When organizations scale up, there may be a tendency to opt for maximum automation, corner-cutting and an emphasis on what is the illusion of cost-savings. Michael Senftleber, chief technology officer at Arrive Logistics, discusses the importance of balance in scaling successfully.
The decision to invest in technology depends on the individual business and industry. But for many companies, there is often conflict between the desire to automate everything in an attempt to create efficient and streamlined processes and those who understand the risk of losing the human touch that retains employees and customers and attracts top talent and new business.Â
Focus on Value
There is no question that technology and automation can improve business efficiency. It is also clear that personal touches are important to customers. It is rare for companies to do both well â€” businesses that offer exceptional technology solutions may fall short on customer service, and organizations with strong customer service have the potential to lack a dependable technological complement.Â
It does not have to be that way. When building a technology infrastructure to support growth, it is critical to focus on value. Listening to stakeholders (shippers, carriers and employees, in our case) and understanding what they value is critical. We constantly solicit feedback, analyze input and respond in a way that provides value while streamlining workflows behind the scenes.
Scaling our business is not just about rethinking how an enterprise delivers value. There is a need to develop efficient processes and use advanced data science and technology to sharpen them. Having a great customer support team can help provide the tools needed to deliver customer satisfaction and create productive relationships with partners.Â
As we continued to scale, our focus fell on finding better ways to deliver value to more people. Data can deliver value if it is applied properly. So, in addition to customer feedback, it is important to analyze data to identify which processes delivered value and how, and the insights gained can guide investment decisions to build new platforms to support growth.Â Â
Put People First
Most organizations say their people are their greatest asset, but not all live up to that claim. To scale successfully, the commitment to putting people first must be genuine. In considering automation, it is important to ask the people involved in complex processes for their thoughts about where and how new technologies should be placed to expedite and streamline tasks and functions.Â
Employees who directly interact with shippers and carriers understand the value of personal touch and know how different types of customers and partners prefer to interact with and receive information from the company. Employee input was incredibly helpful as we made decisions about which processes to automate and what choices our partners would appreciate.Â
It would be easy to reach out to new shippers with an automated survey or recorded message to tell them we appreciate their business and let them know whom to contact for help. But our support team let us know that making an introductory phone call was a better way to build trust with new customers and create the foundation for a long-term business relationship.Â
In other words, even if it is possible to automate a process, that does not necessarily mean you should. Human relationships matter in business. A people-first approach is necessary from a recruiting and retention perspective to compete successfully for talent, and it is also relevant to scaling a business.
Find the Ideal Balance
Finding the right balance between people and technology to support the needs of the business and our partners is not easy. Many growing companies lean heavily on the technological side of the equation, banking on efficiency gains to offset any losses created by a decline in service quality. Our goal was different; we set out to create a transportation management system (TMS) that instantiates our processes to support hypergrowth.Â
We created a platform that makes sense for the way we do business. By focusing on delivering value and putting people first in our decision-making, we could scale by increasing efficiency without losing the human touch that our customers love. We also created an operating system that shares data across our ERP and HR platforms, generating more insights that we are using for continuous improvement.Â
In our case, scaling successfully required building a TMS in-house and designing portals that shippers and carriers can use to access the information and functions they need. We closely monitor how automation drives efficiency with an automation index that tracks how truckloads move through logistics touchpoints.Â
We plan to increase automation where it makes sense while maintaining the prominent role people play in helping us deliver for its customers and partners. It is a â€œcopilotâ€ approach that harnesses technology to make people more productive and processes more efficient, and it has doubled average broker productivity over the past two years.Â
Business leaders scaling up their organizations to support rapid growth will have to make many choices as they develop their strategy. Some of those decisions will be specific to the industry, customer base, and organizational goals. But finding the right balance between people and technology is essential across businesses and industries.Â
People expect the immediacy, accuracy, and convenience automation brings to the table, and they also want the responsiveness and productive business relationships that only humans can provide. Companies that scale up successfully do not have to make customers choose â€” they can deliver a balanced experience that gives customers the best of both worlds.
Image Source: Shutterstock