By Karen Marchetti, Director of Business Development, Transportation.com
In the wake of the technology revolution, transportation has indeed gained the status it always deserved but never received. As a result, transportation professionals now enjoy more respect in and outside of their field, and are able to develop their skills as never before. The Internet has provided the medium for information to be easily and cost-effectively exchanged between businesses, and no industry is more dependent upon communication of information than transportation. As the transportation industry is so well suited to take advantage of the Internet, we have seen many Web-based transportation companies appear.
An article in the September 18, 2000 issue of AJOT, “Dot.com companies selling air freight: Wave of the future or flash in the pan?” by Chris Coppersmith, President & CEO, Target Logistics Services, suggested that dot.com companies selling transportation services are not beneficial to the industry. I would like to present a different perspective. Following are some concerns which were raised in the article that are being addressed, along with some tips to help consumers evaluate and select Internet transportation providers that can likely meet consumer needs.
The number of dot.com companies selling transportation services has increased exponentially during the year 2000. Current estimates project that Internet-based freight sales in 2000 will account for $8 billion dollars; with that figure projected to rise to $40 billion by the year 2004. Unfortunately, not all Internet-based transportation companies will survive. While the Internet is a “great equalizer” in terms of access to large numbers of people at a low cost, basic business rules cannot be ignored. Therefore, while the validity of the dot.com transportation model is solid, shippers, carriers and others using on-line services should treat dot.coms as they would any other partner. Investigate thoroughly the management team, resources, liquidity, and staying power of the provider.
Another concern raised in the article was the perception of the absence of personal contact from dot.com transportation companies. Many business processes are automated and delivered over the Internet, but a wise dot.com also supports its on-line presence with rich offerings of live and on-line customer support. At Transportation.com, we offer toll free phone support as well as the on-line availability of a live person 24 hours per day, seven days per week. It would be difficult and rare for a traditional brick and mortar transportation company to make that claim and live up to it.
Naturally, the issue of pricing is always one receiving a great deal of attention. A responsible transportation person always checks prices from a variety of sources. That will never change. What has changed is the vehicle by which the prices are checked. Previously, a time-consuming process of manually preparing RFQs, with a laborious review and comparison cycle was the norm. With the Internet, tools are available to easily prepare an RFQ, select the providers to whom it is submitted, and easily analyze the results. What used to be a horrifyingly complex and at times inexact science is now greatly simplified and more accurate.
The most important factor of all is quality. The shipper and carrier communities are more sophisticated than ever before. Because logistics has received more status within the supply chain, more attention is now paid to the speed and accuracy of pickups and deliveries. Thus, while price is still an important factor, quality remains the top reason why companies choose and maintain a relationship with another company. One of our vendors has a sign in their office that sums it up, “Quality is remembered long after price is forgotten.” Always check that the carriers being used by your provider are top quality.
To summarize, I would also like to think that the “old-fashioned” qualities of personal service, attention to detail and single-minded dedication to the task ahead will