During a case study on Differentiation vs. Commoditisation, that we did with Tri-Continent Master students at Tongji SEM earlier this year, one of the groups brought the expression of „High Touch Service“ into the shipping space. (Thanks to Nainika Sudheendra, Elisabet Vásquez, Nelli Wipp, Haden Wesley and Tianhua Yuan for that)
Having spent quite some time over recent months again, talking to network members and friends on process optimisation, FreightTech, the future of communication channels and customer interaction, digital customer experiences, the user interface and robotic process automation (RPA), the expression is gradually filled with more meaning for me.
In a business to business environment that will see increasing digitalisation, the amount of personal interactions will gradually decrease. Yet there is no doubt that the importance of those interactions that remain, on the other hand will grow. In fact an API might enable instant and seamless transmission of schedule and price information, booking, tracking and billing, with information triggering automated actions, eliminating many basic conversations. However those personal interactions that still will happen, will be around more important issues, as for example true exception management.
Sales, which apart from relationship management, used to be presentation of services and creation of offers, will become more consulting than sharing of information and certainly include a wider range of more complex product offerings, like for example specialised services (cool, dangerous, customisation, etc), trade facilitation, financing, insurance, internationalisation etc.
Thus we touch our customers less, but when we do, we touch them „high“. And those moments of „High Touch“ are becoming much more crucial for the trust that the customer has in the company, its brand and its people.
This means the requirements for the workforce will no doubt continue to increase and competence in these „high touch“ interactions, will become key to success of any service firm in the logistics sector. Some of this will not be easy, as “true” exception management, means problem solving and complaint handling, which as a full time engagement might not be the most attractive of roles.
Aristotle already argued that the human being is a social animal and anyone who thinks he is not, would be a god or a beast. While technology for interaction is changing and some of it certainly enables to reduce the amount of interactions as a whole, the best interface does remain the human interface. In the end it does come down to trust. Trust in a firm or brand is based on continued positive interactions and trust in the people that these interactions are happening with.
Several other industries, where digitalisation is already further advanced, have more experience with transition “High Touch” and also several publications off recent years are diving deeper into personal relationships and interaction, or social capital theory, within the context of our increasingly high tech environment.
My theory two years ago, was that technology and tools themselves, will gradually reach a level playing field. Like with a traditional tool, a hammer, the best design will become dominant.
The „eForwarder package“, online sales and service interfaces for logistics firms towards their customers (as a SaaS solution), are an illustrating example. They are already increasingly becoming similar in terms of functionality and features. It is the ability of how these are integrated with the back-end process and the „High Touch“ service provided by people, that will be the differentiator for our industry, rather than the tool itself.
Often, over those two years, I had the pleasure of discussing with technology solutions providers, who confirmed, that different customers, continue to use their tools to a different extent, with some making more of it, than others.
In fact everyone can buy the best hammer, but who can put it to best use?
The 4th industrial revolution and Technology 4.0 still have to cope with human 1.0, thus the human touch still matters and with less touch points, those few remaining will be even more vital, as they touch higher.
by Ruben Huber, OceanX
OceanX is a non – exclusive global network of leading ocean freight providers and NVOCCs dedicated to delivering bespoke innovative solutions, in particular on FCL services, LCL consolidation, dangerous goods and chemical logistics, temperature control, fashion logistics, as well as project cargo handling.