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Nine Questions Your Courier Company Does Not Want You to Ask!

When you trust your documents or packages to a courier company, you have every right to expect a proper degree of professionalism. Your courier service should be able to provide peace of mind by answering these nine questions. Your job is to ask them!

What is your State Permit number?

Each state issues a permit to motorized transporters of freight. This industry used to be regulated by the Interstate Commerce Commission and individual state authorities. In Washington State, for example, the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission regulated couriers. In 1995, Congress deregulated the industry, but courier companies using motorized transport must still register with their state authority and pay a fee for the right to operate. Fly by night and unprofessional couriers operate without this permit. These are not companies in whom you should trust your package.

Could you send me a copy of your Insurance Certificate?

Every courier company should have a minimum of $1 million worth of general liability insurance. Producing a Certificate of Insurance is no problem for an insured courier. If you are doing business with a courier who cannot produce an Insurance Certificate, you are asking for trouble. In some cases, your company could become liable for damages if the courier company cannot cover. Make sure you are giving your business to someone who will still be in business next week!

CLICK HERE to view a copy of the current Certificate of Insurance.

Are you bonded?

Many couriers advertise themselves as bonded but, in fact, are not. Bonding is basically insurance against a crime committed by an employee of the courier firm. For example, if you shipped a computer to a client and the courier stole it rather than deliver it, bonding would cover the customer for their financial loss. A delivery company with a Certificate of Insurance will be able to prove theft or criminal insurance too (even if it is not specifically called bonding). Just ask. Make sure your courier has crime insurance.
CLICK HERE to view a copy of the current Certificate of Insurance.

Do you give a warning on price changes?

Many courier companies have a policy of raising prices “as necessary” with no warning or notice to the customers. You should protect yourself and your company by going on record as insisting on a minimum 30 day advance notice.

How large is your fleet?

Larger, more established firms have no problem with this question, but smaller firms avoid discussing size. This is not to say that bigger is always better. It’s not. But courier firms need to be realistic when identifying their geographic area of service. Small firms (less than 10-12 vehicles) cannot provide service Statewide. In order to provide rapid pickup and delivery (2 hours or less), the ratio of vehicles to square miles covered must be realistic. Since every metropolitan area varies, there isn’t a specific formula to apply, but use common sense. Couriers serving a single county can probably do so with a modest fleet. More than one county requires more vehicles. Imagine that every time a long distance (over 150 miles) delivery request comes up, the courier company loses one driver for the bulk of the day. If they only have 10 vehicles, they have just lost 10% of their available fleet. Service will suffer. Ask your courier how they dispatch and distribute the work. If it sounds like they are stretching themselves too thin, find another courier. If they are constantly failing to provide on time delivery, find another courier.

How do you define "Rush"?

Ask your courier company to be very specific when it comes to their definition of terms. In some companies, a Rush is one hour service. In some, it is two hours. In others, it is defined as “as fast as we can do it”. If it is the latter, ask for a better commitment. “As fast as we can” is an invitation for disaster. Courier companies will interpret that as meaning that delays from traffic or manpower shortages are acceptable. Never allow the courier company to claim manpower shortages as an excuse for poor service. Its not your fault that the courier company could not provide enough drivers to respond to demand. Its their fault! They should reduce your price for the delivery in question (or make it free). On the other hand, customers should be fair. If a courier commits to 60-minute service and your calculation shows it took 65, asking the courier firm to discount your shipment is a bit much. After all, when you order a 2-hour delivery and it gets done in 75 minutes, you aren’t being charged more, are you? A good rule of thumb is to allow a 20 to 25% leeway. On a 60 minute delivery, you are looking for delivery within approximately one hour. If it takes 12-15 minutes more, perhaps that is good enough. Its your call, but a good courier firm will exceed your expectations more often than fail you, so work with them when you can.

What is your turnover rate?

This is a great question to ask when you are trying to determine whether or not the courier firm retains good employees. It is not uncommon for courier firms to run through employees quickly incurring yearly turnover rates of over 200%. On the other hand, this is usually an entry level position and turnover will be higher than other industries but anything more than 100% suggests some real problems at the company. Its likely that the courier company does not actually know its exact turnover rate (After all, do you know your rate?) but they can tell you a little about their employee longevity. Ask how long the typical driver stays with the company. Ask what percentage of couriers have been with the company for over a year. Good companies will keep employees for a long time. There should be some managers, dispatchers and drivers who have been around for 10 years or more. Ask how the driver pay at the courier company compares to the competition. Higher paying companies retain employees longer and you, the customer, win when experienced couriers rather than rookies are handling your delivery.

Will you call me if there is a problem?

YIKES! Most courier companies hate this question! Many firms would prefer to “solve” problem deliveries by setting them aside and dealing with them tomorrow. If the destination is a bad address or a company is closed, it is usually easier to move on and deal with the issue later. A good firm will call you and let you know what the problem is in an attempt to find an acceptable solution. Many firms “specialize” in picking up your late afternoon deliveries and then delivering them the following morning because the destination was closed when they supposedly arrived before 5pm. In fact, the dispatcher probably routed the driver to another pickup (instead of completing your delivery) because they expect to be able to get away with it. Insist on immediate notification when there is a problem and expect a good faith effort by the courier firm to solve your problem. That is not too much to ask.

"Where are you located? I would like to come by and see your dispatch operation in action."

A legitimate courier service will always be pleased to welcome you to their place of business. A fly-by-night operator will do his best to keep you from coming by. You don’t even really have to go. Just ask and see what the reaction is. That will tell you volumes about who you are dealing with. Hey, but if you have time, go check them out. Observing dispatch in action can be fascinating and meeting the faces in the office will give you an edge when you need a special favor and a super-fast delivery!

So, when trying to decide which courier firm to use, be sure to ask these questions. A professional courier will understand that you are just doing your homework and will gladly provide you with all the information you want. A fly-by-nighter will avoid answering you and give you broad generalities instead.

Good luck. Remember, you deserve honest and professional service. Settle for nothing less.

Contact us today for more information, or call 206-728-7700.

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