For Customs Brokers, one of the most unique aspects of CTPAT participation is the requirement by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to evangelize the CTPAT program to prospective members. Though this process – formally known as “Client Outreach” – is an important step in the continued spread of CTPAT adoption, it often presents some pain points for brokers. Today, we discuss those common Client Outreach problems and how to solve them, including defining CPB’s expectations, overcoming discomfort when asking customers to join the program, and presenting Client Outreach procedures to your SCSS for review.
Due to their unique position in the industry, Customs Brokers are typically viewed as neutral, reliable sources of information by domestic importers – naturally making them one of the best possible candidates to communicate the value of CTPAT participation to that group. Recognizing this opportunity, CBP tasks certified Customs Brokers with explaining CTPAT requirements to their importers, then documenting their Client Outreach process for review by their assigned Supply Chain Security Specialist in the program.
Customs and Border Protection defines Client Outreach as a requirement to “educate and encourage that Members within their supply chains further the security tenets of CTPAT.” However, many brokers remain unsure of CBP’s specific expectations of them. If you are a CTPAT-certified Customs Broker, best practices to meet the Client Outreach requirement include completing the following tasks on an annual basis:
Discuss with all importer customers why CTPAT membership is important.
Providing clients with a general overview of topics like border security, money laundering, fraud, etc.
Asking non-member importers to join the CTPAT program if they would benefit from membership.
Although item #3 above might feel like an awkward topic to bring up with a customer, we recommend framing it in a way that focuses on illustrating your broader knowledge of border security and trade compliance then weaves CTPAT into the conversation using objective information about how the program supports those two topics. Think about it…we all believe in CTPAT and understand why it’s important…so, if you present the facts on CTPAT to a client, the benefits of joining speak for themselves. There’s no need to feel uncomfortable or like you’re being required to “sell” the program. Approach Client Outreach as an informational conversation with importers about acting in their own best interest to keep their businesses safe. No matter how the rest of the conversation goes, you’ll have demonstrated (at the very least) that you are passionate about keeping their supply chain secure.
As with most CTPAT requirements, CBP will often ask to see a formally documented process for Client Outreach at the time of your annual renewal. This can be a simple, 1-2 page document that explains your approach to the conversation. Key topics to mention include:
Verbally encouraging importers to join CTPAT
Providing an overview of security topics
Explaining the benefits of the program
Providing resources (articles, consultants, software, etc.) to help support them throughout the application and membership management processes
Providing a link to register for CTPAT
Another suggestion is to provide importer clients with your CTPAT SOPs and Security Awareness Training (See our CTPAT Training article for tips). By sharing your materials, you provide customers with a broad overview of what the program means, give them a tangible example of CTPAT in action, and demonstrate the lengths to which you go to ensure their shipments remain secure.
As most members already know, CTPAT-certified customs brokers are required to either audit their importers with a site visit or send each one a Security Questionnaire requesting information that confirms they are adhering to standard operating procedures. Mentioning the use of Security Questionnaires is also a great bullet point to include in your documented Client Outreach process…and yet another way to show the importer how CTPAT works in practice!
We hope this information provides Customs Brokers with some clarity about everything that’s expected of them about Client Outreach. But, as always, feel free to contact us if you need any additional information or assistance.