As a freelance courier ‘you’ are your business and providing great customer service is pivotal to your success.
As part of looking at what constitutes great freelance courier customer service, it’s worth examining who exactly is our customer and therefore understand better how to tailor your service to suit their needs:
At this stage in your career as a freelance courier, you will have undoubtedly approached several courier companies and may have even worked for a few of them.
Understanding how courier companies operate will help you to provide service levels that will keep them offering more and more work to you, rather than the other guy.
Courier companies have a database of freelance couriers/owner-drivers on their books. Meanwhile, they advertise their courier service to the population at large, including both businesses and private individuals. As they receive jobs from their customers and clients their primary purpose is to get those goods collected and then delivered as quickly and as cheaply as possible.
At this stage they will marry up the work coming in with the couriers on their database. They appreciate that no-one wants to rack-up too many ‘dead miles’ (unpaid driving), so geography will be their first consideration. They will look for a courier who is in the area where the goods are scheduled to be collected from. This has the added benefit of ensuring that the goods are collected quickly, thus giving the impression (at least) of a speedy and efficient service.
However, it is not simply a case of who is nearest. The person undertaking the job must have the relevant qualifications for the job, the first qualification being their vehicle. There is no point offering a job involving collecting and delivering a pallet of A4 paper to a motorcycle courier. Similarly, that same motorcycle courier may be perfect for delivering an envelope full of legal documents within a busy city centre, whereas it would be costly and inefficient to send someone in a long-wheel-base van to do the same thing.
If the goods to be collected are hazardous in nature, the courier will need to have been ADR trained, otherwise Both the courier and the courier company could fall foul of the law.
Ultimately, the one freelance courier qualification that courier companies cite as being the most important to them is flexibility. In a busy office environment, where jobs are continuously coming in, they want to know that when they offer work to a courier, no matter what that work is (within the law), the courier will say “yes“! They do not have time to spend it on the phone trying to cajole, or otherwise persuade a driver to undertake a particular job.
An unwritten hierarchy will start to emerge in any courier company whereby certain freelance couriers will be constantly busy and get offered more work than others. At the other end of the spectrum, some couriers will often find themselves twiddling their thumbs for prolonged periods of time and ultimately will be unsuccessful in their business. The overriding difference between the two will be the first couriers flexibility and willingness to say “yes” to jobs as they come in.
In the early days, you may find yourself undertaking a tricky balancing act whereby you have undertaken work for a few different companies on a fairly regular basis and come across the situation of having to reject work simply because you are already busy on another job. While courier companies will understand that this is the nature of the job, you can only say “no” to them so many times before they will stop offering work to you altogether.
At this stage, it may be worthwhile examining the quality and quantity of work that you are receiving from the different companies that you have worked for and decide to pledge yourself to one particular ‘favoured’ company on the understanding that they will start to push more work in your direction.
Courier Companies Clients
After your particular courier company, your next consideration is for their customers/clients, as these will now effectively become your customers/clients.
You get offered a job, which (being flexible) you accept. Your next point of call will be the collection point. It doesn’t matter whether the job is undertaking a multi-drop route, or some distance work, you now have the opportunity to promote your own business.
This is where your more conventional customer service skills will start to come to the fore. First impressions count for a lot:
When meeting these customers’ for the fist time always start by portraying a smart, professional appearance. This can begin even before the customer sees you. Arriving on time is essential and they will quickly form an impression of you based on the appearance of your vehicle. Make sure that you arrive in a clean and well-maintained vehicle.
In a similar vein, your personal appearance needs to be equally smart and professional. As a freelance courier, we are not advocating that you arrive in a tailored suit, but a clean polo shirt, hi-vis vest, smart cargo pants and safety boots will create a much better first impression that a vest, jeans and flip-flops!
Your personal appearance will extend beyond just what you are wearing. Make sure that you maintain good posture and walk with purpose. When greeting customers, smile, make eye contact and if necessary, use a firm, but brief handshake.
Ask relevant questions about the goods/route, your proposed destination and any special requirements that the customer may have. At this point make sure that you listen attentively. As the famous saying goes: ‘We have two ears and only one mouth……. We need to use them in the same proportions’!
As a freelance courier, providing good customer service isn’t just about your interactions with others. We live in an age where time is of the essence. Once you have the goods on board, it is now up to you to ensure that they are delivered in a timely fashion. This is where your route planning skills will be put to the test. While being observant of the laws of the road, we need to ensure that we get our deliveries to their relevant destinations as quickly as possible.
Finally, we will arrive at our end-user. Our customers’, customers’ customer! This is the individual, or business who has ordered something from a company, who has then contacted your courier company to arrange delivery, who has then contacted you, which takes us through the full process.
However, it is this customer, or client where the real potential exists for the freelance courier. These are the customers, who you will find yourself delivering to frequently, especially if you are undertaking a regular multi-drop route. These are the customers who will buy you cards and gifts at Christmas and more importantly sing your praises to the people that they order from and occasionally directly to your own courier company.
But…… They will only do so if they feel that they have received great customer service from you. This is where your smile, eye contact, politeness and helpfulness will be noticed the most. It is more likely that they will complain if they are not happy with the service that you provide for some reason. I.e. If you are late, or if you were to be rude to them.
It is much easier to get complained about than it is to receive praise, which is why it is so important to make every effort to make your interactions with others a positive experience for all, even when you might not feel in the mood.
If we go back to the start of this section on customer service and we look at our courier company, or the people that provide work for us on a daily basis and most frequently, we suggested that one of the key things that they expect from freelance couriers is flexibility. This is no doubt true, but when they receive positive testimonials about you from customers that you have delivered to, or positive feedback about you from their own direct clients, who you have collected from, it can only serve to put you in a positive light and boost your ‘ranking’ in their unwritten hierarchy, meaning that you can expect more work to be offered to you in future.
From your perspective, one of the biggest benefits of building a solid reputation for delivering great customer service is that in future you are more likely to be offered the kind of work that you actually enjoy doing because courier companies want to exclusively keep ‘good’ couriers, so they will ensure that the best jobs get offered to those people first. So, while in the early days, you may need to be very flexible and work hard to build a great reputation, once built you are more likely to find yourself undertaking the better paying jobs, with more social hours, which is a definite ‘thumbs-up’ situation!