If you are an international trader, then often you would have to hire the services of a customs broker for smooth clearance of your shipments across the border. This is because these customs consulting services know all about the required paperwork, tariff classifications, rules and regulations about the country of origin and that of the destination etc.

The thing is not all customs consulting services are good or in line with your requirements. Here are few questions to ask before hiring a particular agency.

  1. Experience: You need to figure out if they have a specific area of expertise or they specialize in getting the customs cleared in a particular country. For instance, Clearit.ca is known for getting Canadian customs cleared with ease.
  2. Accessibility: It is important to know if they are accessible 24/7/365 and check if it is only through electronic media or you can also talk to a live person if the need arises. There are countries where customs clearance is a highly automated process. If you are trading in such countries, then it is important that your customs broker is well versed in electronic communication not only with you, but also with your vendors, carriers, and involved government departments.
  3. Knowledge: You should ask the agency if they employ experienced employees and what their methods of educating and training are. They not only should be updated of any regulatory changes, but also be able to communicate it to their employees and clients in time.
  4. Compatibility: The agency should have clear guidelines on how it will work with the client to develop a compliance plan. This plan should have all the clarifications required on responsibilities of either party and minimize the potential exposure related to shipment delays and penalties if any.
  5. Reference: Ask for references from other clients who have been importing similar stuff in the countries you want to deal with. This will give you a fair idea of the efficiency of the agency or the customs consulting service that you are planning to choose.

Asking the above discussed questions is important as it will ensure that your customs broker or the freight forwarder will be your partner in every right sense of the word.

By Genaro Martin

Linda Martin: Linda, a renowned management consultant, offers strategies for leadership, team building, and performance management in her blog.