Whether looking to improve visibility, solve a specific challenge or reduce costs, there are three initial criteria to consider when searching for a logistics solution provider. These seem simple enough, but if not rigorously applied, trouble often follows.
3 Criteria to Select a Solutions Provider
- Puts my interests ahead of theirs.
- Is a proven problem solver.
- Listens to my unique problems.
Listening Provides Learning
The third criteria—listening to my unique problems—is a critical but often absent trait. In my experience there are many people who are great listeners, but to their own voice. The stereotypical sales person is great talker and can be very entertaining. All of this talk, however, prevents them from learning about the company they are trying to help. Oftentimes I’ve been told that by being quiet you’re not providing any help. Yet I find that by listening more, you not only learn what the real issue is that the company is trying to solve, you can also learn what solutions they’ve tried in the past and why they’ve failed. By listening, it can help you avoid the same pitfalls and failed solutions that have come before you.
Collaborative Conversations Defines Common Goal
When you meet with your prospective provider, the discussion should be a good back-and-forth conversation. I like to say that it should be a collaborative session between the two parties where the common goal is clearly defined—solve the company’s specific issue. The logistics provider should be able to offer clear and concise answers to what the solution is and how it will be implemented. At this point you should also be informed about the resources the company needs to commit. Perhaps the most important part of the conversation surrounds having a very clear and easy to measure return on investment. Without an expected ROI, it will be difficult if not impossible to gauge the success of the solution. With this information, you can have more confidence that your potential provider has accurately diagnosed the underlying problem and is recommending a solution tailored to address your specific challenges.
When Problem Solving Causes More Problems
Without a clear understanding of the common goals and the solution, unintended consequences can often occur. We see many instances where a company implemented software or hired a third-party to solve a problem only to introduce more issues while not solving the original problem. One of the most common issues that I see is a company trying to obtain clean, standardized data to use for decision making. The company buys a solution because they are told that it will deliver data faster and cleaner because it is using the latest technology to obtain the data. What the company finds is that they still don’t have clean standardized data, and the data they do have is a month behind. The provider tells the company that the solution has worked for their other customers and they must be doing something wrong. All of this trouble could be avoided by making sure the provider could pass the first three criteria.