Client-facing features of trucking technologies such as self-serve portals, customer apps, contextual live chats, and more have become necessary facets of the sales engine for carriers and brokers. Trucking companies today must be aware of the different types of software available to them to not only help run their business with more efficiency and visibility but improve customer satisfaction. For example, one might use accounting software to manage finances and offer online payment, telematics for monitoring driver behavior and vehicle performance, and share the real-time ETA of an order.

Perhaps the most important piece of running a successful trucking business is by maximizing supply chain visibility. If a carrier or broker doesn’t bring their customer-facing technologies up to snuff, matching their expectations for efficiency and oversight, clients will choose to ship elsewhere. With high-valued items and a consumer mentality, the 21st-century shipping customer now demands enhanced track and trace capabilities that resemble their experiences when ordering with consumer brands like Amazon.

When trucking companies offer customers the latest and greatest technologies and view them as a sales tool rather than a cost, it will bolster account retention and expansion. While it might be tempting to avoid the investment, trucking software like a transportation management system (TMS) is now a must-have for an efficient business that hangs its hat on visibility.

Choosing a TMS

A TMS is one of the key software trucking companies need to implement into business, as it becomes a business’s single pane of glass. However, it’s important to understand that there’s a difference between the two most common types of TMS systems: on-premises and cloud-based. While both can undoubtedly help with the business, the benefits of cloud-based TMS software far outweigh those of an on-premises system.

A cloud based TMS doesn’t have to be connected to a physical server and can be used anywhere there is an internet connection. This eliminates the need to be in the office for access or requirement to invest in a VPN that allows access to visibility offsite from the server location. No matter where the stakeholder is, they’ll always be able to access the TMS.

A customer portal provides value

Thanks to the technology that we use every day in our personal lives — like apps that let you track the location of your food order — you always know where the items you’ve purchased are in relation to being dropped at your doorstep. The visibility you’ve come to expect on your personal shipments has translated over to the trucking industry, where your customers expect the same level of visibility into their freight.

Now that all trucks in the United States and Canada are required to have electronic logging devices, you can provide real-time location updates to your clients through a TMS client interface. The tricky element is communicating such information with the customer efficiently, avoiding calls or emails every few hours while making a concerted effort to keep them in the loop regarding the status of their shipments. The integration of ELDs with your TMS allows shipping customers to view ELD data and track their shipments in real time via a customer portal, regardless of where their shipments are in the supply chain.

Better collaboration occurs when teams have access to customer information through a portal. With the help of the portal, clients may have a conversation with carriers and brokers about the status of their purchase and learn the reasons for any delays. Chatting within a customer portal allows you to keep track of your interactions with the customer and makes it easy to review past conversations if necessary. To further alleviate the hassle of sending vital documents to clients by scan or fax, a customer portal can also keep all order-related documents, such as the BOL and POD, in one convenient location.

The ability to grant clients access to a portion of your TMS technology can dramatically improve the quality of service you can offer them. They may place orders without having to get in touch with you, which saves both parties valuable time. By allowing customers to self-serve, you will streamline your customer service and save time for both you and your clients. It's simple for customers to interact with you, and they can rest easy knowing their freight is in excellent hands, thanks to features that ease communication and allow them to track and trace their freight whenever they choose.

Collaborate around a single source of truth

A cloud based TMS supports a business to connect all systems, which means it becomes a single source of truth. Managers can run their business with all the information anyone within the company would ever need in one system, empowering all parties to do an array of things that include, but are not limited to, quoting an order, dispatching, communicating with drivers, and invoicing. Additionally, workers can attach important documents associated with an order, like proof of pickup, proof of delivery, BOLs, and more – creating confidence across the board that any information anyone might need about a specific order can be found in one place.

All the capabilities of a TMS will aid trucking companies in making better business decisions, especially with analytics functions that create detailed, accurate and accessible reports about what’s going on in the business. This might include things like probability reports that show month-over-month or year-over-year profits, as well as operation-focused reports like driver wait times.

A flexible TMS is the best investment a trucking company can make in their business. With an adaptable architecture that supports the connection of all systems used to run a business right into the TMS, it gives all stakeholders a single source of truth. When a company can optimize collaboration, back a team to work together more efficiently and make data-backed decisions, the business will flourish, along with the growth of the bottom line.

Justin Bailie is the Co-Founder of leading TMS provider Rose Rocket, where he and his team build modern software that helps transportation companies solve efficiency, visibility, and collaboration challenges within the transportation industry. Bailie is recognized as a subject matter expert in the logistics industry through his extensive experience building and successfully exiting businesses, including a brokerage and consultancy firm. His time is spent building the next foundational elements of freight-technology, while working with Rose Rocket customers to future-proof their systems, and their marketing and sales strategies. Bailie is also a published author, keynote speaker, and father of four.