GTM Study 2018

Communication Breakdown

Our study finds most companies satisfied with the work of their customs brokers – with one major exception. About 63 percent say communication via phone and email is a hurdle they need to get over.

Björn Helmke 15.12.2018

Customs brokers get the call

Even though 75% of companies do their own customs work, customs brokers will remain a dominant stakeholder in the digital customs world of tomorrow, according to ''Clear the track to Digital Customs Management,'' a new study published by AEB and survey partner Baden-Wuerttemberg Cooperative State University (DHBW) Stuttgart. 

Download the complete study here. 

The survey found that nearly 75 percent of those polled use a customs broker in some way in the processing of customs work. About 20% said they worked mostly with a broker, while 7% had outsourced their complete customs operation. Only 25 percent said they don’t use a broker at all.

So why do companies use customs brokers?

According to the GTM it's: 

  • A lack of internal resources (47%).
  • Faster settlement (33.7%).
  • A dearth of in-house know-how (26.5%).
  • Lower costs (24.1%).
  • Greater legal security (18.1%).
  • And the need for cooperation with local Customs brokers in some target markets (16.9%).

Moreover, many companies (66.6%) work with forwarding agents with customs clearance services, and another 37.8% have specialist customs agents under contract (which means multiple entries are possible).

It is at this point where customs broker approval ratings go skyward.

Of the companies using brokers, 35.8% are very satisfied with their providers, 53.1% are "more satisfied" and only 8.6% "rather dissatisfied" and 2.5% "very dissatisfied". 

What’s not going well? Communication.

About 63% of companies communicate with their customs agents mainly by telephone and e-mail – and that process is inefficient for transmitting important data. That said, only 25.9% have implemented an IT solution with their customs agent.

It’s that lack of an IT solution that is causing a breakdown in communication.

In fact, 60% of respondents site it as one of the biggest challenges in cooperation with customs brokers. Also mentioned as problem areas are digital archiving (41%) and the lack of real-time data (37%), which underscores the depth of the communication breakdown. Other issues? The coordination of brokers (49%) and the high costs associated with a broker change (43%) are among the leaders.

This low level of customs broker integration makes it hard for companies to control their performance. The survey showed that 43% of those polled gauge performance of their brokers with audits and random checks. And only 37% ask for certifications.

We also found that targets and KPIs for brokers are agreed on by only one-in-five companies.

About 27% do not check the performance of their customs service providers at all.

AEB's solution: Customs Broker Integration

AEB's Customs Broker Integration digitizes the collaboration with your brokers, saves costs, provides legal safeguards – and above all, accelerates the entire process.

With our Customs Broker Integration, all the data is transmitted together to your customs broker and appears in the broker’s system without any interruption in the digital data flow.

The end result is a seamless process with fewer steps, resulting in fewer errors and the transparency everyone has been waiting for.

Björn Helmke
About the author
Björn Helmke
Björn Helmke earned his degree in business administration and has worked as an editor in the fields of transport and logistics for over 20 years. For the past two years, he has written with growing enthusiasm about the issues of global trade in practice. His goal is to make business content both fun and informative.

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