Get The Freight Right

Use Technology To Calculate Freight Rates With Quotes And Orders

Kaity Morris and members of her customer service team are certainly sympathetic when customers express frustration about having to calculate freight quotes when ordering promotional products. They’re mostly quite pleased the frustration is not directed at them.

Morris is Customer Service Manager at HandStands, a Salt Lake City-based supplier focusing on air fresheners and technology accessories. When HandStands quotes a price for an order, shipping costs are included up front. No waiting. No guessing. No problems.

“It’s an extra plus in our customer service,” Morris said of having a real-time freight quote tool included in pricing calculations. “Our customers know shipping costs right up front.”

Obviously the technology to calculate freight costs when placing an over-the-phone or an online order is nothing out of the ordinary. Imagine the hesitation if consumers placed online orders at everyday retail websites with the expectation that yet-to-be-determined shipping costs would be added to the posted cost.

“Who’s going to buy something online if they don’t have the freight? As a consumer, can you imagine going to Amazon and then waiting two days for them to send you the shipping costs?”

That’s Jason Nokes, President of DistributorCentral and one of the team members who developed a freight calculation tool for the promotional products industry. It’s been just over a decade since DC made this function available, yet Nokes knows there’s some reluctance on the part of both suppliers and distributors to have shipping costs included in quotes and pricing, usually because of concerns about accuracy.

According to Nokes, the ability to nail down shipping costs is actually simple and easy. Accurate freight rates can be calculated in advance using real-time data from shipping providers and incorporating internal product and packing standards. The more data and variables plugged into the equation, the more precise the quote.

“Now suppliers are able to present shipping processes and pricing in a manner that’s accurate and positive,” said Nokes. “Helping customers determine how shipping will impact pricing becomes an appreciated aspect of the sales process.”

Feel the love
Tom Mertz, President and CEO of TradeNet Publishing, manufacturer of printed promotional products near Kansas City, offers no pretense about his reasoning for incorporating DC’s Freight Quote function in every quote and order.

“We want the distributor to love TradeNet,” said Mertz. “We realize our customers are busy people and are often working on a quote at night or on the road. If they can tell their customer what the freight will be, we’re making it easier for them to make the sale.”

Mertz said distributors have acknowledged they want to know freight costs up front. “A distributor will take the path of least resistance,” he said. “If they can get an accurate quote from one supplier and not from another, which supplier gets the business? It positions TradeNet as being in partnership with distributors by helping them make the sale.”

Economics is no small part of the equation where TradeNet is concerned. Mertz said a review of customer service calls prior to implementation to Freight Quotes was that 25 percent of incoming calls were related to inquiries and issues associated with shipping costs. Now those calls are rare.

“TradeNet was ultimately able to direct our Customer Service team to spend more quality time with distributors,” Mertz said. “We were able to better concentrate the efforts of our CS team to make it easier to make the sale and to do more business with us.”

Distributors sing a similar song. Rich Graham, Chief Imagination Officer at Dallas-based Big Promotions!, said having accurate shipping quotes at the time of sale is something “you just gotta have and that’s pretty much how it is.” Graham said Big Promotions! relies on the DC freight calculator, indicating it’s especially required for customers who make online purchases during the nighttime hours or on weekends.

Dave White, DEW Ad Specialties, Kansas City, said it’s important to have access to a freight calculator function because of ever-changing costs. “It’s hard to keep up with fuel surcharges that seemingly change on a daily basis,” said White. “It helps us to know we’re being provided accurate shipping pricing without any surprises.”

Simplified and Customized
While online Freight Quote programming is robust and detailed, the ability for a supplier or a distributor to add it to online or over-the-phone price quoting is not. Where DC’s tool is concerned, it’s a matter of the supplier or distributor completing a spreadsheet with as many shipping standards as possible, including product dimensions and weight per shipping quantity. The more detailed the standards and the shipping criteria, the more accurate the quote.

“We hear stories about suppliers using whatever boxes they can find to ship products in,” said DC’s Nokes. “The process of including shipping costs in quotes typically results in improvements of processes and functionality.”

Nokes said the DC software interacts with FedEx and UPS to generate real-time rates. The integration with the two primary shippers factors in the fluctuating fuel surcharges and thus keeps pace with changing rates.

TradeNet’s Mertz said the accuracy of freight quotes through DistributorCentral has exceeded his expectations. Over years of implementation and across thousands of orders representing hundreds of product lines, the quotes are directly aligned with actual costs.

“At the end of the day, we’re looking for a quote that’s fair in the aggregate to TradeNet and the distributor,” Mertz said.

Fully customizable, the Freight Quote tool allows suppliers and distributors to provide customers with shipping discounts or free shipping on selected products or special offers. The DC freight tool is automatically integrated with DC-hosted websites and can also be integrated into custom third-party websites.

“With this freight tool, suppliers are actually helping the distributor sell on line and give more precise quotes,” said Nokes. “Distributors, through their suppliers or on their own websites, benefit by making easier for the end user.”