Southeastern Freight Lines Underscores Value of Customer Service in a Recession
LEXINGTON, S.C. (May 5, 2009) – While a commitment to customer service is paramount at all times, it is even more vital to business success during a recession.
Southeastern Freight Lines, a leading provider of less–than–truckload (LTL) transportation services, is stretching to maintain, and even enhance, customer service during today’s economic turmoil.
With many carriers going out of business in the past year, and many other companies implementing massive layoffs and service reductions, Southeastern has adopted a company–wide focus to avoid layoffs and reduce costs without eroding customer service.
In fact, the company has expanded service into Mexico and domestically, and continued an aggressive investment in technology, most recently providing customers with real–time shipping status reports via e–mail or text message. All these measures are founded on the principle of always striving to enhance customer satisfaction.
"By serving our customers at record levels, we’ve actually been able to enhance customer relationships in today’s difficult economy," said Mike Heaton, vice president of sales and marketing for Southeastern Freight Lines. "For example, when a competitor refused to pick up freight for a Greenville, S.C. company over the Christmas weekend in order to save money, we stepped up and delivered an additional 200,000 pounds that weekend. We are now handling 100 percent of the company’s business."
Southeastern’s President Tobin Cassels refuses to accept the conventional wisdom of slashing service to cut costs in a recession. "You never want to back off of your service efforts in a downturn. We believe in adhering to our fundamental commitment to our employees and their ability to set the industry’s gold standard providing service to our customers," Cassels said.
"We’ve learned the value of looking at the long–term business objectives. Many companies immediately start laying people off and cutting costs in order to maintain short–term success during a recession. However, we know that if our employees and customers are confident that we are going to take care of them during downturns, they will be more loyal than ever when business comes back," he said.
Southeastern’s customers value the commitment to service. Steve Palmer, Lowe’s vice president of transportation, said, "Their consistent delivery performance, their ability to customize information systems to Lowe’s needs, and their dependable and responsive management team creates a business relationship that will continue to grow with Lowe’s. Southeastern is one of the cornerstones of our program."
The long–term approach to building a strong corporate culture and operational processes while investing in the business has built a support infrastructure to more easily add new services to deliver on the company’s customer service commitment, even during a recession. For example, a network of 76 service centers in the Southeastern United States enabled a recent expansion of services to the entire state of Alabama, and investment in information technology made it possible to add real–time notification of shipping status.
"Our long–term strategy of investing in technology affords us the ability to save costs while introducing new services," said Braxton Vick, Southeastern’s senior vice president of corporate planning. "The use of dock management systems reduces labor costs. Route planning systems reduce mileage and related fuel and labor costs. These and other systems bolster efficiency to make us very competitive in pricing, and the consistency of our services helps us continue to meet and exceed customer expectations."
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