Meet Everett Johnson, founder and owner of Credence Logistics (CL). Before starting his company, Johnson worked for a large brokerage, managing and fulfilling load opportunities the traditional way; no technology tools to grow and foster his business, just sheer grunt-work, phone trees, and a mental rolodex.
CSRs are typically the first ones to get into work and the last ones to leave. However, whenever Johnson succeeded in growing stable accounts, they would get stripped from him and replaced with new accounts. As you can imagine, having his accounts taken away was frustrating and demoralizing, as it would be for any CSR who has worked hard to build those relationships and generate repeat business. It is no surprise that Johnson left and started his own logistics company.
Johnson's experience is not an isolated case. Having spoken and interviewed several Carrier Sales Reps (CSRs), my observation is this: management typically perceives CSRs as 'cost' items rather than business-building employees. Even though CSRs may be compensated very well monetarily, they still need a work environment that is supportive and emotionally rewarding.
It is no surprise that the average tenure of a CSR is very short— about 2 years in comparison to customer sales reps who have an average tenure of about 8 years. CSRs might leave to do the same role at another brokerage, seek a promotion internally or externally, or High-performing CSRs like Johnson even leave to start a competitive brokerage.
While competition isn't a bad thing, I wonder how many opportunities big brokerages miss due to CSR attrition. In this post, I share what I believe is the way to treat CSRs so they 1) Stay with your company longer 2) Contribute to a culture conducive to a brokerage-of choice, and 3) Strengthen your brokerage's brand.
Walking the Tightrope
The Carrier Sales Rep (CSR), like a professional tightrope walker, must achieve a delicate balance. To be a successful CSR, they must balance the following activities:
Relationship-building + customer success: sales reps bring shipper customers in, but CSRs keep them and build the brokerage's industry reputation. For example, managing unforeseen risks and providing customers with visibility.
Load matching + business development: CSRs drive value to carriers and shipper customers. If they don't match the right loads to the right carriers— the brokerage's reputation is damaged. While a sales rep can bring in load opportunities all day long, your brokerage will not get paid unless your CSR can move those loads by matching them with the right carriers consistently and reliably.
Market intelligence + analysis: carrier pricing, for example, can change at any moment. Understanding when to book a load requires judgment and 'market know-how' which can lead to significant cost savings for shipper customers.
Any tools or methodologies that can help CSRs streamline, automate, and augment the above activities can enhance their performance and allow them to focus on the vital human functions of exceptional relationship-building + customer service.
For example, meet Andrew Prater, Carrier Sales Manager (CSM) for a $1B brokerage. As a CSR, Prater was empowered with the right tools, including (but not limited to): a custom Transport Management System (TMS) and an artificial intelligence-backed engagement and intelligence solution to help him scale relationships and utilization of carriers.
Today, Prater personally books over 350 loads a month on average. But more importantly, he has helped build a healthy CSR culture in the office:
Lots of cross-team collaboration, help, and support.
A fun, energetic work-environment that people look forward to coming to every day.
A Brokerage’s Brand Ambassadors
Your CSR-carrier interactions are vital because they showcase your brokerage’s values and commitment to the relationship. A typical carrier sales rep’s metrics are: 60 outbound calls per day and 10 loads booked each day (spot freight). Subsequently, carrier relationships are established and built by your CSRs on a daily basis, and the quality of those carrier relationships directly impacts how well your brokerage can serve your shipper customers.
While CSRs do not talk directly to your shipper customer, their ability to effectively match loads can either create a positive or negative customer experience. If the CSR does not value your shipper customer, for example, they won't take the effort to find the best carrier and quote for the customer. Worse yet, if a CSR leaves, the relationship they have with your carriers might leave with them. Sales reps bring in new customers who want to move loads, but CSRs are responsible for retaining those customers and strengthening your brokerage's reputation.
As brand ambassadors, CSRs are the beating heart of an organization. Their activities are mission-critical to your brokerage's longevity. Having recognized this, as CEO Johnson began to invest more of his time in CSR success because he knows it is directly tied to the success of his brokerage business (Credence Logistics). With this, Johnson:
Invites CSR feedback and strategic input to improve the business.
Takes CSR feedback and input to heart, implementing suggestions that are high-impact such as improving workflows.
Prioritizes carrier relationships just as much as shipper customers— proactively engaging and building relationships regardless of whether there is a load-opportunity.
Johnson learned that valuing and giving CSR's the proper tools for success can grow your business and keep customers happy. In a short period— less than a year— Johnson has grown load bookings from a few loads a day, to over 500 loads per month.
In Summary: Create a CSR-Centric Brokerage
CSRs are the beating heart of a brokerage; they drive value to carriers and shipper customers. By empowering your CSRs with the right support and tools, you have an opportunity to:
Increase CSR retention.
Build a brokerage culture conducive to an ‘employer of choice.’
Strengthen your brokerage’s brand in a competitive marketplace.
Book more loads sustainably and reliably.