Milton Keynes, UK, September 25, 2012 – Simon Clark, Vice President, Business Development – Europe for CargoWise®, a global leader in technology solutions for logistics service providers, outlines the benefits of building long-term relationships with partners while utilizing a seamless freight forwarding process: “When you really think about it, you may begin to realize how many of your daily headaches in the logistics process are caused by untimely or inadequate data,” says Clark.
“As anyone in freight forwarding business knows, you’re only as good as your global network of agents who navigate your customers’ precious goods through ports, customs, warehouses and domestic transport providers on the other side of the world,” he says. “Building strong partner relationships is not only important to keeping your local customers happy, but also in securing the bread-and-butter two-way trade that keeps cash flow ticking over.”
Clarks says that building relationships with new agents as your network grows is time-consuming. “You need to get to know and trust each other; you need to learn how to work together and identify the best ways to communicate accurate data in order to collaborate successfully,” he says. “Some people favor building their own network relationships; others favor joining a pre-existing global network and using their contacts. Both are valid ways to find the contacts you need.
“But have you ever stopped to think about the underlying needs of all the different participants in this relationship? Have you ever really considered what you need from each of your partners to ensure the relationship remains profitable and becomes long-term?” Clark points out that often relationships fail not because the partners are poorly matched, but because of the effort and time it takes to get information from one country to the next. Misunderstandings and mistakes can create havoc for both partners, especially when the bulk of communications are based on manual data inputs.
This is why so many freight forwarders are turning away from manually transferring data between different software systems and countries and discovering that automation not only enables them to improve their own productivity but also to create cleaner, more reliable data streams within the business. “It’s only then that they begin to discover the added benefits that automation can provide,” says Clark. “Not only can it expedite what you achieve, and do so more seamlessly, but with it you and your staff can actually achieve better partner relationships. An increased level of systems integration and automation between you and your global agent network means you can save up to 70 percent of the labor costs associated with manual transmission of data and respond timely to the increases in volume without increasing your cost base.
“Just imagine the origin agent has booked the job and automatically sent you a pre-alert notification. Then, when any changes are made to the data, the pre-alert is automatically and seamlessly updated so that when it is finally ready for departure it sends you the final pre-alert. This enables you to arrange pre-clearance with accurate, timely information. This electronic shipment data is current and available in your system without committing additional resources on your side.
“Imagine then that you have regular data updates on the shipment status from origin to destination, and that key milestones that you process automatically create notifications so that your partner agents are always up-to-date and informed on the forwarding process.
“Still sound good?
“In turn, this automated procedure naturally improves communication with your customers. Imagine if the origin agent could then advise the client routinely of the status via email, a tracking alert or whatever system of communication they’re most comfortable with. This closes the logistical loop, and is tied in with the original approach to strong EDI integration – it does sound good doesn’t it?”
Clark says that quick, easy, accurate collaboration all the way from origin back to the customer leads to an increase in customer satisfaction, which leads to more business and longer term relationships. “It’s much easier and cheaper to keep an existing customer than find a new client to replace them when it has all gone wrong.” This customer satisfaction also plays a key role in cementing agent relationships, he says. The time invested in such reliable data integration creates a compelling reason to stick together, as agents quickly resolve relationship issues effectively when they arise. Moreover, a reliable data interface means problems arise far less frequently, which better cements good partner relationships.
Clark concludes: “So when you’re looking at new or existing agent relations, think about the way you transfer data and whether it enhances your relationship and caters to customer needs, or whether it adds to your problems. If you’re not already benefitting from this single thread of information, the chances are that you should be. If shipment information is entered once and only once, not just for your own business but to strengthen your relationship with agents, it will ensure your customers are happy enough to come back for more as all partners will benefit from a seamless freight forwarding process.”