Given the volatility in today’s market, customer service is a topic that is top of mind across the industry. Brokers are struggling to cover loads and meet volume commitments, while customer relationships are being put to the test. Although automation has become increasingly important over the past several years, it is apparent that a broker’s services go well beyond automation alone.
The Role of Automation
As is often mentioned, transportation is a relationship industry…and relationships are rarely built on automation alone. The reality is that brokerage is about more than simply assigning carriers to loads. It is about problem solving and providing consultative services to your clients. Best-in-class brokers have a holistic understanding of their customers’ business and provide services that go beyond just automation; they provide a multitude of options based on their clients’ specific needs.
To be clear, there are certainly scenarios where automation is the best course of action. Where a broker has strong carrier relationships and/or consistent lanes, there is ample opportunity for automation to be the most effective way to book freight. However, that only describes a portion of a broker’s business.
The other portion is where carrier options become important.
Options When Automation Breaks Down
This portion involves the problem loads, the one-off carriers, the situations where automation breaks down or where a scenario simply requires a human touch. Transportation is full of problems and a broker’s day often involves situations that require creative problem solving, not automatically assigning what appears to be the best carrier for a load.
As an example, there are times when a digitally booked carrier is not the best fit for a particular load. Superficially, maybe the carrier meets all the load requirements, but there is more to carrier selection and customer service than merely meeting minimum requirements.
A good broker will know the relative importance of price or on-time-delivery in the eyes of their customer. Perhaps an alternative carrier would be able to provide a better rate or better service, but need to have the load picked up at a different time. Automation does not take that into account. However, having those options and being able to bring them to a customer is an essential part of a broker’s value.
Additionally, what happens when a digitally booked carrier falls off a load at the last minute? A broker might be able to recover on another digitally booked carrier, but more likely they will need to manually reach out to their network. Again, the ability to generate options at this point is a key differentiator for brokers.
A final piece to note is the importance of giving customers visibility into these options, when applicable. Having visibility into this data is hugely important for shippers to understand their business. For example, a customer having no luck moving a load with a tight transit time benefits much more from knowing that their broker has three options for a later delivery appointment, rather than simply being told there are no available trucks. It helps shippers improve their internal processes and a broker educating their customer in this way does nothing but strengthen their relationship.
A Broker’s Value Proposition
Overall, while automation is becoming more important for customer service and retention, it is certainly not the only requirement. An integral piece of a broker’s value proposition is the ability to provide different carrier options to meet the specific business needs of customers. Luckily, there is technology available to help brokers gain more visibility into their data and better leverage their carrier networks.
To learn about other ways in which optionality impacts a broker’s business, check out our latest guide, “The Value of Options in a Tight Market.”