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Supply Chain Challenges, 3PL Outsourcing

Customer Service in Logistics Needs a Shift in Focus

Alex Stark | May 23, 2019

Listen. React.

Listen. React. 

Listen. React.

These two words summarize the day of many customer service representatives (CSRs) across the world. 


In third party logistics, CSRs are perhaps the most important people in the organization since they have the most frequent and direct contact with customers. Customers contact them with questions or problems and they respond.

But “listen and react” is not a formula for service excellence. Evolved organizations are more focused on the overall customer experience and using each service event as a learning opportunity for the entire organization.

The problem with customer service as usual

customer service in logisticsWhen people call Customer Service with a problem, they want to be heard and they want a resolution.  When they get it, they are satisfied…until it happens again. And it most likely will because Customer Service is broadly seen as an end point for resolution of a discreet problem, not as a starting point for root cause analysis and a system-wide correction.

Here’s an example. Let’s say the wrong items were shipped on several B2C orders and the customer calls to complain. A good CSR may arrange to immediately ship out the correct orders at no charge. That particular CSR may even log the interaction in the system and mark it as “resolved,” noting the customer’s appreciation.

But in this scenario, no one is asking why it happened.

Is it due to a new order checker who has been poorly trained?

Could it be a systems glitch that misidentified a SKU on an incoming order?

If there is a root cause, it won’t be uncovered and some version of this same problem will resurface. More and more CSRs will get the opportunity to listen, react and resolve this same problem. And, slowly but surely, the overall customer experience erodes.

Typically, the fault is not with CSRs, who have been trained to resolve complaints, not to solve systemic problems. The fault lies at the organizational level. Poor processes, siloed-departments, and lack of systems integration between Customer Service and the rest of the organization are the usual suspects.

The solution is both cultural – cross-functional communication and cooperation should be encouraged and expected; and integral – interactions need to be documented in a system and intelligence shared across the organization as part of a robust continuous improvement program.

There is always a root cause.

From great service to a great experience

Great customer service should not be the goal. Logistics organizations need to prioritize customer experience over customer service. Satisfied customers appreciate that you’ve solved a problem. Truly happy customers appreciate that you’ve anticipated the problem and prevented its occurrence.

Satisfied customers are just that. And that’s fine, of course, until the satisfied customer starts eyeing something more.

Happy customers aren’t looking. Happy customers know when they receive a great experience.

In this context, let’s compare how two organizations regard a customer call into the logistics Customer Service group to discuss a problem. 

Customer Service Focused Customer Experience Focused
An end A beginning
An interaction between 2 people An interaction between 2 organizations
An isolated event A symptom of a potentially larger problem that requires attention
A Customer Service responsibility An organizational responsibility, with the CSR as the trigger point for broad, cross-functional involvement
Solving a customer's problem Solving an organizational problem to prevent future occurrences
A satisfied customer A happy customer

The key to success for logistics customer service: humility

Healthy organizations have evolved away from the “listen and react” framework for Customer Service in logistics, seeing each interaction as an opportunity to learn.

This mindset requires, more than anything, a foundation of humility.

Confidence is a powerful attribute, but humility is far more powerful because it sets the stage for continuous improvement.  

When already great organizations continually challenge themselves and ask how it can be done better, the customer wins. 

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