The Role of CRM in Logistics Companies' IT Strategies, Part 3
A focused strategy, clear direction and planning will help differentiate logistics service providers in a highly commoditized logistics marketplace. Customers are not just looking for affordability, dependability, wide reach and on-time performance. They are ready to embrace logistics providers as partners who can make them experience the "wow" factor through their customer service.
Order Management - Pickups, Booking and Handling
Current Scenario - The legacy order management system consists of several applications, such as pickup information, location route plan, fulfillment, etc., that are outside of the CRM application domain. There is partial or no integration with the front-end applications used for booking the orders -- also known as "pickups" in logistics industry parlance. The parcel tracking system, which is at the core of the logistics IT landscape, is either not integrated or very poorly integrated with the CRM system.
The order information has to be recreated manually in the order fulfillment system, which can cause human errors and subsequent loss of face. When a customer order involves multiple services, like air cargo, land freight and shipping, it results in the creation of multiple orders with no single system to track them. The legacy system also has the limitation that pricing and product information cannot be passed to collection agents, which directly impacts business opportunities.
Proposed Scenario - The CRM enterprise solution has the functionality to service customers for product/pricing/service offerings information, handle order booking via customer calls and the Internet, and simultaneously provide similar abilities to collection agents for business growth through an Internet portal.
Automated driver messaging and route plan information can be seamlessly integrated with the CRM application. CRM logistics management optimizes pick, pack, ship and receive. The CRM mobile solution supports a wide variety of mobile devices for pickup-at-origin and deliver-at-destination points, both in connected and disconnected modes, in order to get the right information to the right place at the right time.
Customers can take advantage of the benefit of CRM self-service to order a pickup and manage billing and account-related activities online. Most businesses schedule some of their activities at a future date or time. The CRM assignment manager helps to balance the volume of work assignments with the available resource pool of CSRs and delivery personnel to meet customer expectations.
A modern CRM logistics implementation integrates neatly with parcel tracking applications to deliver parcel processing information in real time. The CSR does not have to log on to a parcel management system (PMS) separately and key in the consignment number to fetch the information. Instead, the parcel information is available inside the CRM application with the click of a button. This typically involves a Web service call to the parcel tracking application and displays the results in an applet inside the CRM application. This will lead to significantly faster response time for customers, along with productivity improvements for call centers.
Opportunity Management - Managing the Opportunity Life Cycle
Current scenario - Opportunity management in the logistics industry context applies particularly to business customers. The opportunity management system maintains its own customer database, leading to duplication of effort in creating and maintaining information. Also, the information does not flow to the service management and order management systems. The opportunities for existing/prospective customers are handled in a separate system, and there is no direct way of linking the order back to the opportunity that generated it. Opportunity analysis is limited to calculating the win/loss ratio. Major drawbacks of the existing system:
- There is no linking of the number of orders resulting from the opportunity
- The order amount cannot be linked to the opportunity
- Competitor analysis for lost opportunities is missing
Proposed scenario - The opportunity management module is integrated with the service and order management modules and shares a common database. The customer information is usually created as part of opportunity management when the customer is created as a prospect. When the prospect places an order, the status of the account record is updated to that of a customer. The information is now accessible in the order management and service management modules. So there is no duplication of customer information.
The advantages of basing the opportunity management solution on a modern enterprise CRM product like Siebel CRM, Oracle CRM or other leading enterprise CRM products are many. Some of these advantages are as follows:
- The orders resulting from "won" opportunities are clearly linked back to the opportunities and vice versa.
- There are placeholders for recording competitor information, and the competitor analysis for lost opportunities is available out of the box. This helps in providing inputs to the product design and marketing departments.
- Complete marketing and campaign management functionality is also available as a module and is tightly integrated with opportunity management.
- Accurate calculation of ROI for marketing spend is enabled:
Marketing spend > Campaigns > Opportunities > Orders
- A complete 360-degree view of the customer -- comprised of key customer information, opportunities, campaigns, offers, orders and service requests linked to the customer -- is possible. This can be leveraged to understand the customer and target appropriate products/solutions/offerings depending on the unique customer context.
The logistics industry is facing challenges in adopting a sustainable and profitable CRM strategy, and there is inertia when it comes to replacing or augmenting disparate CRM solutions adopted by different business units, like retail, as well as various channels, like phone, Web, email, etc. These disparate solutions addressed the need of the hour when they were adopted. But as these companies move ahead in their journey, there is a compelling need for a unified CRM solution strategy.
This is where a focused strategy, clear direction and planning will help differentiate the logistics service providers (LSPs) in a highly commoditized logistics marketplace. Customers are not just looking for affordability, dependability, wide reach and on-time performance. They are ready to embrace logistics providers as partners who can make them experience the "wow" factor through their customer service.
Fortunately for the logistics providers, there is ample help at hand in form of robust, feature-rich and scalable enterprise CRM products in the market. Adopting a modern enterprise CRM strategy with clearly defined objectives will provide clear differentiation to the LSPs and will aid their business growth. Significant momentum is building in this direction, with many transformational enterprise CRM initiatives on the anvil spanning across LSPs in multiple geographies like the U.S., Europe, Australia and to some extent in the Asia region.
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