As a college-educated computer scientist, Bastian Späth understands how IT solutions are developed from the ground up. For more than 15 years, he has spent every workday collecting requirements, finding ideas, developing designs, setting up projects and getting them safely across the finish line.
Customer service is when freight forwarders exceed their customers’ expectations
Freight forwarders still have a lot of room for improvement in customer service: transparency, real-time information, and better data integration provide benefits for everyone. Customers and recipients benefit from convenient service portals. Logistics providers, for their part, can process their orders more efficiently with higher data quality. In short, more automation means happier customers.
If you shop online, you know that stores and parcel service providers give recipients frequent updates on their shipment's progress and the expected time of delivery. Now that freight forwarders have started delivering more shipments to consumers, their customers have been demanding the same level of service. This includes notifications about the shipment's progress, announcements of delivery time slots and live mapping, including the number of stops left to the recipient.
Freight forwarders and shippers have long employed convenient service information a powerful customer retention tool. Recipients appreciate being able to prepare for deliveries. Not just in private households, either, but also in industry and commerce. According to numerous studies, buyers measure providers by the quality of their logistics and fast shipping. Logistics service providers act as ambassadors for their customers. They are instrumental in delivering on their customers' quality promise.
This accustomed service quality requires freight forwarders to be transparent: providing information directly as soon as it is available, not waiting for enquiries. This is efficient and will help you stay competitive as a logistics provider in the long term. However, to provide this level of service, there are also things that you, the freight forwarder, will need from your customers. And rightly so. Because you can only prepare transports properly if you receive the order data electronically in time. The sooner, the better. That way, you still have enough time to book more vehicles if necessary. In addition, validated data enables successful processes and close order monitoring.
Good customer service works in the background
Modern, convenient service communication is digital. It is available to customers and recipients when they need current information. However, this requires you, as the freight forwarder, to channel all relevant information and aggregate it on one platform. After all, your customers expect all the data to be presented an easy-to-understand overview. They will then love your self-service tools. A single sign-on, i.e. a one-time login to the central search system, makes things easier for your customers. It will also benefit your processes since the data is integrated. You can then consistently avoid errors caused by data re-entry. Efficient logistics thrives on smooth-running processes and coordinated schedules. Deviations are problems that put quality and profits at risk. That is why excellent customer service provides proactive and real-time notifications of any departures from the schedule. That gives you the best chance to still get your customers' products to their destination on time in good condition.
Customer service at Hartmann International: evolution of a customer portal
We have been working with Hartmann International to realise this kind of state-of-the-art customer service since spring 2020. Starting out with a heterogeneous IT landscape, patchy information and an information retrieval process that required a lot of manual effort, we got some pilot users involved in the development of a central platform as an information hub. We used digital order entry to improve data quality from the very beginning, thereby increasing the EDI rate for shipping orders to nearly 95 percent. As a result, Hartmann International now receives production-ready orders without inconsistent or missing data.
We presented our partnership's accomplishments at the 4th DVZ conference entitled “The right TMS: the key to freight forwarding 4.0”. Impressive key figures:
- 650 connected users
- 145 connected customers
- 160 connected suppliers
- Linking the services provided by the freight forwarder with the contract logistics department.
The manual research effort for customers and freight forwarders has decreased significantly. By integrating all its source systems and formats and supplying the data for all required target systems over suitable interfaces, Hartmann International can now operate a fully integrated service platform where customers will be able to independently retrieve key figures and reports in future. It is perfectly positioned for continuous improvement with superior customer service.
Taking the leap to excel in customer service
For today's freight forwarders, customer service requires deep integration with its customers' supply chains and complete fulfillment of their expectations. Hartmann International has received plenty of confirmation from its customers that a customer portal is an excellent service tool. Its efforts to combine and integrate data sources and provide real-time communication have been rewarded with high customer loyalty. Hartmann International, in other words, is well on its way to effectively serving the needs of its customers with our digital solutions. Just as the DVZ organisers had proclaimed in the subtitle for our joint presentation.