Efficient, compliant customs processes are the key to getting your goods across the border – and into the hands of your vendors and clients – as quickly as possible. That’s why it’s critical to establish and maintain a strong relationship with your customs broker – your broker has the knowledge, experience and expertise to ensure your goods clear customs without delay.
But how do you make most out of your relationship with a broker? How do you ensure you’re not just another account number on a ledger?
As a small business, where your margins and your resources are tight, it’s especially important to understand where you stand as a client in your broker’s eyes. With any service provider, you want to work with someone who makes you feel like you’re a valued part of their business; someone who understands your unique requirements, and delivers the level of service you need to succeed in your marketplace.
Fortunately, there are a number of ways you can help ensure your relationship with your broker is a long and successful one. Below are four of the relationship-building steps Livingston suggests you take when entering into a service agreement with a broker.
Step One – Start with a Well-Defined Service Level Agreement
As with any business relationship, particularly one that you plan to keep long-term, a clearly defined service level agreement (SLA) is critical to ensuring you receive the type of service you expect and require. With customs brokerage, where timeliness and documentation accuracy are critical to your shipments clearing the border, getting your criteria for success on paper, and mutually agreed upon by your broker, can make all the difference in keeping your relationship strong.
Consider including the following items in your service level agreement:
- 24/7 support: You need to know your broker is going to be there when you need them. In addition, ensure your broker has the tools in place to capture, track and monitor any issues that might arise.
- Minimum response times/levels: Establish how long it should take your broker to respond to questions and concerns.
- A single point of contact: Getting to know someone one-on-one is a much better way to build a relationship than jumping around from person to person each time you call.
- Access to imaging/records: Customs brokerage involves a lot of paperwork; it’s important that you have access to all the documentation your broker prepares on your behalf.
Of course, before you sign your SLA you need to find a broker that fits your needs. If you’re still in the process of finding a customs broker, or you’re thinking of making a change, here are seven questions you should ask a customs broker to make sure they’re the right broker for you.
Step Two – Establish Two-Way Communication
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