The data center at Pitt Ohio Express is handling a large volume in Web-based interaction. In April alone, shippers requested 14,000 images, tracked 15,000 deliveries, entered 2,300 pickup requests, created 3,000 bills of lading and configured 200 reports.
Personal relationships used to be the foundation of most trucking companies. When customers called, they expected to get a real person who would either help them or direct them to another real person.
But times change. Although many carriers remain committed to providing human support, that’s not necessarily what customers themselves want. As technology improves and younger managers climb the corporate ladder, a sizable and growing number of customers expect to obtain and convey information in ways that are faster, can be initiated at any time and as often as they like and reduce the chance of miscommunication. At the same time, technology allows you to handle more communications with fewer people and to improve the quality of your customer service.
Often, technology doesn’t replace or reduce the role of human customer service. Rather, information systems in many cases allow companies to ensure that their customer service is of high quality and consistent.
Carriers with some of the most demanding customer service requirements are household movers. To integrate all of the internal and external service delivery functions from initiation to invoice, Darryl Flood Warehouse and Movers Inc., uses a management system called “Software for Moving,” says Bruce Snyder, the Dallas, Texas-based company’s national director of corporate sales.
Using the software, customer service reps document each conversation with a customer in the system and create memos that are automatically date and time stamped when they are entered. Beginning with order entry, each touch point automatically prompts the next step to be performed by the move manager in the process, Snyder says.
“Move management is more than the coordination of packing, loading and delivering someone’s personal belongings,” Snyder says. “It is about delivering critical information and managing all of the components involved in the moving experience the right way at specifically the right time.” The software is customized to coordinate communication with customers based on the carrier’s 36-step move management process, he says.
“Each call and topic of conversation is choreographed to deliver specific information within the timeline of the transferee’s relocation experience,” Snyder says. “We have found that our customers retain more of the information that we share, which dramatically reduces the frequency of incorrect assumptions, misunderstandings and unmet expectations.”
One approach many companies have adopted is to deliver information to the customer even before he asks for it. In trucking, customer relationships are built on the services you offer them that make it easier to do business with you by saving time and increasing efficiency, says Mike Ludwick, vice president of information technology for Winnipeg, Canada-based Bison Transportation. The company has implemented online tools that automatically push information to customers through e-mails from registered users of its website, www.bisontransport.com.
Customers can sign up to receive a report through e-mail, for example, when loads are delivered, or receive an automatic status report at a certain time each day. Within minutes of a load delivery, customers receive an e-mail that says, “Thanks for delivering with Bison,” followed by the information about the delivery, such as arrival times and other real-time information they may request, Ludwick says.
Automating communications with customers through the Web increases efficiency for customers. But unless you offer customers a full range of customer service tools through the Web, they will never begin relying on the Web rather than a live person. For this reason, Scott Sullivan, vice president of information technology at Pitt Ohio Express, considers the development of online services to be an all-or-nothing affair.
The Pittsburgh-based LTL carrier developed its website to support all the communication that a customer would call a live person to handle. The menu includes shipment tracking, document retrieval, and an automatic rate calculator, Sullivan says. He estimates that as many as 50 percent of the company’s customers now use the Web to self-service some or all of their needs.
Also of Interest »