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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