Many freight forwarders classify themselves as “tech-enabled,” but what does this term actually mean? Even though the term’s connotation is clear, the extent a forwarder is using technology can vary wildly – both in terms of its capabilities and effectiveness.
Also clear is the intent of technology regarding the potential benefits to any forwarder’s shipper customer, which typically means gaining more operating efficiency and improving service. But, having technology does not guarantee either of those outcomes.
In other words, the presence of technology and claiming to be “tech-enabled” does not complete the story. Much like a stool, freight forwarding operations require three areas of support to remain balanced, with the second and third legs being execution and customer service in addition to technology. While technology is a major part of the solution, it’s not the end-all, be-all. Shippers evaluating a forwarder’s claims of being tech-enabled need to consider all three things equally.
First Leg – The Technology
A discussion of freight forwarding technology needs to start with an explanation of what the tech can do. Technology is about driving efficiency and accuracy through automation and other forms of digitization. Here are some examples of what shippers should expect from their forwarder’s technology:
- Document automation and accessibility
- Full supply chain visibility and tracking
- PO management capabilities
- Communication as part of the permanent record
- Actionable analytics and BI
- Easy and agnostic integrations
- Enhanced forecasting
- Increased customer satisfaction and retention
On a fundamental level, digital freight forwarders leverage industry-leading software solutions to eliminate time-consuming manual processes, increasing productivity and improving communication.
Second Leg – The Execution
Even though it’s important, all of the data and information that are associated with the shipping function are worthless if the shipment is not executed as the company needs it to be.
Global shipping requires forwarders with strong carrier relationships and processes to pick-up and delivery the freight while navigating all the customs, paperwork, and regulations along the way. These types of networks are built over years and decades, and not created overnight by building a new website. While technology helps and we all hope the industry gets there someday, there is no such thing as a no-touch international shipment in any sense these days.
As a side note, Jaguar Freight CEO Simon Kaye recently spoke on the topic of shippers and technology. The following clips were taken from his discussion with Eric Johnson from JOC as a panelist on the webcast titled The New Frontier in Global Logistics: Linking Customer Expectations to Customer Promise. See his comments below.
Third Leg – Customer Service
Because shipping is still largely a boots-on-the-ground business in terms of carrier relationships and experience, it means communication and customer service are as important as they ever were.
Problems still happen that require experience and follow-up to get resolved. Making an extra call to get space on a ship or finding a drayman to cover an urgent order going to your warehouse are examples of how forwarders back up their technology with customer service. Faster resolution to billing and paperwork problems and OS&D issues are other ways forwarders provide value that technology may improve but do not eliminate.
All this is not to say that technology is not vital to the global freight business. It definitely is. The point is that shippers need to look past the label of any given forwarder being “tech-enabled” to understand what their technology really offers and if the right support is there for execution and customer service too.
So, when any forwarder mentions their technology, it’s important to identify the ones that are actually providing real incremental value. To learn more about how Jaguar Freight pairs exceptional customer service with powerful, proven technology and a wide range of logistics expertise, visit www.jaguarfreight.com.
P.S. If you liked to access a recording of the JOC webcast, you can find it here.