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Maintaining relationships in a digital world

'It's about focusing on the benefit and not just focusing on the change.'

As the world continues to become increasingly digitized, especially since this shift was accelerated due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies have had to find a balance in the workplace in managing relationships despite being primarily online.

Relationships, communication and connections are essential for growing teams, businesses and even whole industries. Unfortunately, over the last few years, more and more companies are shifting to new and updated technologies — sometimes causing the human connection to be lost. 

“The connection of people is the foundation of all successful businesses. They are built on relationships. It is the foundation of trust that gains confidence in our ability to execute and do so with integrity,” said Annette Luyten, senior vice president of domestic brokerage at Ascent.

Many companies looked at operating remotely or digitally as an opportunity to free up the time and space to focus on building relationships and increase value through new digital means. However, despite these efforts, the industry still finds itself fragmented overall, according to Luyten.

“We have hundreds of thousands of carriers, 92% of which have only six trucks or less,” she said. “Relationships matter. People matter. Technology is a tool, not a strategy.”

Luyten added that technology should be used as a tool to help team members execute and not entirely replace processes that require the human touch, such as customer service and connection-making opportunities.

Many in the more senior trucking community may also have issues transitioning to fully or partially digital systems. However, Luyten strongly believes that it, once again, comes down to people. 

“Leverage your relationships with the younger crowd — the millennials,” she said. “I think technology is advancing at a pace that has outpaced history. But we have an incredible pool of talent in our younger generations that can navigate those changes, share that experience and bridge that gap.”

As technology continues to advance and more and more companies are making the shift, the companies that don’t could fall behind and lose business — something many cannot afford in today’s economy.

“There is a general notion of resistance from a lot of folks to adapt to the change. But, these changes are designed to enhance the experience for both the carrier and the shipper,” Luyten said. “It’s about focusing on the benefit and not just focusing on the change. When you shift your vantage point to acknowledging the advantages that exist in this technology, I think you find yourself in a much better place.”

Ascent is a third-party logistics company that manages ground expedites and air charters for its customers. Ascent also specializes in international forwarding, customs brokerage, domestic brokerage and managed freight offerings. 

The company has virtual dedicated teams built around customer needs — learning the customer’s habits, trends and challenges and actively creating solutions through effective and efficient communication and relationships.

“We believe strongly in being an extension of our customer’s business,” Luyten said. “When you call Ascent, you deal with the same people — industry experts that are highly familiarized not only with the customer but the customer’s suppliers, receivers and a network of carriers that are sourced to fulfill [the customer’s] individual needs.”