There are four items to consider when looking for an online freight broker: locations, staff qualifications, responsiveness, and cost. A freight broker is also known as a customs broker. This type of firm is responsible for managing the paperwork required to ship goods internationally. Each country has its own taxes, tariffs, and rules regarding the importation and exportation of goods. The primary purpose of this type of firm is to comply with these rules while reducing the delays associated with international shipping.
The growth of the Internet has truly revolutionized the freight broker business. Using computer tools, an online freight broker can provide up-to-the-minute information to clients, manage a wide range of locations from a central building, and track activity. Providing this type of service requires a significant investment in computer hardware, software, and staff. Commitment to supporting this aspect of the business must be built into the firm's long-range business plan, and it is now the accepted standard for all potential clients.
There is a wide range of online freight broker firms available. When selecting one, take the time to find out how many offices it has and where they are located. Make sure the firm has staff working at the ports and entry points where the majority of your shipments occur.
Check the fine print of the agreement to determine how the firm manages shipments to ports where it does not have dedicated staff. The vast majority of firms outsource to meet this need. Take the time to find out its service commitment and who is responsible for these arrangements. When problems occur, you will need to know exactly who is responsible for meeting service expectations, and what those expectations were.
Ask each firm about the number of staff who are licensed customs brokers. Discuss the responsibilities of these key staff members, and ask about the type of training provided to all staff. Find out if the firm is an active member of any customs broker associations or groups.
Included in the advertising material and quote should be the service level agreement (SLA). This document provides the acceptable time between request and response. Review the responsiveness rate and promised turn around time. Inquiry about rush or urgent shipments that require priority attention and find out what the baselines are. This information is very important when selecting an online freight broker, as both the client and supplier will use the SLA to evaluate the success of the contract.
Look at the total cost of the contract. Most online freight broker firms have a flat rate per package, based on the weight, value, and commodity type. Evaluate your current shipping activities to determine where the greatest costs can be saved. Most firms also provide access to proprietary online tools to monitor activity, track shipments, and review billing.