Owner-operators have the biggest challenge in trucking, as far as I’m concerned.  When I was driving for a trucking company, I was told where I was going and what I was picking up and where to take it.  I didn’t have to worry about IFTA filings, getting new customers, keeping costs down… My biggest worry was taking those extra-big loads up to Michigan without any problems.  That wasn’t a small thing, but running a business or managing a fleet takes a lot more effort.

I wan’t even expected to talk to the shipping crews.

As an owner operator, I had far more to consider – getting loads and keeping them. It could have been easy to just do what I’d always done – get the forms signed and get on the road.  The owner operator today has a lot of competition.  How should he or she keep his name at the top of shipping boss’s list?

No one can ever assume they’re safe, no matter how many loads they’ve driven for a shipper.  It takes a relationship to stay on someone’s mind.

It’s an easy mistake to think you don’t have to cultivate relationships with shippers.  But they’re your customers and just like every other business, customer relations is one of the biggest topics in retaining business today.  Customer appreciation is now a fine art.

In customer appreciation, the box of home-baked cookies can make all the difference.

My older neighbor talks about his time in the lumber business.  When the other men didn’t want to deal with the housewife or crafter who needed wood cut to order, he would step up when others would duck out of the way.  But come holiday time, he was rewarded with baskets of home-made cookies and bottles of whiskey – which they’d asked to find out his favorites.  This lasted his entire career at the lumber yard.  “Never turn somebody down to do that extra step they need,” he says and he was right.

Customer appreciation leads to customer retention.There’s not a lot of extra steps we can give as truckers.  It’s our job to pick it up on time and deliver it safely when it’s scheduled to arrive.  So what can you do to build a relationship with some people you see for a short period of time on an irregular basis?

I had a friend whose wife baked cookies for the shippers.  At Christmas, he’d bring a box of decorated cookies – a lot of them.  Enough for them to take some home.  Another trucker brings drinks and donuts to his pick-ups – and his deliveries.  No point in missing a chance to build a customer appreciation moment into a future customer!  For less than $10, he kept his name in front of shippers.

These guys know how to make a customer feel appreciated.  Knowing who the real decision-makers are and showing your gratitude for using your truck has benefits in the long run.

How do you show your customers appreciation?  Do you send cards for the holidays?  Keep a list of people’s names and important information so you can be friendly when you go back?

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