How to Increase Efficiency in Your Back Office: 5 Tips for Logistics Service Providers

Logistics service providers continue to face rising pressure from customers, vendors and third-party logistics providers. To keep up with demand and ensure that orders are fulfilled on time and at the right cost, LSPs are focusing more attention on their back office operations. To improve efficiency at your back office, you have to strike the right balance between people, technology, processes and data. This means introducing technologies that automate manual processes so employees can focus on more important tasks. It also means implementing processes that cut down on inefficiencies and redundancies. With these steps in mind, let’s take a closer look at how you can increase efficiency in your back office:

Organize and streamline your supply chain

A well-oiled supply chain will make your entire business run more smoothly—and more efficiently. Start by assessing your current supply chain process and identifying areas for improvement. What does your typical shipment entail? At what point does it enter the back office? What happens next? Recognizing your company’s lowest hanging fruit gives you a starting point to decide what’s most important to optimize. 

Utilize automation tools

Manual processes are inherently inefficient. So, wherever you can, try to implement automation. This will help you to cut down on your employees’ workload and ensure that shipments are being completed quickly and accurately. Automated tools, such as robotic process automation, can help to increase efficiency throughout the shipping process. A few of these RPA tools include email automation, document automation, and workflow automation. Email automation is able to open emails, analyze the content, and respond to a customer inquiry in seconds. Document automation can extract data from documents, migrate it to your TMS or ERP system, and complete shipments without human intervention. Workflow automation can trigger advanced workflows like notifying customers or internal teams.  

Provide employees with the right tools

Empowered employees are better employees. They feel a sense of ownership over their work and are more likely to do things the right way. They’re also less likely to make costly errors. Automate as many processes as you can, but leave room for employees to make decisions or manage exceptions. For example, people will always need to be involved when automation is implemented. There will always be exceptions in the logistics industry that software just can’t handle, like hazardous or high-value moves. Automation allows employees to focus on these valuable projects rather than mindless data entry.  

Leverage data to drive efficiency

As you implement new technologies, you’ll also be able to collect more data. This data can then be used to drive efficiency forward and make your business more streamlined, allowing you to forecast demand with more accuracy. Live updates throughout every step of the shipment process means you can go beyond simply analyzing past trends. Using the data, you don’t have to wait months to find out if a disruption or change to your supply chain is causing disarray. You’ll be able to make informed decisions that make an immediate impact. 

Drive consolidation in your back office

We’ve noticed one common theme when talking with logistics service providers – a patchwork of systems and processes that create chaos for the logistics industry. Back office teams are spending hours every day logging into multiple third party systems or portals just to access the information to complete a task. Utilizing robotic process automation to connect these systems and consolidate the data into one platform allows employees to be more efficient, complete shipments faster, and provide better customer service. 

Bottom line

With the right combination of people, processes, and technology, you can increase efficiency at your back office and ensure that orders are fulfilled on time. By organizing and streamlining your supply chain, implementing automation tools, providing employees with the right tools, leveraging data to drive efficiency, and driving consolidation in your back office, you can ensure that your business runs as smoothly as possible. Contact RPA Labs today to get started automating your back office operations. 

The ROI of Automating Customer Inquiries

RPA Labs offers three core products – RPA Flow for document automation, RPA Engage for response automation, and RPA Pursuit for track & trace, container visibility, and ocean, air, and rail API connections. When presenting each of these products to logistics service providers, most companies immediately skip straight to the document automation as their top priority, and we understand the appeal. 

Documents are the bane of every logistics service provider’s existence. The tens of thousands of shipments completed every year generate upwards of millions of documents being processed by full-time employees or back office teams. This is commonly seen as any LSP’s lowest hanging fruit – but what if we told you there’s one that hangs even lower?

Why customer inquiries are actually logistics service provider’s lowest hanging fruit

How many customer inquiries do you receive every day? Do you have full time employees or a back office team dedicated to the sole purpose of answering those inquiries? For our customers, the most common types of inquiries are spot quotes and shipment status updates. 

Most ask the simple questions, “Can I get a quote from A to B?” or “Where is my shipment?” 

When a logistics service provider receives hundreds or thousands of these requests every week, there’s nothing simple about it. Reading the email, pulling up sometimes multiple systems, locating the correct data, and re-keying it all back to the customer is quite the cumbersome process that can send employees into groundhog day

When looking at what business process should be automated first, skip the documents for now and consider starting with response automation. Here’s why:

Automating customer inquiries is easy with RPA Engage

RPA Engage is pre-built and easy to connect to your email, website ChatBot, Slack, WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, internal TMS/ERP comms, or any other platform where you connect with customers. When an email or chat message comes in, software bots analyze the content, trigger the corresponding workflow, and migrate data from your system to send a response back to the customer in seconds – all without human intervention. 

If an inquiry can’t be answered by the bot, we’re able to triage the message through slack, whatsapp, or any other internal communication platform so a customer service representative can fill in blanks. The bots can then relay that answer back to the customer. 

We’re already integrated with some of the most commonly used TMS & ERP systems in logistics, so RPA Engage can be implemented in thirty days or less.

Why response time matters

There’s a lot of competition in international logistics – more and more digital freight forwarders are popping up every day who are equipped with technology that creates an atmosphere for great customer experience. The longer it takes to catch up with these digital forwarders, the further the other guys are falling behind. 

Customers don’t want to wait for answers, and will often go with the company that responds first. We did a secret shopper survey of nearly 100 freight forwarders and found that the average response time was 50 hours, and that’s if they responded at all – only 30% of forwarders responded back. When you don’t respond to customers in a timely manner, you’re losing business. 

The ROI of automating responses

With RPA Engage, our goal is to answer 70% of your spot quotes or tracking inquiries.

We’re not replacing people, we’re freeing them up to improve your customer’s experience or handle the exceptions like hazardous or high value moves. 

We created an ROI calculator (scroll to the bottom of the page) so you can get a better idea of how much manually answering emails is costing your company. 

RPA Engage is revolutionizing how companies manage customer service in logistics and day-to-day operations – improving profit margins across the board as shippers and forwarders can process shipments and handle customer queries faster.

The State of Freight Forwarder Response Time

31%. That’s the average response rate for a freight forwarder to respond to a quote request as uncovered in this unique approach by automation workflow company, RPA Labs. But don’t take our word for it. In this study, RPA Labs takes a look at quote request response rates by establishing a “faux” HVAC company, Griffith HVAC, to request container price quotes from the top 50 Freight Forwarding companies as listed by Armstrong & Associates

The transportation industry’s future hinges on the ability of shippers and service providers, such as freight forwarders, to maximize the efficiency of communications and offer desirable amenities to customers today. Changes in the consumer market require a stronger focus on automated communication systems. On-demand communications, real-time updates, and personalized services are becoming a necessity to stay competitive. While we’ve heard this sentiment time and time again, have freight forwarders really changed the way they respond to customers? 

RPA Labs took a closer look at the response time of eighty-six freight forwarders, half of them from the top fifty forwarders and the other half ranging from small to mid-size forwarders, by submitting quote requests online and recording how long it took them to respond – if they responded at all. 

Our Approach:

RPA Labs posed as Griffin HVAC, a large importer/exporter of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment, and submitted quote requests to freight forwarders using their preferred method of communication. The most common method was a live form on individual company websites, although some did request email, phone, and other forms of communication. The following are the shipping details that were submitted when requesting a quote: 

Origin: 425 S. Palos Verdes St. San Pedro, CA 90731

Destination: Antwerp – Havenhuis Entrepotkaai 1, Antwerp B-2000, Belgium
Weight: 40,000

Container Size: 40 ft FCL

Lead time: 14 Days

The study was kept open for seventy days to allow sufficient time to receive responses back from the forwarders. 

Findings:

We’ll start by breaking down our findings into two categories: top fifty freight forwarders and small to mid-size freight forwarders. 

Small & Mid-Size FFs

Of the forty-one small to mid-sized freight forwarders we requested quotes from, twenty-nine did not respond (70%), twelve did respond (30%), and response times we did receive took as long as 397 days and as little as 1.5 hours. Thirty-five forwarders had a form on their website, but five of them were too difficult to use or were not working. 

Top 50 FFs

Of the forty-five top fifty freight forwarders we requested quotes from, thirty did not respond (66%), fifteen did respond (33%), and response times we did receive took as long as 222 hours and as little as four minutes. The average response time of those who responded was sixty hours. Forty forwarders had a form on their website, but twelve of them were too difficult to use or were not working. 

Overall & Analysis

Opening a line of communication with a majority of surveyed freight forwarders was extremely difficult or not possible. Overall, sixty-nine percent of forwarders that were solicited did not respond to our request for a quote. Of the twenty-seven responses we did receive, only five contained an actual quote. All other twenty-two responses connected us with customer service members manually requesting more information over email. One forwarder also attempted to call us for further information. 

What this tells us about the forms that are available on freight forwarder websites is that they are not dynamic and require customer service support to manually gather and verify the information from shippers. 

Of the quotes we did receive, there was no further correspondence needed with customer service teams. We were not reached out to for more details and were sent the quote within hours. Because of this we can assume automated systems were put in place to return our inquiry as fast and efficiently as possible. As for the other twenty-two responses, while they may have given us an actual quote in the end, customer service were required to reach out on a case-by-case basis to gather more information to manually generate the quote – a process that could take multiple emails over the span of hours or even days to complete. 

We understand and empathize with the challenges of manual freight spot quotes, as they include many areas of waste. For example, hours of wasted time emailing several carriers and awaiting their replies, compiling carrier quotes, and choosing one takes a ton of time. After all of the wasted manpower, they might leave behind incomplete information, leading to possible freight shipping delays. Overall, it is not practical, and it is not a sustainable, long-term solution for freight forwarders. 

Solution

Many challenges are inherent with traditional quoting. Instances such as overquoting and delayed quote times can be detrimental to shippers. However, software bots can instantly identify a quote request, even in email, review data sources, and upload the quote for a quick solution.

RPA Labs’ email and chat automation solution, RPA Engage, is built with a proprietary combination of RPA, AI (artificial intelligence), ML (machine learning), NLP (natural language processing), and a built-in language library of logistics terminology that is able to answer any logistics inquiry in seconds. This simple solution integrates seamlessly with email, chatbots, web forms, and any TMS/ERP system and can be implemented in just weeks. 

A leading benefit of automating freight spot quotes is the ability to respond to quote requests instantly. There is no waiting period, and the best possible rate is selected. Companies upload the information for the carriers; then, the spot quotes are assessed by analytics as software bots complete the rest. At the same moment, a carrier is selected and notified via email or their TMS, if applicable. 

By automating quoting, shippers resolve their issues with the carriers faster and build better customer experiences. In addition to faster resolutions for manual quote requests, automating freight chatbots can generate quotes for ground, ocean, and air on-demand, making it easier to determine which mode is correct for each shipment. This is designed to be the only touchpoint shippers need to get back on track. Freight forwarders no longer need to sit for hours waiting on back and forth emails. Freight management parties need to understand the challenges in traditional freight spot quotes and why RPA-driven quoting processes are the next advancement in freight management.

Without some logistics automation, this complicated multistep manual process of generating spot quotes is rife with risk for failure due to human intervention. Freight chatbots and email automation help prevent issues like delayed responses from freight forwarders. With customers only truly accepting quotes around 20% of the time, software bots that can work around the clock and find capacity partners, including forwarders or brokers with available transportation, can maximize efficiency.Spot quoting can be more accessible if logistics service providers and shippers implement chatbots. By automating quotes, it is possible to improve throughput by transforming transportation and logistics and getting more shipments to their final destination in record time. “The good news for companies looking to automate quickly is that the cost of entry into automation is much lower than in previous years. Developments in technology and lower costs for equipment are allowing small and midsize companies to explore automation,” states Automate.org. There’s literally never been a better time to invest in the future of your supply chain with chatbots and email response bots. Request a demo with RPA Labs to get started.

RPA, OCR, ML & AI in Logistics: Creating More Value Through Workflow Automation

Ensuring effective workflow automation and logistical planning can seem like ongoing challenges and never-ending tasks for supply chain managers. Status updates, tracking reports, delivery alerts, error reports, and customer complaints always seem to be coming down the pipe. Thankfully there is a way to streamline many of these standard workflows. Embracing the power of artificial intelligence in logistics can help management teams increase value and profits throughout the network. 

As highlighted by Inbound Logistics, “by automating supply chain workflow, private fleet operators, carriers, and third-party logistics providers can more easily gather and utilize information and communicate with their suppliers and customers more effectively. It also helps them gain a leg up on the competition.” Here are some things supply chain managers need to know about AI in logistics.

What is Automated Workflow Management, and Why Does it Matter?

Automation is everywhere these days as it has permeated nearly every aspect of our lives — often without us even realizing it. And as technology continues to advance, automation is becoming even more pervasive in industries of all sorts, especially within the transportation and shipping industry. 

The ultimate goal of supply chain automation is to simplify many routine tasks so that individuals:

  • Have less work to do.
  • Make fewer errors and mistakes.
  • Can focus on other critical tasks or activities.

Advances such as Automated Robotic Processes (RPA), Optical Character Recognition Software (OCR), Machine Learning (ML), and Artificial Intelligence (AI) all can help improve performance by automating much of the standard workflow processes. 

Understanding How Artificial Intelligence in Logistics Can Speed Up Growth

Improving day-to-day functions and processes can improve growth and boost profits in many surprising ways. By implementing machine learning and AI in logistics, supply chain management can enjoy many benefits, including:

  • Better use of resources that are currently available to avoid waste and excess.
  • Spend less on freight shipping by streamlining deliveries and avoiding delays.
  • Lower fees and surcharges to customers through effect delivery competitions.
  • Speed up shipping processes overall and negotiate disruptions more effectively.
  • Improve network efficiency end-to-end with improved visibility and transparency. 
  • Optimize the entire supply chain to offer a more comprehensive array of service options.
  • Coordinate and collaborate easily with 3PLs, vendors, and team members.
  • Fulfill orders and deliveries in a timely and reliable manner every single time.
  • Maintain high customer satisfaction and good customer recall and loyalty.

Embracing new automation and innovations, including the implementation of artificial intelligence in logistics, can make it easier to maintain a competitive advantage and remain profitable, even in times of significant market volatility. 

Overcome Obstacles and Roadblocks With Automated Processes

Automating routine processes and applying artificial intelligence in logistics to the daily supply chain workflow can increase value as more workflow flexibility is achieved. With innovative AI in logistics, all involved shipping, transportation, and logistics parties can overcome obstacles and roadblocks more effectively and efficiently. 

They can easily utilize accurate information based on real-time data and tracking to make decisions while also communicating in real-time and using data analytics to address any issues or concerns that may arise. Workflow management software systems backed by intelligent processes and AI automation can help create more value through workflow improvements in the supply chain network.

Network With Industry Leaders to Improve Services With Artificial Intelligence in Logistics

Accepting and valuing the power of artificial intelligence in logistics can help all team members, shippers, carriers, drivers, brokers, and 3PLs operate more effectively and efficiently. This, in turn, can help increase value and profits throughout the network and boost customer experiences across the board. AI in logistics is forever changing the way supply chains work and operate for the better. Embracing these automation advancements is quick and easy with the right partnership. See how artificial intelligence in logistics with logistics chatbots, email bots, digital documentation, and data tacking can improve workflows with automation. Contact RPA Labs today to get started and schedule a free demo of your own.