The Internet is amazing. At your fingertips, you instantly have access to knowledge about everything. Never before have we had this luxury of quickly and easily finding products, services or information.
So, here's a question... if you're busy surfing the net for a Customs Broker, does it matter where the company is located? Is it important that they are situated in your city? Is your decision based on the location of their offices?
Sometimes choices based on proximity are merely because of an assumed comfort factor. In short, an assumption that a company nearby is a better choice than a company a thousand miles away. To some degree, this decision may be valid if you will require frequent personal meetings, but what is reality today? Even if a vendor is local, how often do you have face to face meeting? The truth is that most of our communication is via phone, fax, or a myriad of electronic devices.
Probably to a larger extent, decisions are made on rational purchasing evaluations. In other words, it's less of where they are, and more a question of who they are and what services they can provide.
Factors To Consider
- Do they employ experienced employees where many hold customs brokerage designations?
- What are their methods of training and educating their employees?
- In which industries do they specialize?
- What is the average tenure of their clients?
- How long have they been in business?
- Do they operate 24/7/365?
- Are they easily accessible through a live reception service?
- Can you speak to a live person when needed?
- Are they customer service focused?
- Does their company emphasize detail, accuracy and compliance?
- What are some unique situations where they have helped other companies?
- What are some of their notable achievements and successes?
- How would other related service providers (i.e. trucking companies) rate their company?
- Can they supply references?
- What methods do they employ to update their clients?
- Do they provide trade compliance seminars or webinars?
Let's go back to the misconception of making a choice based on the locations and/or number of offices of the customs broker. We need to dispel the myth that they need to have offices at every airport, ocean terminal or border point where your shipments are going to enter Canada or the U.S. Years ago this was an important factor as the clearances required a physical presence at every place.
Today, almost all commercial clearances in the U.S. and Canada are done electronically. This means that the customs broker
- obtains the trade data (usually in the form of a customs or commercial invoice, and other supporting documents),
- transmits the information to the respective customs agency (and other governmental agencies depending on the type of goods), and
- requests the clearance of the shipment
- they also "confirm" the entry electronically once the shipment has been released by sending a final declaration or customs entry to Customs.
Although the entry point into that country must be correctly declared to Customs, the act of transmitting the data could take place from any location. Now when you are looking for a dependable customs broker, you can broaden your horizons and explore the best alternatives.