Freight brokerages and third-party logistics providers (3PLs) are tasked with processing hundreds if not thousands of freight quotes daily. In this industry, speed is the name of the game, and the broker first to respond generally wins the deal.
But the quoting process is fractured. To handle the endless stream of quotes, brokers have programmed sophisticated self-service, front-end portals within their websites to guide customers through the process. While this may seem like an end-all solution, a sizable portion of clients still prefer email as their primary form of communication.
Email, however, is inefficient. It increases labor costs and forces your staff to keep an eye on their inboxes throughout the day. In addition, using different channels of communication between broker and customer creates an imbalance as some see service faster than others.
However, allocating operations staff to respond to quote requests while managing the rest of their inbox is less than optimal. This approach has proved inefficient as brokers miss opportunities when they are unable to respond in a timely manner. Meaning, as demand increases so does labor cost, impeding profit and scalability.
One company, Teknowlogi, has set its sights on alleviating the email rush and automating the quoting process altogether through the use of artificial intelligence (AI). The company’s Tai Email Assistant is designed to help freight brokerages and third-party logistics (3PLs) providers respond to 30% more quote requests per day.
“The Tai Email Assistant enables brokers to easily implement AI technology within their business all the while reducing labor cost,” said Federico Restrepo, CEO of GLT Logistics, a South Florida midsize 3PL that adopted Tai early on.
Teknowlogi Chief Technology Officer Walter Mitchell added, “Tai gives 3PLs or freight brokers the freedom of not having to constantly man the quote email inbox. Instead, you have natural language processing combined with a machine-learning algorithm that extracts all of the shipment information from the quote request email and returns a quote to the client within a few minutes.”
GLT Logistics came to these conclusions and incorporated the Tai Email Assistant in hopes of better serving their email-based clientele.
“We have a customer portal like many other 3PLs, but a lot of our customers don’t want to use it,” said Restrepo. “The majority of our customers continue to reach us by email because many are afraid of making errors. We tried convincing our customers to use our portal, but now we can let them reach us whichever way they feel most comfortable.”
Before implementing Tai, GLT Logistics relied solely on 20 staff members to manually process email quote requests. The difference: It took up to an hour to process quotes prior to Tai. Now it takes just a couple of minutes.
Within the first two months of using Tai, GLT Logistics was able to process nearly 15,000 quotes. Camilo Vásquez, GLT Logistics’ chief information officer, said 90% of their quotes are now handled through Tai and that the rapid turnaround speed has raised eyebrows.
“Our customers aren’t used to getting a response this fast,” Restrepo added. “In fact, many are immediately asking for an additional request, which we hadn’t seen before.”
Vásquez noted that often brokers win loads because they were the first to respond. Mitchell added, “If you take a half-hour or more to quote a shipment, then you’re probably going to lose it because another broker was faster, even if you were the best offer.”
Mitchell explained that because freight brokers operate within a low-margin industry, Tai enables logistics providers to do more at a lower operational cost. This, in turn, allows logistics companies to allocate more time and money toward larger sales and exploring new revenue sources.
“Tai is a product that 3PLs and brokers have never had before,” Mitchell said. “With the old way of doing things, you’d have to assign an operations staff member to every new client you received, which eats away from your margin. Until now, the industry hasn’t been looking for ways to respond to emails faster because nobody knew something like Tai existed. I believe that Tai will revolutionize the logistics landscape and in the long run become the industry standard.”
He described a “waterfall” relationship in which shippers have their first choice, go-to brokers before contacting another firm, and so on. Logistics companies that can’t keep pace with demand will quickly find themselves tumbling toward the bottom of customers’ preferred list of brokers.
“Customers are thanking us for our rapid response,” Restrepo said. “Our sales staff loves Tai’s swiftness, too, because it’s giving them a competitive edge over other 3PLs. In logistics, timing is crucial. The most successful brokers are those who respond the fastest.”