5 Ways Freight Forwarders Can Make the Most of an Economic Downturn

With chaos happening in supply chains around the world and an economic downturn affecting demand, freight forwarders have a unique opportunity to pause and reset. Now is the time to take stock of what systems you’re using and what could be working better for you and your customers. Read five ways to take advantage of a slower shipping period.

Freight forwarders can use a slow shipping period to make time for strategy and reflection.

The freight forwarding industry has been hit hard over the last few years. From the pandemic and shipping disasters, to an excess of emerging technologies and new shipping regulations, forwarders have had to hustle to keep up with the ever-changing landscape. During the current economic downturn, freight forwarders have a unique opportunity to pause, reset, and evaluate their supply chain operations.

Taking a pause to evaluate your tech stack can be challenging in a world where goods are always moving. However, it is essential to make time for strategy and reflection.

Now is the time to take stock of your current capabilities and focus on what matters most. By taking the time to evaluate your supply chain operations, you can identify areas where you can improve efficiency, reduce costs, and enhance your customers' experience.

1. Review and Optimize Your Supply Chain Processes

When evaluating your supply chain, freight forwarders should start by reviewing their day-to-day processes to identify any bottlenecks or inefficiencies, and optimize them to reduce costs and improve customer experience. The best way to start this evaluation is by tracking and measuring performance metrics, like on-time delivery rates, inventory accuracy, and transportation costs. Once identified, you can then develop and implement process improvements to streamline operations and ultimately reduce costs. This can include automating manual processes to reduce wait times, or optimizing routes and schedules.

To ensure the success of these improvements, it is important to track and measure your performance metrics regularly, review and adjust processes as necessary, and involve your team in the improvement process to ensure buy-in and continuous improvement.

Automation and integrations may help ensure your supply chain processes are as efficient as possible, too. Read our latest eBook, “Building a Supply Chain Roadmap in the Face of a Downturn,” to understand where your competitors are investing and how you can stay ahead.

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2. Evaluate Your Tech Stack

Next, you should evaluate your tech stack and identify any gaps or areas for improvement. Not only should you review your transportation management system, warehouse management system, and any other software or tools you use in your daily operations, but evaluate what tools your customers are using and understand how those link with your current systems.

Your evaluation should include factors like ease of use, reliability, cost-effectiveness, and integration with other tools. You may also want to seek feedback from employees who use these tools daily or collect customer feedback to identify any areas for improvement.

Based on this evaluation, freight forwarders can develop a roadmap for implementing new solutions or upgrading existing tools to enhance their capabilities and ensure they meet their business needs. A regular evaluation of your tech stack ensures that your company will stay ahead of the competitors in terms of technology, operational efficiency, and customer experience.

3. Enhance Your Customer Service

As the VP of Client Success at Chain.io, I know that customers are the most important part of any business. On our team, we believe that being kind and focusing on the people we interact with makes our customers have a better experience than just focusing on their technical needs. Even in the midst of chaos and deadlines, it's important that freight forwarding companies also prioritize their customers so they continue using your services to move their freight.

During a slow shipping period, freight forwarders should also focus on enhancing their customer service. Starting with proactive communications, automated updates on shipments, or even offering exception management, by addressing any concerns, or trying to eliminate any risk goes a long way toward a positive customer experience. Your team should also review customer feedback and implement necessary changes to improve your service.

By focusing on customer service efforts, freight forwarders can build stronger relationships with their customers, increase customer loyalty, and differentiate themselves from their competitors.

4. Develop New Services and Products

Another way to make the most of a downturn is to use the time to develop new services and products that will differentiate you from your competitors. This includes identifying new markets, creating new shipping options, or developing value-added services based on their customers' pain points, requirements, and expectations.

Freight forwarders can also look at industry trends and identify emerging markets or new shipping options that meet their customer's needs. Once you’ve identified new opportunities, your team can begin developing new services and products ranging from value-added services like warehousing, packaging, and inventory management, to new transportation options or delivery models.

Beyond creating an entirely new offering, you can also tailor your existing offerings to meet your customer's unique needs.

5. Upskill and Train Your Employees

One of the most valuable investments during a downturn is to provide training and upskilling opportunities for your team. This includes cross-training employees, providing professional development opportunities, and investing in safety training to enhance employee knowledge and skills.

First, identify areas where your team may require upskilling and training, like regulatory compliance, technical skills, soft skills, or industry-specific knowledge. Then, you can provide access to in-house training programs, external training, or online courses that are relevant to your employees' needs. You may also organize cross-functional training sessions or mentorship programs to promote knowledge sharing and collaboration among your organization.

By investing in the development of your employees, you’ll improve operational efficiency, increase employee engagement and retention, and ultimately deliver better services to your customers.

Streamline Operations with Chain.io

Pausing to evaluate your supply chain operations provides an opportunity for your team to share their ideas and innovate. It allows your team to re-evaluate processes and procedures, and identify areas for alignment and improvement. With the current economic downturn, taking the time to evaluate your tech stack can help your business weather the storm and emerge stronger on the other side.

While evaluating your supply chain operations, you may find that you have disparate systems within your own tech stack or with your customers. Chain.io can help you become even more efficient by connecting your supply chain software.

Companies throughout the global supply chain use different technologies but must speak the same language to connect and do business. Chain.io makes these connections quick, simple, secure, and resilient.

The Chain.io logistics technology network

Our pre-mapped integration solutions allow you to access data from internal systems, as well as those of customers, suppliers, and partners. We can do it faster than internal IT and smarter than generic integration platforms.

Want to learn more about connecting your ecosystem? Schedule a call with one of our supply chain experts today!

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Christa Hinkel, VP of Customer Success
By Christa Hinkel
written on March 3, 2023

Christa is the VP of Customer Success at Chain.io where she is responsible for our clients’ journey and experience from onboarding to support.

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