Building Carrier Relationships

Aug 18, 2022 | Services

Discovering how a 3PL builds long-standing supply chain relationships, specifically carrier relationships, is a rocky subject for those operating out of the “churn and burn” strategy. 

Article Overview

Over the last eight years, KCH Transportation has carefully crafted its operations around the white-glove experience each client can expect. 

Now boasting a sturdy and robust network of carriers across the country with ranging specialties, the KCH leadership team sat down to share how they managed to maintain over a dozen years of supply chain relationships without compromising values.

In-house basics matter.
  • Identify company values, and instill them in daily activities

Knowing what you want to stand for is vastly different than practicing core values daily. “The company should train each new hire in its values and mission alongside their specific role, which will influence how they conduct business with clients.

Client relationships start in-house. So, ensure that your sales, account management, customer success, management, and business development teams are well-versed in the organization’s values. 

When you treat carriers with respect communication is strong, prices are fair, and payments are on time they are likely to return or even agree to an exclusive partnership. 

• Reinforce the importance of training

All-hands meetings, weekly standups, newsletters … whatever your preferred method of communication may be, leverage it consistently. The message you send to customers should be your exact message to your employees. 

While it’s essential to train new hires, it’s equally important to revisit and refresh messaging through training. Do this at least once a year in a sales kick-off and smaller, routine increments, whether that be weekly or monthly. 

The simplicity of this repetition can easily cause it to get lost in the shuffle or be overlooked as a company norm. Allowing internal training to settle to stagnancy will hurt your company in the long run.

• Show integrity through actions, not just words

Professional partnerships are sustained through communication and honesty, building trust from repeated quality service. If you say you provide it, do it, and do it well. And then do it again for the next person, no matter how big or small the account.

Consistency in service is vital to your retention strategy, especially as new brokerages open almost daily.

Proven practices in carrier relationships

Carrier relationships last when you prove that you’ll keep their book of business moving forward. Communicate when expectations should shift due to disruption and ensure details, like payments, are managed promptly.


If a disruption occurs, don’t wait until the carrier or shipper is impacted negatively. Communicate delays, paperwork and cargo information needs, and payment processes clearly. Operations, sales, and billing teams must be able to have these high-pressure conversations at a moment’s notice to solve problems and provide quality customer service. 

Set expectations 

Work with marketing teams to create client-facing documents addressing protocols for the above issues and related contact information in case they have questions. Sending these documents to new customers as part of their “welcome” email or package encourages a positive customer experience from the beginning. 

Learn the industry

Take the time to read about the latest trends and challenges influencing the supply chain. A better understanding of what is happening locally, regionally, domestically, and globally will give you a more holistic approach to conversations and allow you to build authority and trust with others in the industry. 

Quality over quantity

If you’re in logistics long enough, chances are you’ll have an experience that leaves a bad taste in your mouth. While hiccups and mistakes happen, our team has built a sustainable infrastructure by knowing when to cut ties to preserve quality service and partnerships. 

Sacrificing quality for quantity isn’t a sustainable business strategy. Taking a loss in one-off situations is understandable, but when a carrier begins participating in unethical business practices, it may be time to say goodbye. 

Unacceptable practices include: 

  1. Back solicitation
  2. Double brokering
  3. Post-pickup rate negotiation
  4. Poor communication

Having a standard for trust going both ways is essential for long-lasting carrier relationships and healthy business growth. Communicate, leverage values, and have empathy towards your peers. 

If you’re looking to join a team fueled by grit, comradery, and opportunity, the KCH crew might just be your answer. 

Happy hauling!