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The Human Touch: The Key to Becoming a Trusted Digital Freight Broker

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The Human Touch: The Key to Becoming a Trusted Digital Freight Broker

Shipping isn’t always a straightforward process. 

It involves many considerations—finding carriers, facilitating shipment deliveries, updating customers about the status of their shipments—and complicated nuances. 

But freight is more than just processes—it’s relationship-driven. 

Customers want a reliable freight partner that will put their needs first, deliver quality service, and has a long history of helping them succeed.

Investing in technology helps you work smarter, more efficiently and gain a competitive edge, but it’s the human touch that makes everything stick.

The Role of Human Interaction in Freight Brokerage

There are over 106,000 freight brokerages and agencies operating across the United States. Many of them are smaller shops that lack advanced technology visibility, while the larger brokerages that provide the tech and visibility lack the human touch customers seek. 

Comprehensive data helps customers make sound decisions about shipping their freight. 

For instance, they can determine the best cost- and time-efficient carriers, order consolidation potential, capacity constraints, and how they can optimize their overall spend.

But customers want to work with people—not just data. They want someone to guide them along, so they perceive a human voice to be more trustworthy than an automated response.

Technology enables people to solve problems at greater scale and speed. However, tools lack the vision, creativity, and ethical judgment to manage exceptions, interpret data, and deliver a more positive customer experience.

How to Add the Human Touch to Your Digital Freight Brokerage

Your customers can’t just trust that you’ll stand by your word. You must build that trust over time by executing what you sell to them from the initial meeting. This involves:

  • Being honest and transparent.
  • Providing good account management.
  • Investing in the right technology and visibility.
  • Combining human interaction and technology.

Be Honest and Transparent

Honesty and transparency are based on the initial pricing and transportation. 

Stand by the rate you supply from the initial front and service the business to your customers’ expectations. This can be difficult, especially if you operate a smaller brokerage and don’t have enough resources. 

Be honest and let your word be solid and reliable. Make your customer feel confident that the rate you originally quoted won’t change after you sign off on their freight transport, even if it gets uncomfortable for you.

Deliver on everything you’re going to say from the initial load and ensure it’s visible to the customer so they know what’s happening. Have a team available to them whenever they call and give correct statements every time. 

Build a Strong Team

Investing in a strong team and putting your best people in front of your customers ensures you build relationships and keep growing your business. 

Yet it’s difficult to come by the right team, especially with the Great Resignation, where 63% of workers cite lack of opportunities for advancement as a major reason for quitting their jobs. 

When recruiting new hires, let them know there are opportunities for individual, personal, and professional growth (horizontally and vertically) with your company.

If an employee doesn’t want to work with customers initially, for instance, let them serve in another capacity but still make that transition possible. 

Providing quality, consistent, and efficient service results in more intimate relationships with customers and more opportunities for your employees to grow within the organization. 

And it’s a sure path to building out your company’s destiny.

Provide Good Account Management

Your business is about selling the technology and the idea that customers will get visibility through it. 

However, even with visibility, many customers will still call your team to get an update or send emails to interact with your employees and get their irreplaceable counsel.

A team with the right quality and character at account management and carrier sales representative levels builds intimate relationships with your customers and freight partners. 

It’s not just about providing a rate, but also:

  • Showing up on time.
  • Communicating regularly about deliveries.
  • Removing unreliable carriers with a history of routine delays or no-shows from your network. 
  • Offering ideas that ensure customers’ supply chains keep evolving.
  • Providing solutions where unpredictable events (inclement weather or mechanical failure) arise and accountability when things go wrong.
  • Ensuring sales reps are always available to customers.

Invest in the Right Technology and Visibility

Customers want you to save them money and time while making their lives easier. If they find it difficult to interact with you, they’ll find a broker with customer-friendly systems.

For example, if you’re tendering freight and need to provide visibility to your customers, don’t make them create a hundred different logins on 10 different websites to see where their freight is. 

With the right tools, you can:

  • Streamline productivity for your employees.
  • Offer more visibility for your customers.
  • Make working with you easy and seamless.​​

Combine Human Interaction and Technology

Your tech stack might slow down your business processes, negatively impact employee productivity, decrease customer satisfaction, and hurt your company’s growth. 

If employees have to work with multiple different tabs and windows instead of a handful, or a single system, it creates a little more chaos in their organization levels.

To stand out to your customers and employees: 

  • Provide the best solutions and methods of doing business with customers that work really well. 
  • Integrate technologies like a transport management system and EDI or API connections to provide ease of use and visibility for everyone.
  • Take the noise out of the system for your employees so they’re more organized, productive, and offer better customer service and solutions.

Freight Is About People

The true value of your freight brokerage comes with your service. 

Technology can optimize your processes, but the human touch is the key to solving your customers’ pain points, forming long-lasting relationships, and becoming a trusted freight broker.

Kyle Ingraham is president of logistics at AFC Logistics, a leading freight and logistics company headquartered in Tampa.

 

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Tracking the ROI of Technology Integration in the Supply Chain

While many people believe technology lies behind supply chain operations, in reality, much of it involves human activity and processing transactions.

The challenge for logistics companies lies in how to differentiate themselves. To do this, companies must make business decisions revolving around the customer experience while integrating the right smart technologies within the supply chain.

Such technologies—which include transportation management systems (TMS), automation, and artificial intelligence (AI)—reduce inefficiencies and bottlenecks in an already fragmented supply chain.

How Technology Integration Boosts Supply Chain Efficiency

To meet modern customer demands, you’ll need to partner with vendors and integrate multiple technologies. As with any strategy, key steps when planning for technology integration in your organization involve research, onboarding and partnering with the
best vendors, and using the right tools.

Conduct Research

Assess what’s available to your business, market trends, and your competitors. Do your research from a TMS and best-in-class partnerships perspective so you can choose vendors who:

● Value collaboration
● Provide ease of use
● Offer more visibility
● Free up time for your employees and customers

Onboard and Partner with the Best Vendors

Identify and vet vendors based on your goals, needs, and budget. Pick various companies from different standpoints—tracking, LTL, TMS, and pricing—and partner with them.

Use software to automate the supply chain processes like demand and supply planning, bidding, order fulfillment, and more.

For instance, if a customer is on a TMS, you only need to log in to the TMS, find a load, enter a rate, and save the information. A robot can execute in four seconds what would normally take human employees about 45 or 50 seconds per load to complete.

Use the Right Tools

Select the right tools including—but not limited to—API connections with different pricing tools, middleware to set up and adjust the software, and robots to input prices and quote in portals.
Integrating these technologies helps you:

● Streamline business processes
● Reduce customer costs
● Improve employee tech resources for overall business efficiency

Instead of investing in all of the technologies in-house, onboard the best partners available to provide all a variety of solutions to your customers.

The Impact of Supply Chain Technology on the Customer Experience

Amazon changed customers’ expectations on timeliness and communication, while leaving them thinking they’ve got great customer service.

By integrating technologies, Amazon delivers operational excellence while fixing customer problems through re-delivery or visibility—not people.

Yet, problems still arise—especially when customers run into issues and need prompt resolutions. Amazon provides end-customers with a phone number (which is probably automated with robots giving back AI answers based on the customer’s response) and entry level call center employees to mediate issues.

The key to a great customer experience is to integrate smart technologies and have a team of dedicated account managers who understand their businesses.

You need a healthy mix of three key elements:

● Innovation
● Operational excellence
● Customer intimacy

Innovation allows companies to charge a premium for what you make, while operational excellence—upskilling staff and building an effective analytics infrastructure—helps you deliver exemplary customer service.

Customer intimacy, though, determines overall customer experience, giving your business a competitive edge. It involves collaborating with the customers while sharing information, pain points, and ideas about improving the supply chain integration
process.

It’s akin to getting a custom made suit—you understand the process and you’re willing to pay a premium for a fine outfit.

If your business operates at the intersection of operational excellence and customer intimacy, for instance, you can prioritize client relationships and give your team the latest technology to work quickly and efficiently.

Maximize Your ROI from Supply Chain Technology

Customers expect faster, flexible deliveries, with real-time visibility.
The key to a thriving, future-proof supply chain? Integrating and maximizing multiple technologies. This promises improved efficiency, lower costs, a better customer experience, and a more measurable bottom line.

About the Author

Kyle Ingraham is president of logistics at AFC Logistics, a leading freight and logistics company headquartered in Tampa.