Technology drives C.H. Robinson forward, but relationships make the business work

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While technology startups have jumped into trucking with the latest and greatest solutions, the old guard, if you will, has not been sitting idly by. This week at the Great American Trucking Show in Dallas, C.H. Robinson is showing drivers its Navisphere apps and how they can help drivers and small fleets find freight success.

Initially launched about a year ago for carriers, Robinson found drivers looking for a simplified version, so Navisphere Drivers was launched. The carrier version is more robust with additional reporting features, including load searching and truck posting, load management from driver assignment to billing, and document uploading. The driver version eliminates some of the management of loads and focuses instead on load updates and availability and information the driver needs to make a delivery. Drivers can also scan and upload documents.

Bruce Johnson, director of capacity development, tells FreightWaves the apps are just one part of the experience that Robinson deliveries for small fleets and drivers, and that the real secret to the success relies on the relationships that no technology to replace.

C.H. Robinson (NASDAQ: CHRW)has over 70,000 active carriers in its global database, including some 50,000 in North America.

“We still believe relationships are a big part of this industry,” he says. “I think that’s where Robinson’s 100-plus years of experience [comes in]. We’ve done this sort of thing for a long time. You can build this really awesome technology, which I think we’re doing,” but if you don’t have the relationships, the business doesn’t work.

The company offers the Carrier Advantage Program that allows carriers to pick the right tier of services they are looking for, from basic access to Navisphere Carrier and contract freight opportunities, to the ability to make web offers for freight and get access to dedicated account managers and earlier access to freight.

One of the things C.H. Robinson is doing to try and improve the experience is to provide carriers access to dedicated account managers.

“We’re trying to use data science to align them with the best carrier reps to make them successful, Johnson says. “We want to reward the carriers that are loyal and engaged with us.”

This past spring, for the second time, C.H. Robinson handed out carrier awards, recognizing those carriers and owner-operators that excelled in their businesses in the previous year. Nominees were submitted by the carrier reps and winners were brought to Minneapolis to tour the headquarters and sit on an advisory board.

“The speeches were awesome,” Johnson notes. “They were so moving and the chance for our reps to see [the difference they made] was great.”

For the sixth time, the company has awarded scholarships as part of the C.H. Robinson Foundation Scholarship Program for contract carriers and employees. The winners were just announced this week, with 10 students winning $2,500 each.

The focus on relationships as much as technology – which Johnson says the company is still investing in – is part of the reason why C.H. Robinson onboarded 4,400 new carriers in the second quarter of this year. That was up 20% year-over-year.

“We think that’s a great sign,” Johnson says. “One, that there are some new entrants and second, that they want to have that relationship with Robinson.”