Logistics is largely a level playing field. All players tackle similar challenges: bad weather, global regulations, trade wars, to name a few.
They also enjoy much the same advantages such as speed of vehicles, growing demand, and fuel prices.
What separates established logistics companies from their not-so-successful counterparts — is a longstanding reputation for reliable and trustworthy customer service.
The Importance of Customer Service in Logistics
The boom in online shopping and ecommerce infrastructure enables anyone with an internet connection to set up a global shop. While this creates opportunities for existing logistics players, it has also led to an increase in new companies providing services such as last-mile delivery.
While this creates lucrative opportunities for logistics companies worldwide, it has also led to a growth spurt in logistics players providing services such as last mile delivery.
As competition increases, great customer service serves as a powerful differentiator, with retailers and suppliers likely to opt for providers going the extra mile to satisfy end consumers’ demands. For companies looking to expand globally, excellent customer service accelerates their growth manifold.
What does great customer service in logistics look like in 2020?
Let’s say you’re a logistics company specializing in furniture and home improvement items.
Here’s what a seamless customer experience should look like: from the moment you pick an order from sellers – to the time it is delivered to the end customer – both the seller and buyer receive prompt updates.
They’re informed of the location of their shipment, estimated time of arrival, and if there’s an unexpected delay, they’re not left guessing why.
While most companies aspire to provide such seamless services to their customers, it takes a combination of processes and tools to make them a reality.
In this post, we’ll delve into how companies can improve customer communication, internal processes, and deliveries with the help of technology.
How to Improve Customer Service in Logistics Using Technology
You’ve probably bantered a bit with Siri, but did you know that artificial intelligence tools can do a lot more than book tables for dinner? With the help of modern software, logistics companies can communicate better with customers, predict delivery conditions, and better manage packaging and inventory.
Here are some ways logistics companies can harness technology to improve their customer service:
1. Streamline customer communication
Communication is a cornerstone of great customer service. Here are some ways to simplify communication with your customers:
In a study by Toister Solutions, customers stated they expect companies to reply to their email within an hour.
This can be a tall order for teams that don’t have a system in place to manage customer emails.
Often, such teams forward emails from one inbox to another and manually sort through customer requests.
This is where a smart email help desk would help – to categorize and assign emails to team members – and track the status of emails. All of this without sending a single email.
Ecommerce companies have mastered the art of keeping customers in the loop about their orders every step of the way. There’s no reason why logistics companies cannot adopt a similar tactic for every step of the supply chain. This will help build customer confidence, and reduce the need for them to reach out to customer support.
Around 40% of retail respondents in a survey stated that their end consumers demanded specific delivery slot selection, delivery options, and real-time visibility.
Thus, those companies providing last-mile delivery should also allow consumers to update their delivery preferences in real-time and inform providers if they will be available to collect a parcel.
Companies can employ multiple channels such as email, web, push notifications, and SMS to send real-time updates to their customers. Various tools such as Intercom, CleverTap, and Amazon SNS allow you to send push notifications to users, while tools like TextMagic and SimpleTexting can be used for sending SMS updates.
2. Optimize internal operations
Companies with simplified internal communication, collaboration, and operations are better equipped to handle customers’ requests.
Fleet and fuel management, material handling, warehousing, stock control, each forms a crucial link in delivering an overall superior customer experience.
Here are some ideas to optimize internal operations for your team:
Customer service reps often need input on matters such as warehousing capacity, arrival and departure times, and inventory management. For lack of a better option, teams juggle multiple external chat apps or lengthy email threads to collaborate with other team members and departments.
Managing multiple communication apps is not only a hassle, but also leads to higher response times and subpar experiences for customers.
Luckily, shared inboxes provide a simple solution for logistics teams to collaborate without leaving their inbox. Customer service teams have the ability to discuss queries internally, and rope in other departments with a simple “@” message.
They get a complete overview of actions taken on an email, whether it has been resolved or not, and comments from other team members. This eliminates miscommunication and helps teams move faster.
Ultimately, smooth internal collaboration facilitates better customer interactions.
Use prediction software
Prediction software helps companies anticipate demand and better manage internal operations. How many fleets would you need to add to keep up with demand? How do you best utilize your warehousing capacity? How should you schedule deliveries, given the weather and traffic conditions? These are some questions prediction software such as Transmetrics can help you answer.
3. Improve supply chain visibility
At a logistics fair in Munich, Hapag-Lloyd revealed its new program, Hapag-Lloyd Live. The service offers real-time GPS locations, temperature information, and power alerts to its customers. The tool, and various other startups, are now pushing the frontiers of supply chain visibility.
Says Juan Carlos Duk, Managing Director Global Commercial Development at Hapag-Lloyd, “Customers need more reliable supply chains, and the industry needs to change and invest sufficiently.” Gartner reports that supply chain visibility is among the top 3 funded initiatives in logistics, with 46% leaders considering it a priority.
How can more companies promote transparency and visibility at every stage of the supply chain? The solution comes in the form of IoT sensors and trackers.
IoT trackers are physical devices that monitor and transfer real-time location data. These can be attached to parcels or fitted inside cargo vehicles. As a result, customers are always in the know about the position of vehicles, weather and traffic conditions, as well as the temperature of the vehicle. This reassures them their cargo will be delivered in the best quality.
Camcode lists AIRcable Gateway, Aruba BLE, and AT&T Shipping Container as a few of the top IoT devices for tracking inventory.
4. Take advantage of data
Delayed deliveries, half-filled containers, and empty trucks on return journeys are a result of poor planning and prediction. SaaS companies can help logistics companies overcome these hurdles using data and analytics.
End customer expectations around delivery have soared in the past few years. Referred to as the Amazon effect, retail respondents in a survey stated that 48% of their end consumers demand next day delivery, while 23% of consumers want same-day deliveries. Most of this demand comes from the B2C ecommerce sector.
Analysing historical voyage data helps companies solve the dual conundrum of forecasting demand as well as efficient delivery planning.
There are two types of forecasts companies rely on. Medium to long-range forecasts are used for budgeting, planning new purchases, and building storage facilities.
Short-term demand forecasts help plan day to day operations. For instance, with the help of tools such as Vanguard Software, companies can analyze data from various sources such as weather conditions, warehouse data, and on-the-road data to better plan routes, last mile deliveries, and pick ups.
Tools such as Infoplus also help companies track metrics such as delivery times, pickup times, warehouse capacity, and more, so they can increase efficiency across all areas of business.
5. Increase efficiency with automation
Essentially, automation in customer service helps reduce the manual effort for your customer support representatives, allows them to focus on more complex issues, and provides quicker resolutions for your customers.
A good customer service tool can help you automate the following tasks:
Categorizing and assigning customer emails
Depending on the size of your logistics operation, you may serve a few different types of businesses in different locations. You might also offer different types of services such as end-to-end deliveries, last-mile deliveries, and so on. In this case, it helps to have specific agents deal with customer emails based on their content.
Manually sorting and filtering through emails can be a cumbersome process. Using Hiver, you can set up rules to automatically tag emails with customer names or the location (or anything all – to categorize them).
And then: you can have emails assigned to your team based on the above tags – or the subject line, and more. For instance, emails containing the words “ETA” or “pickup” may be routed to one agent, while those containing the words, “inquiry” or “feedback” may be routed to another.
Setting up auto-responders
To begin with, set up an auto-responder that lets customers know you’ve received their request and an agent will get back to them as soon as possible.
You can also set up automated replies for common customer queries such as transit times, prices, location inquiries, and pick up scheduling. This saves your reps’ time, and ensures customers receive speedy responses.
Automated replies are not only useful for acknowledging customer service emails, but they are also handy in a few other situations. For example, you can set up auto-responders to inform customers when their cargo has left your warehouse, when it reaches its destination, and if the weather conditions turn unfavorable along the way.
Similarly, you can also send automated emails asking for feedback after they’ve used your services or after they’ve interacted with customer support.
Great customer service should be a priority, not an afterthought. Those looking to provide superior customer services should take advantage of innovations such as collaboration software, artificial intelligence, robotics, and data analytics.
Remember, your reputation as a dependable and customer-friendly logistics provider travels faster than any of your fleets. Focus on it before any other aspect of your business.