Although momentum is building to automate and digitize freight processes, the logistics and forwarding industry’s transition to digital tools and automation has been relatively slow, lagging behind other sectors. The World Economic Forum has called this lag "potentially catastrophic.”
The impact of this delay in freight tech adoption has historically been viewed through the eyes of the customer: how digitalization impacts and will benefit shipper customers’ supply chain performance, competitive advantage, and business success. But we’re finding that the industry has reached a critical point, where this technology lag will have a negative impact on another important group, prospective employees. Logistics and forwarding businesses have stated that they’re feeling the pressure to address the technology needs and experiences of future hires, especially as they face a labor market with a shortage of workers.
The pandemic caused a major disruption to the labor force. Once called the Great Resignation, it is now being called the Great Reevaluation as many people are now seeking employment in other industry segments and job positions. More than 90% of the respondents to a survey conducted by Indeed, the employment website for job listings, said the pandemic "made them feel life is too short to stay in a job they weren't passionate about." In this environment, many businesses are having difficulty finding workers to fill open positions.
Nearly 60% of the companies say they're seeing higher employee turnover this year, and only 23% believe they have the digital skills to meet future goals.
Attracting top talent to the logistics and forwarding industry is now a keen focus of today’s industry leaders who can no longer ignore the need to upgrade their legacy systems and automate processes that have traditionally been handled via spreadsheets, emails, and phone calls.
Baby boomers and older millennials have, for the most part, been in the workplace since long before the advent of modern graphical user interfaces, so many have just come to accept that business software doesn’t need to provide a great user experience — it just needs to get the job done.
Younger digital natives, however, expect a higher quality, modern UX from every technology they interact with, and that includes their place of employment. Companies are finding the generations that grew up experiencing seamless, transparent, and easy-to-use software in a connected, always-on digital world have high expectations for digital experiences. They want the same digital experience they have in their personal lives in their work environment. These groups are the millennials, ages 26-41, who make up a large percentage of the current workforce, and Gen Zers, ages 10-25, who are just entering today’s workplaces.
In short, the grace period for ERP, TMS, accounting, and other B2B software to modernize the user experience has elapsed. As it becomes increasingly apparent that technology is a key driver of customer satisfaction and positive customer experience, the need for a well-designed, modern UX (user experience) is more apparent than ever to forward-thinking logistics and forwarding businesses. Now, these companies must also take the employee experience into account when considering their digital tools and technology infrastructure.
UX has evolved with a two-pronged goal, a great customer experience and employee experience.
Logitech Plays UX Catch-Up
Modern UX should work intuitively and have easy-to-use functionality and be thoughtfully designed with a human-centered approach. All-in-all, it should offer a high-value, desirable experience.
When we think about a great UX, Amazon immediately comes to mind. Baby boomers and Gen Xers rank it No. 1 for its UX, and millennials and Gen Zers rank it No. 2 after Facebook and YouTube respectively. Amazon’s easy-to-use state-of-the-art search function appeals to all ages and its personalization and usability are reliable and rewarding providing a great customer experience.
In addition to a well-designed user interface, UX encompasses the entire user experience, so it’s more important than ever to design systems that work harmoniously together, eliminating monotonous keypunching and freeing users’ time to work on more fulfilling, strategic tasks.
And, what makes digital transformation even more daunting for logistics businesses is the level of innovation and convenience people are getting used to today. Technological innovations such as smart homes, domestic robots, self-driving cars, and virtual assistants, to name just a few. The potential is huge, and so are user expectations.
A Tool for Growth
In recent years, we’ve seen so many new tech start-ups fueled by mega-investments come into the market-leading with slick UXs and the promise that their innovative technology would transform the way the forwarding and logistics industry works. But, as reported, many of these digital start-ups needed more of what longstanding logistics providers and forwarders have, a large client base, deep industry knowledge, and global network of partners and agents. The kind of transformative change that was promised has been slow to come. During this time, the well-established logistics firms and forwarders have been working to accelerate their digital transformation to strengthen their competitive position and deliver a great customer experience.
At the end of the day, a fantastic user experience is not about bells and whistles. Effective UX design is an enabler, opening the door to important logistics technology capabilities like streamlined shipment processes, better visibility, and improved customer service. The potential benefits of those capabilities, like reduced costs, higher customer retention, and faster growth, can only be unlocked if the software is used to its fullest. That’s where user experience makes all the difference. If the users can’t figure out how to use a feature or find it too tedious, it serves no purpose.
The industry is at a critical point, it needs to continue advancing digital experience for customers, as well as focus on how to deliver a modern user experience for employees. A UX that’s easy-to-use, seamless, enjoyable, and rewarding, so prospective employees find logistics and freight management roles appealing as a career. Future software and freight tech systems that are so user-friendly and desirable that people genuinely love using them.
Kristjan Lillemets is vice president of product at Magaya.
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