Best in Class II

by Passenger Service: State troopers ride-along with truckers in crash study

The last time we published a synopsis of Mastio & Co.’s extensive Canadian LTL shipper survey (check it out here) we expected a few raised eyebrows from some carriers who didn’t make the final list, either because their customers didn’t have a lot to say or, most likely, their customers weren’t part of the pool of shippers interviewed.

This time, though, nearly 300 more Canadian-based shippers were consulted than in the 2006 survey — from 587 to 841 — resulting in thousands of observations on over 150 different LTL carriers. Out of those, 35 LTL carriers had enough responses made about them to qualify for the final rankings in 2009.

Also, Mastio’s Kevin Huntsman acknowledges what some readers noticed in 2007: that the differences in performance scores among the top 10 or 15 carriers were marginal in certain categories.

True, says Huntsman, but that’s because when you get down to the short strokes, most of the carriers ranked are all high-quality fleets, who overall are comparable, but are perhaps separated by very specific sectoral, ancillary, or value-added strengths in the eyes of shippers. We only included the first 10 ranked companies here (see below), but the complete rundown is available from Mastio. 

There’s been a change in how the firm promotes the rankings, however. Both now and in 2006, the research firm chose to split the rankings two ways — Weighted Quality Score (which is created from shippers’ opinions on carriers’ service performances only) and CV Index Score (which combines the former attributes with shippers’ views on carriers’ rate pricing).

Last time, the final rankings came from the CV Index column. But while shippers’ views on price are still worth noting, the top carriers are now rated strictly on serviceable benefits, says Huntsman.

Keeping in mind that shippers generally value price over everything else by a 70:30 split, "we felt it’s not fair to judge — or reward, if you will — with so much of the emphasis based on price," says Huntsman.

How Mastio determines the Weighted Quality Score is basically the same. Shippers are asked to score their service providers on various attributes, a few of which are broken up this way:

* Baseline requirements: "These," says Huntsman, "are the basic things you must do. They’re the tickets to entry." (e.g. shipments delivered with no shortages or damages; shipments delivered or picked up when promised).

* Conscious differentiators: "Things that you know you need." (e.g. effective problem resolution).

* Latent differentiators: "Things you didn’t know you need, but would want." (carriers with strong corporate image; clean equipment).

Also available from Mastio, are "value maps" that compare on an axis grid a consolidation of the above service attributes separated from price.

"Ideally, carriers who are able to maintain above-average pricing and still do well in Weighted Quality are in the best position in the market, while a high-price option combined with lesser quality service is … not a sustainable position in the long run," says Huntsman.

Not at all radioactive for a majority of shippers is the middle tier — carriers with average service and average price. "This, typically, is the economical carrier who’s trying to capture marketshare to increase revenue."

Another important component to the Mastio survey is the Net Promoter Score (NPS) Analysis (right). Essentially a customer loyalty measurement, these numbers indicate the likelihood a shipper would "promote" or recommend a carrier.

Today’s Trucking recompiled the NPS data into categories based on the number of respondents per carrier as to not unfairly deflate the NPS of carriers with many more respondents.

Only a handful of shippers need to promote a carrier to achieve a 70 percent-plus NPS; while the many additional respondents for carriers such as Vitran or Meyers naturally spread out their NPS in comparison.

"In Canada we saw the NPS go up big time," says Huntsman. "That’s interesting because in the current pricing environment it’s pretty easy to switch carriers. But as well, if I’m a sales guy and I know everybody’s beating down my customer’s door with a better price, I’m going to do everything else possible to let them know I’m there for them. And I think that’s reflected in the loyalty scores."

While depressed freight market conditions led to a handful of notable placement changes in the 2009 survey, many familiar nameplates jostled for position among the main 35 fleets.

"One thing that stands out in the Canadian survey is that, unlike in the U.S., there’s wasn’t a whole lot of change," says Huntsman, "and sometimes that’s as good as anything.

"While it’s true the Canadian market is much smaller and more [consolidated], I think there’s also better continuity in the performance of the carriers."  

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