Addressing the ever-growing customer expectations is a tendency that permeates all sectors—and logistics is no exception. Since scheduled calls and emails are no longer enough to meet the demand for fast response time and transparency, logistics customer portals are entering the field to give companies more control over customer experiences.
However, enriching client communication with a customer portal is a costly investment.
Logistics service providers should have a clear and detailed idea of their solution to ensure it pays off. How do their potential customers interact with it? What must-have features should their customer portal have? Why will it help with business goals?
Because assisting digital adopters even at the decision-making stage is part of our mission, we wrote this article to provide valuable guidelines for all the components essential to well-performing customer software.
- Why are logistics customer portals important for business?
- What are the must-have components of a logistics customer portal?
- What is the most complex part of logistics customer portal development?
Why are logistics customer portals important for business?
When selecting digital solutions for improving logistics business flow, customer portals certainly belong in the "implement as soon as possible" category. Consisting of multiple interconnected workflows and routines, logistics operations are complicated enough—and lack of proper communication or transparency with clients can negatively impact that balance, leading to disruptions and growing turnovers.
Customer portals prevent such issues by equipping clients with everything they need for productive and smoothly progressing partnerships:
- Customer self-service capabilities
First emerging in 2020, the clients' preference towards self-service platforms continued its growth and won't change anytime soon. Through self-service features, clients could interact with businesses on their terms, gaining more independence within their business partnership. As a result, they gained an appreciation for enterprises willing to give them such independence and use it as a foundation for further relationships.
Logistics customer portals provide clients with free navigation across their work with service providers without relying on scheduled calls or emails to learn important details or make adjustments. The more actions clients can explore and complete within a customer portal, the more value such portal brings to a business.
- 360-degree visibility
The need for better visibility stems directly from the need for self-service, i.e., independence. Modern clients no longer see themselves as followers in their relationships with service providers—they are equal participants. And so they want full access to all relevant information, instant updates, and a 360 view of their customer journey. And providing such visibility via more conservative means, i.e., email follow-ups or messenger communication, is usually a task in futility. There is too much data, too many attachments for one mailbox to handle.
Customer portals succeed where calls fail, visualizing shipment data and status to customers, generating personalized reports, and effectively gathering all important information in one place. Ultimately, clients are empowered with better awareness of their operations, which facilitates communication for both parties, creating a transparent environment based on trust and informed decisions.
Whenever clients enter an agreement with a service provider, the security of their business and financial data is always on top of their minds—and it's upon the service provider to alleviate such concerns by ensuring safe and protected interactions with their brand. Aside from following standard cybersecurity guidelines, logistics companies implement customer portals as an extra security layer and a way to keep valuable data out of phishers' and hackers' reach.
Naturally, we should point out that logistics customer portals don't come with built-in cybersecurity features. However, using them gives service providers better control over access to data, determining the personnel allowed to view and manage information or configuring authentication steps. To provide a more innovative example, there is a possibility for creating blockchain-based client portals, enabling decentralized data storage and offering better protection to clients.
Equipping transportation companies with logistics customer portal software allows for covering the core needs of clients, which has a powerful impact on engagement, communication, and overall operational performance. However, identifying these core needs only scratches the surface of what's necessary to build a successful customer portal. There is also the matter of what featuressuch a solution should have to meet key expectations—which we’re going to address in the next section.
Explore how we helped a shipping industry leader transfrom services and operations with a tailored logistics portal
What are the must-have components of a logistics customer portal?
The versatility and diversity of digital transformation options give logistics companies a wide range of features to choose from. The priorities will always vary depending on the company's niche, specialization, and customer portrait. But some features often become the supporting pillars of most logistics customer portal software.
Speaking of components and features, a functional and intuitive dashboard is an absolute must for all logistics customer portal solutions, regardless of the niche, transportation company size, and target audience.
The main goal of a logistics customer portal is to be a bridge between clients and vendors, translating valuable logistics data and information into comprehensive and understandable insights. Therefore, if customer portal development doesn't start with a proper UX/UI design process that involves a dedicated team that handles the research, testing, and design implementation works, there is little chance of the end product's success.
A functional logistics client portal dashboard represents an immaculate balance between data visualization, utility, and usability. For example, it should be able to visualize massive volumes of shipment data with maps, graphs, and diagrams but not be overloaded with elements at the same time – otherwise, users might find it overwhelming and avoid using it whenever it's possible.
Additionally, logistics customer portal dashboards must be simple to navigate, helping users make sense of their shipments, sort and filter them by multiple variables, access important documents, and view reports.'
Discover logistics dashboards for smarter supply chain management
1. Real-time shipment tracking
Not knowing the status and the condition of shipment is probably one of the most common reasons for customers' anxiety. It can be partially addressed by regular updates from the logistics company representative, but there would still be plenty of room for uncertainty and friction points. Additionally, whenever the shipment's journey needs to be adjusted due to unforeseen circumstances, service providers and clients must think fast and react in time—which can only be arranged via real-time shipment data visibility.
Also, the real-time load tracking feature meets the self-service need by letting logistics customer portal users manage their operations and instantly collaborate with company representatives, whether to strategize on the delivery or respond to sudden disruption.
2. Online order creation
Self-service options generate trust, appeal to clients, and shoulder a fraction of the tasks that would have fallen on the representative managers' shoulders otherwise. Given the workforce shortage in the logistics industry, it makes sense to harness the potential of self-service features and let users perform as many target actions as possible without an intermediary.
The versatility and flexibility of logistics customer portal software grants logistics service vendors opportunities to build convenient and intuitive interactions with the brand while cutting out repetitive and redundant steps.
To provide even more advanced self-service options, it is possible to adopt customer portals for mobile devices, letting clients fill out and submit order templates with just a few taps.
3. Manager communication support
The classic way of talking to the assigned manager usually revolves around booked calls and emails. Therefore, it involves waiting. Even though communication has become much more dynamic in the digital era, traditional messengers and emails can't always keep up with the intensity of logistics communication—let alone provide the security for making clients comfortable discussing business details.
Within a traditional communication framework, clients need to email their assigned managers whenever there is something they need to discuss or address. If the matter is urgent, waiting for a response generates more stress and frustration, which affects communication and problem-solving.
Logistics customer portal software takes out the stress of waiting and the waiting out of interactions. For instance, a logistics customer portal can have a communication system designed specifically for client-manager interactions and enable information exchange. Such systems ensure faster manager response time and facilitate the process of solving issues as customers can provide all necessary details directly within their portal, enabling managers to act immediately.
Implementing a communication system along with other logistics customer portal features also streamlines the flows from the managers' side, helping them collect valuable client data and process customer queries more efficiently.
4. Reporting and analytics
Detailed planning and informed decision-making are integral to successful logistics operations. They also require lots and lots of relevant insights. Aside from real-time data representing the progress of current shipments, these insights include historical data (past transactions data) that contains valuable information on underlying patterns and trends affecting upcoming shipments.
When clients have all that data at their fingertips, they introduce more flexibility and predictability in their planning—but logistics customer portal software can do more than just put insights in front of clients. With advanced data analytics features, client portals can deliver a breakdown of valuable logistics metrics and help analyze overall performance with comprehensive reports documenting the progress for each period. Such improvements make it much easier for clients to optimize their plans and make accurate decisions.
5. Documentation management
Managing invoices, bills of lading, claims, and other hard copies are one of the most taxing, not to mention error-prone tasks customers have to deal with. Hard copies get misplaced, missing papers halt entire supply chains, and a seemingly minor error can end with having to do all the paperwork over again.
A logistics customer portal can open a way out of the paper-cluttered chaos by eliminating the need for hard copies and reducing the amount of paperwork to store and process.
Instead, users are provided with a digital library that contains all up-to-date document templates and records, provides automated document generation, and stores all old documents in easy-to-retrieve catalogs.
Such an approach considerably accelerates document management time and minimizes the risk of human error by automating most of the document processing routines.
Did you know ChatGPT can streamline document management?
What is the most complex part of logistics customer portal development?
From our point of view, the hardest part of logistics customer portal software development is what happens before that. The research and priority identification define the course of the work—which is why adopters must clearly understand their company, workflow, target audience, and employees. Discovering the look and functionality of the future solution isn't an easy task. At this stage, adopters are prone to making the following mistakes:
- Not including external solutions
Third-party solutions make workflows more manageable—and when they have a place within the company’s technological framework, the value they drive amplifies considerably. Also, if a logistics customer portal can't be integrated with the solutions used by the company's employees and clients, it would considerably reduce its utility and sabotage the onboarding process. Additionally, managers and employees will have less productive customer interactions due to being unable to organize, view, and manage data in one place.
- Copying from competitors
"I'll just do what X did" may sound like a shortcut, but instead, it's a dead end. Competitive advantages are gained through personalization and deep knowledge of specific company workflows. Due to this, we always encourage our clients to explore their business vision and approach their top-of-mind pain points from various angles so that we can identify and fix them as productively as possible within a convenient and easy-to-use solution.
- Not asking customers
It’s important to deliver a solution that clients need—not a solution company leaders think their clients need. To make it happen, adopters need to communicate closely with their managers, tasking them to gather client feedback. They can also contact their loyal customers directly, interviewing them about their experience and asking them for suggestions.
Of course, the discovery session is only the tip of the complexity iceberg. Logistics customer portal development is also complicated as it requires domain expertise and diverse skills—which is why we suggest against trying to do everything in-house.
Attempting to manage all the development processes in-house usually consumes the time and resources that could have been applied more productively. Also, when an enterprise lacks extensive knowledge about software development and design, the teams experience difficulties with mapping out priorities and implementing necessary customer features.
For that reason, it’s always better to partner with experts who would look at your workflow with a critical and knowledgeable eye, analyze your needs and business vision, and handle the transformation process. Such collaborations allow adopters to evade a fraction of possible complications and build solid rapport with the company’s departments, securing an easier and more intuitive onboarding.
Address your customer expectations to the fullest with Trinetix
If you want to know what else capable experts with deep logistics industry expertise can do for your enterprise, let's chat. Our talented teams will walk you through all the stages of logistics customer portal creation during a consultation—and help you productize your idea, combining your unique vision with the core logistics customer needs.