What do forwarders think will happen to freight service by 2022?
In a newly-published survey, nearly seventy freight forwarding managers gave us their thoughts on that. And for an industry sometimes portrayed as change-averse, their response came as a surprise.
There are only so many shapes that modern customer service can take. We gave forwarders three potential models to select which will describe freight service digitalization in five years time:
Option 1: Amazon-style Logistics Automation
Support wizards, automated emails, and automated chatbots, all fully integrated throughout both front-end and back-end operations.
With this service model, shippers go global online, managing all things shipment-related – requesting quotes, booking shipments, re-routing, contingency management, and shipment tracking online.
It could be great news for shippers, or would be happy to spend less time (as long as it didn’t impact quality of service). It’s could also be great news for forwarders. No more transferring the same information onto umpteen different forms. And no more flurries of phone calls and emails just to make sure that something that was supposed to get done, actually get’s done. Of course, the cost is less of a personal connection with individual shippers.
Amazon is a true master of full automation, and ominously is a new entrant to freight. Almost every aspect of their operations are computer-driven, and they will do the same with logistics, be that robotic warehouses, driverless deliveries, or international freight.
Option 2: Personal Banking-style Logistics Process Automation
Few people prefer to head to their bank’s local branch for standard transactions, instead going online for the vast majority of routine transactions. Banks aren’t complaining, because online banking has slashed their cost to serve. And we don’t complain, at least until something goes wrong.
Of course, there’s still the occasional transaction where one step in the process still needs to be done in person, like finalizing a mortgage or renegotiating payment terms. But for many people these days, that’s about it for personal touch.
What does this bring to the table? Well, most logistics processes today are routine but still (unnecessarily) rely on people. This requires ongoing personal intervention for routine processes, creating an excessive workload for forwarders and shippers. For forwarders, banking-style automation provides an easier channel for manual intervention when required, while making life easier on a day-to-day basis.
Option 3: Low Logistics Service Automation
Some services still rely on personal expertise … and consumers like it that way. For instance, most people still go to their family doctor with a sore throat instead of heading to WebMD. Family doctors pull from their experience to treat patients, augmented of course with technology-driven tests.
There’s a time and a place for everything, and there were some very good reasons why freight’s digitalization has come later than for most other service industries. Some forwarders have come to think that they can only add value precisely because of low automation. But how much longer will freight be like this?
Your Freight ATM
Turns out, nearly 75% of forwarders predict their industry will soon be running like personal banking – with high automation augmented by the personal touch. That is, most processes will be largely automated, but there will still be exceptions when forwarders will have to get actively involved in shipments and winning quotes.