office until mid-August. John Sample will be your point of contact during my absence. You can reach him at email@example.com or 555.123.5555. I look forward to working with you again when I return.
Even if it’s for a short time, changing a point of contact should mean an introductory message. Confusing your contacts with an abrupt change will leave them with more questions than answers — not the impression you want to make.
Building a Personal Relationship With the Contact at Your Shipping Provider
If you’ve been working with a contact for a long time, it’s normal for your relationship to grow beyond work. After some time of connecting over work topics, you may start talking about weekend plans, mutual interests, hobbies or your families.
Personal relationships can be beneficial. It definitely makes the workday more pleasant to interact with people you like. Sometimes, a genuine friendship can grow.
As you develop a personal relationship, be sure to keep it professional when you’re doing business. You both still have a job to do and your employers count on you to prioritize that work.
Changing the Point of Contact at Your Transportation Company
Occasionally, your assigned point of contact is difficult to work with. They may not be reliable, you may have a hard time communicating clearly or it may be someone you just don’t like.
When this happens, try and pinpoint the issue. If they are genuinely having a negative impact on your business, that should be addressed immediately. If the issue is more personal, it may be better to try and change how or how often you interact with that person (for example, by sending a follow-up email with clear next steps for both parties).
If this happens, you may want to try working it out with that individual first. Sometimes, a simple conversation can be all it takes to change a relationship or correct a fundamental misunderstanding.
Another option would be to go to their manager or supervisor. Be specific about the problems and focus on the impact to you and your business. There is no guarantee that anything will change, but it may help to have the supervisor aware of ongoing issues.
Working With Your Transportation Carrier Point of Contact
While there may be some initial hiccups when your shipping provider introduces a different point of contact, it’s possible to create a long-lasting and strong relationship. By taking the time to get to know the new individual, you may discover one of your best business contacts yet.
If you’re looking for other ways to build relationships with your provider, you can focus on making shipments appealing to your driver. If your new point of contact is making you consider your relationship with your transportation provider, check out the KPIs you should use to evaluate and compare carriers.