5 ways email is slowing down your logistics team

Andersen Yu, Industry Research Manager at Front
15 December 20206 Min Read

There’s a critical obstacle that's holding most logistic service providers back: their outdated email practices.

Logistic service providers (LSPs) rely on email, often using distribution lists like brokers@ or a shared mailbox in Outlook. They give your customers a single point of contact, but internally can be difficult to manage.

What’s more — email takes more than 2 hours of every employee’s time each day, and can cost businesses nearly $6,000 per employee annually in unnecessary email and poor wording. These email inefficiencies are even more costly for LSPs when a missed message or error results in incorrect shipments or failure to comply with regulations.

Below are 5 ways outdated email practices are costing LSPs time, customers, and ultimately, revenue.

1. High email volume is difficult to keep up with — and it’s only increasing.

Businesses are getting more email than ever. In a study of more than 2,000 workers across the US, 68 percent said the number of emails they’ve sent and received has risen over the last 3 years.

The mail never stops. It just keeps coming and coming and coming, there's never a let-up. It's relentless. Every day it piles up more and more and more!

– Newman

With high email volume, critical messages can get lost or buried, and it’s easy to make errors when replying. Both of those can translate to lost revenue.

Missed email = Missed business

When customers are looking for logistic services, it’s not all about pricing. Since they're operating on a time-critical schedule, often the first to respond wins the business. That means an email sitting unreplied for hours in your team’s inboxes (or that gets overlooked entirely) is lost revenue for your business.

Errors = No repeat customers

Customers now have a higher bar for service: 33 percent of Americans say they’ll consider switching companies after just a single instance of poor service. With high email volume, you’re more likely to make mistakes.

2. Customers expect 24/7 service.

More and more businesses are going global, and 51 percent of consumers say a business needs to be available around the clock. If a customer in China needs a fulfillment warehouse in Los Angeles, they can contract those 3PL services directly. This increases profit for LSPs because they don’t have to pay agent fees or commissions. But it brings a new challenge: how can you communicate with customers across time zones?

Serving customers 24/7 is a challenge. Some businesses have adjusted their team’s schedules to stagger across multiple shifts. To make sure these expanded hours are worth the investment, however, each new shift needs to have access to the emails and context from the shift prior.

For instance, a freight forwarder can attract new overseas customers by extending their staffing around the clock. However, if each new shift doesn’t have reliable, up-to-date information from the previous shift, workers have to spend the beginning of each shift catching up on the open cases in their inboxes. This means time (and revenue) is lost in each shift just in getting workers up to speed.

3. Email is a massive time drain for your team.

The average worker spends 28 percent of their work week on email — more than 11 hours a week. For LSPs, many of these hours are spent on email triage, getting requests to the right department or teammate. Workers often field requests at all hours of the day, which interrupts their workflow and can lead to costly errors.

For instance, if a warehouse manager who monitors outgoing shipments is distracted with emails throughout the day, he or she may not be able to give the physical shipments enough attention. A shipment containing hazardous materials could be shipped without proper labeling, resulting in thousands of dollars in Department of Transportation fines. With the proper tools in place, your team can spend time where it matters most, not on manually triaging email.

4. Email doesn’t include context from your other critical tools.

Email is critical to the logistics industry, but it’s not the only tool providers depend on to get work done. The number of ways that LSPs communicate (both externally and internally) has grown significantly in the last few years:

Amazon / Ecommerce Platform Messaging: 3PL warehouses need to be able to route messages from ecommerce marketplaces like Amazon to the correct location. If you attach the wrong information to a shipment, customer orders can be mixed up. At the very least, you’ll end up copying information between messaging systems, wasting time and introducing the possibility of transcription errors.

Form Submissions: Trucking companies have created online forms that make it easier to give quotes. But if employees still need to manually review the submissions forms and forward them to the correct department, you are losing most of that efficiency — and potentially responding too slowly to get the business you’re quoting.

Embedded Chat Functions: Customers use a “Click to Chat” option on a vendor’s website because it lets them speak with agents faster. You love it because your agents can speak with several customers at the same time. But this means your team is subject to context switching — moving back and forth between tools — and is more likely to get distracted and make errors when talking to your customers.

SMS & Other Messaging Apps: Instant messaging has changed how warehouse workers communicate. Instant communication does not require your employees be in the same room, and is much faster than email. However, if those messages don’t integrate into a central communications system, you lose all records of operations and your employees cannot quickly and efficiently cross reference information.

When your process-critical communications go through a variety of channels, you’re left running around, gathering and organizing the data and context you need.

5. Email lacks accountability.

Distribution lists and group aliases are great for giving your entire team access to customer emails, but they lack accountability. For example, say a customer sends your warehouse a customs release and delivery order that shows a pickup from their outside trucker. If you’re using a distribution list or group alias, there’s no way for your team to know who’s responsible for replying. Two problems usually occur:

  • Your team sends more than one reply — maybe even with different answers

  • Or, no one replies because everyone thinks (or hopes) someone else has already replied

In both cases the release never gets signed, the driver gets turned away, and the customer never uses your warehouse again.

Optimizing your email is an opportunity to stand out

The inefficiencies of email can be especially costly for LSPs. But by improving the way your business handles email, you can benefit in a big way. You can eliminate costly errors and work faster, which in your customers’ eyes, makes your business stand out above the rest.

Written by Andersen Yu
Originally Published: 7 March 2019
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