The Role of CRM in Logistics Companies' IT Strategies, Part 2
New CRM Strategy to Replace IT System Stack Scenario
The mainframe application forms the core of the system where the bulk of the order processing takes place. The traditional mainframe UI in, say, SCOBOL (Screen COBOL) is being augmented/replaced through the front-ending applications built in VB, ASP, .Net, etc. The front-end screens fetch the customer account and order data from the mainframe database through custom connectors built in Java J2EE.
There are no off-the-shelf connectors available in the market to fetch data from mainframes and interface with leading CRM COTS products like Siebel, SAP, Salesforce, Chordiant, etc. The connector solution depends totally on custom in-house development by the company's IT department and has associated high development and maintenance costs.
There has been very little vendor rationalization for the solution stack. A typical implementation will involve at least three major product vendors, for the mainframe, middleware and the front end. Since the mainframe database is not native to the front-end database, software like Oracle/SQL server, or any other modern RDBMS, it is not able to fully capitalize on the strengths and features of the CRM product.
How an Advanced CRM Solution Can Benefit LSP
We will be delving deeper into CRM implementation for a large logistics provider with a focus on some of the most commonly desired functionality from a logistics industry perspective.
The most important part is to pursue IT product vendor rationalization for ease of integrating and lower management overheads in coordinating with fewer vendors for problem resolution. At the same time, this will lead to protection of IT investments and will provide robust architecture, as well as increased scalability and maintainability. Also, this can enable easier adoption of industry best practices, most of which are available as standard out-of-the-box features.
The foundation of the solution lies in product selection based on the requirements gap analysis vs. out-of-the-box product features, ease of implementation, customization effort and cost, availability of skilled technical resources, scalability, integration options with back-end systems, etc.
Choosing an industry-leading CRM platform gives a clear road map for implementation and upgrades, and provides access to industry best practices. It will deliver a robust solution in three main business areas that form the core of the logistics industry:
- Service management -- query, request and complaints processes
- Order management -- pickups, booking and handling
- Opportunity management -- managing the opportunity life cycle
Next, we will describe these areas in the context of a typical LSP and build a case for the transformational enterprise CRM wave that we anticipate in the logistics area. This will have far-reaching outcomes for the LSPs, their customers and partners, and will lead to the growth of the logistics industry as a whole.
Service Management - Query, Request and Complaints
Current Scenario - The typical legacy service management system is comprised of multiple applications adopted by the different service departments, e.g., air cargo, land freight, shipping. At times, different service delivery channels -- phone, email, Web -- adopt different solutions. This leads to multiple problems, like maintaining multiple customer databases with various versions of the same customer information.
The typical customer opts for multiple services, like air cargo, land freight and shipping, at various times and feels annoyed when having to provide the same information repeatedly. If there is a change in key information, it has to be updated in multiple systems. In a nutshell, there is no master database for customer information, leading to anomalies and a complete lack of 360-degree view of the customer.
Proposed Scenario - Adopting a CRM enterprise solution for customer service provides for a consolidated view of the customer information across the different service departments and the multiple service delivery channels. The three distinct types of service requests -- query, request and complaint (QRC) -- will be handled in the same system. This is achieved by implementing the service module spanning departments like air cargo, land freight and shipping.
A modern enterprise CRM product has great technical breadth and can be readily integrated into multiple service delivery channels like phone, email, Web, etc. Every customer interaction -- via any channel and directed to any service department -- is captured and stored in a common database, and is readily accessible to the customer service representatives (CSRs).
A typical phone interaction will start with the customer calling the toll-free number and being automatically routed to the appropriate call center based on the customer's time zone and the call initiation time. The call is routed internally by the ACD (automatic call distributor) based on the customer inputs in response to the IVR prompts and the agent availability.
CTI solutions like Avaya and Genesys tightly integrate with leading CRM products at the event level, using prebuilt connectors. The agent answers the call by clicking a button on a CTI toolbar within the CRM user interface. Even before the CSR answers the call, the complete 360-degree view of the customer is displayed in the CRM application UI, and the agent can review the interaction history.
This enables the CSR to establish a connection with the customer by learning about the problem beforehand and being able to provide the update the customer is seeking. Even in the event of not having a ready solution to the customer problem, the CSR will be able to empathize with the customer, which results in a positive moment of truth. These moments of truth build customer trust over time and will lead to repeat business for the LSP.
Stay tuned for Part 3: Order management, Opportunity management
Omesh Garg, a lead consultant with Infosys Consulting and Systems Integration Group, has several years of experience in implementing large-scale Enterprise CRM solutions spanning the logistics, communications and high-technology industries. He can be contacted at