In today’s competitive e-commerce world, offering the right shipping options can make a big difference to your company’s success. More and more online merchants are discovering that LTL shipping is a cost-effective option for larger orders. But how do you choose the right LTL freight carrier?

Here is a list of considerations that may help determine the best option for your business.

1. Q: What Geographic Regions do you cover and how quickly can you accommodate a last-minute need?

As shippers have to hit increasingly tighter delivery windows, you want to ensure you’re matched up with a carrier that has the capacity, transit times, and response time that supports your shipping needs. Does your carrier show up when they say they will? Can you call them at 4 p.m. on a Friday and expect a pickup? Missing delivery targets can result in harsh consequences, like damaged customer relationships. A recent Peerless Research Group survey showed that 85 percent of companies are most concerned about the fractured relationships and lack of trust that come as a result of missed delivery dates. Choosing a carrier that has nationwide coverage through a single, integrated network can improve shipping efficiency.

2. Q: What precautions do you take to avoid damages to shipments?

It’s no surprise that 40 percent of shippers recently surveyed1 want to reduce shipping damage. After all, the damaged product is a product you will have to reproduce. Does your shipping partner use a load plan to prevent mixing incompatible freight? Do they use materials like deck bars, airbags, chipboards, or rolled corrugate to pack and protect your freight carefully? It’s important to know that your carrier invests in these kinds of equipment and materials, so you don’t have to deal with things like lost sales and customers, added administrative time, remanufacturing, lost productivity, and negative brand perception. When your shipments show up on your customer’s dock, you want it to be a good representation of your company.

3. Q: What track and traceability options do you prefer?

In today’s world, you want to know where your product is and when it’s expected to deliver. This is an increasingly important aspect of selecting a carrier. In the age of e-commerce, people want to know where their shipment is, down to the street level. Hitting your delivery window is critical to avoid chargebacks or fines from your retail customers. Gaining insights from your carrier will allow you to be proactive rather than reactive. More than half of shippers expect visibility into their shipping status. It’s seen as one of the significant freight shipping challenges they plan to encounter in the next 12 months. Another 47 percent of shippers agree that traceability needs the most attention of all its transportation pain points.

4. Q: What is your philosophy on customer service?

You should think of your shipping partner as an extension of your brand. You want the people shipping your freight to feel like an integrated part of your team — someone who is committed to an efficient, helpful process. Does your carrier represent your company the way you expect at your customer’s dock? Does your carrier drop freight at the dock — or are they respectful of shipping and receiving protocols at each facility? Your LTL carrier should bring you value and become an advisor in your supply chain decision making. Carriers that take time to regularly review your shipping habits and offer suggestions on how to improve efficiency are carriers that are customer-centric.

5. Q: How do you work with customers to avoid unexpected costs?

It’s important to understand the difference in price and cost. Recent research shows that 88 percent of shippers say they’ve been hit with unexpected costs from shipping, which may have been avoidable1. And 41 percent said they’ve had to pay fines or chargebacks as a result of missed delivery windows or incomplete shipments1. Evaluate the overall service you’re getting with your carrier, along with the impact on your business. An economy price tag may be appealing at first glance, but it may not regularly meet your customer’s delivery guidelines in all circumstances. Does the cost of potential fines, lost sales, or even lost customers outweigh the initial price tag? Nearly a third of shippers (29%) reported that carriers could do a better job of offering customized shipping solutions, specifically, solutions that help minimize delivery window issues.