In Logistics, Selling is Bigger Than Sales

By Zen Newman, Account Executive at PipelineDeals. You can find him on Twitter @newman_zen

Customer relationship management (CRM) fits firmly into the realm of sales software. Putting it in this box, however, neglects that selling to customers never stops and is in the prevue of everyone in an organization. One industry where this is particularly visible is the logistics industry.

With so many moving parts in the transportation of freight, numerous touch-points directly impact the customer experience. Diverse teams from sales, to customer service, to claims and dispatch need to be able to coordinate, share information and ensure proper follow up with shippers.

While most logistics providers are trying to manage this collaboration through their transportation management system (TMS), it can be challenging because TMS software is focused on the routing of freight, not on customer relationships. A CRM, however, offers an ideal platform to simply and effectively manage customer needs across your team. After all, claims and accounts receivables are often where the strength of customer relationships are most likely to be tested.

I will attempt to illustrate, in an actionable way, how different teams can utilize a CRM to manage their day-to-day workflow and maximize collaboration between teams. This in turn will improve the overall customer experience.

Account Managers                                                              

Most sales teams in the freight industry are comprised of account managers, who are responsible for both sourcing new accounts and developing existing ones. There’s no shortage of articles providing tips and best practices about selling skills, but the industry falls short on supplying them with the tools they need to manage their customer base.

The account management team is the most logical starting point for any CRM. To do their job well, they must maintain regular contact with accounts and prospects, as well as manage a pipeline of new opportunities. In short, sales and account management is the wheelhouse of CRM software.

Despite this, it’s amazing how many sales teams still manage to persist without CRM software. They operate with insufficient visibility into their sales pipeline, and no way to uniformly maintain follow-up.

Looking beyond how sales teams manage their sales pipeline, CRM software provides an opportunity for account managers to empower their support teams, by providing a smooth transition of new accounts to operations teams.  

Logistics is a complicated business and dispatchers, and other customer support roles, need to know the needs of shippers before they arrive, so they can begin planning how to move the new freight. CRM software can provide a common platform to communicate the needs of soon-to-be clients across the team.

Dispatch

Sales software might not seem like an ideal place for dispatch and other members of the ops team to spend their time. However, by giving this team access, the CRM can serve as a vital linchpin between account managers and operations.

By moving communication away from email and onto the cloud, more accountability is created, and additional team members can be looped into the conversation as quickly as needed. This is to ensure that shipper needs can be accommodated and any issues get communicated back to the account manager.

Claims and Over, Short & Damaged (OS&D)  

If there’s one guarantee in logistics, it’s that sooner or later, something's going to break or get lost. This reality brings us to one of the more delicate moments in a carrier’s relationship with a shipper: when something goes wrong.

In logistics, we’re used to thinking of claims as a cost to be mitigated, but it’s worth stepping back for a second and viewing it as a customer touchpoint. How you interact with them at this point directly impacts everything else in your relationship with them.

For this reason, it’s worth giving both claims and OS&D access to the CRM. Here, they can communicate with OS&D and update the account manager in a transparent way. By centralizing communications on the CRM, the whole team is on the same page in responding to an issue.


Customer Service

Customer service is almost always the first department to know when there’s a problem. As the front line with the customer, they consistently answer questions and deal with challenges.

Being involved this deeply in what customers experience makes customer service the eyes and ears of the organization. Even so, most companies struggle to capitalize on this knowledge because customer service does not have adequate tools to convey lessons learned from customer interactions.

When it comes to passing along challenges and opportunities back to the sales and management teams, customer service representatives need to be able to do more than sending email notifications.

CRM software fills this role between customer service and the rest of the organization. It provides a place to record customer interactions, escalates issues, and manage accountability and follow-up.

Accounts Receivable (AR)

The complex and ongoing nature of billing in freight services means that AR teams remain busy. Some studies indicate an average payment of more than eight days past due amongst shippers. This situation leaves in-house collectors in regular contact with customers, in often contentious circumstances.

It can be unpleasant from a sales standpoint to call on a client and get blindsided by collection activity that didn't get communicated across the organization. For this reason, it would be beneficial for AR teams to use the CRM as their customer management platform of choice.

Doing so would allow them to coordinate not only with the sales team but with managers to achieve resolution. They could also work with teams like the claims department, who may well have a direct impact on why a shipper is withholding payment.  

Technology Makes the Team

Technology makes the team –well maybe not quite. But CRM software does function as vital connective tissue across the organization. Ultimately, providing a tool for different individuals to coordinate their activities across departments and geography is what enables companies to turn disparate customer interactions into a cohesive customer experience.

There are multiple outcomes from creating this dynamic within your business. Reducing churn and increased referrals and additional cross-sell opportunities, all stem directly from being able to produce a value-added customer experience.

It’s high time that companies in the transportation sector tune into the changing dynamics of the industry. Creating a cohesive approach to serving customers is essential. CRM software is far from the only thing they’ll need, but it’s a building block they can’t live without.

If you want to learn more about how a CRM can increase cohesiveness within your team, start by signing up for a free 14-day trial with PipelineDeals.

Zen Newman