I began my career in transportation 20 years ago at one of the largest Less-than-Truckload (LTL) carriers in the US. The idea of customer experience then was not the same as what it is today. The company I worked for had done a consumer research study in the late 1990s to determine what exactly customers wanted. The answer was simple: pick up on time, deliver on time and don’t break it!
Today, on-time delivery and not breaking freight are still important, but they are not the only things that drive great customer experience. In addition to moving freight, companies have to focus on information flow and customer interactions to enhance the experience.
Let’s take a look some of the key components of this re-defined customer engagement.
Access to Real-time Information
Supply chains run on information that drive just-in-time inventory systems, customs clearance and payment of freight charges. Hence, it’s not surprising that customers want immediate visibility into shipment information and continuous updates on the progress of their shipments. While blockchains may provide instantaneous information flow in the future, today companies depend on the paper bill of lading that is used widely. In such a scenario, the key to information flow lies in getting the paper into a digital form as quickly as possible.
Digitization platforms such as WNS Malkom leverage Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning to automate the freight billing process and provide real-time supply chain visibility. Through mobile document scanning and AI-enhanced Optical Character Recognition (OCR) for intelligent data extraction, the platform also improves turnaround time for shipments.
Right Action, Right Channel
Interactions between customers and suppliers are no longer limited to phone calls and e-mails. As digital natives permeate the customer base, there’s a demand for differentiated supplier engagement. Transportation providers, looking to offer superior customer experience, have to adapt their interactions to include multiple channels such as chat, text messaging, Web and mobile applications. The goal is to drive proactive, contextual and intelligent interactions with customers on the channel of their choice. Tools such as WNS EXPIRIUS enable companies across industries to take the right actions at the right time through the right channel.
Changing Face of Fulfillment
As companies strive to deliver the same quality of service across channels with customer-centric agendas, there’s a perceptible shift in the shipping and logistics industry. Companies are moving from Business-to-Business (B2B) to Business-to-Customer (B2C).
The pandemic is further propelling this transition to B2C. For instance, e-commerce retail sales for the second quarter of 2020 grew by 31.8 percent over the first quarter, and by 44.5 percent over the previous year. The market for bulky (non-parcel) home deliveries is growing by 12 percent annually. This continued growth is likely to bring new customers to trucking companies that have typically delivered to warehouses till now. The new customer expects a high level of service, including real-time shipment visibility, delivery appointments and inside delivery options. Great customer experience in B2C calls for a different type of interaction than with a transportation manager in B2B.
While the current state of customer service across transportation companies varies, it still lags behind other industries. In the next five years, we expect to see the following:
Continued adoption of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools that enable a holistic view of customers
Omni-channel digital interactions
Embedded analytics to monitor customer experience in real-time and drive proactive communication
These factors will significantly transform the way shipping and logistics companies interact with customers to deliver world-class service — far beyond on-time pick-up and delivery, and not breaking freight.