Demonstration of Automated Freight Quotes

Overcoming the Challenges of Manual Quotation Management for Freight Forwarders

Freight forwarding is a complex and dynamic industry that requires efficient management of numerous tasks and processes. One of the most important tasks is managing quotes based on a large number of requests. This leads to a large number of additional tasks such as freight price calculations, discounts, approvals, and all other ones related to submitting a quote in a professional manner. Improving, automating, and digitizing these quotation management tasks is an absolutely necessary measure in today’s competitive landscape.

A manual quotation process is a challenging and time-consuming approach that can significantly affect your productivity and profitability. The manual process involves collecting information from different sources, analyzing it, elaborating on it, and creating quotes for different formats and channels manually. This old-school process leads to errors, delays, and increased costs.

In this blog post, we will discuss the challenges faced by freight forwarders in the manual quotation management process and provide some effective ways to overcome these challenges. We will also highlight the benefits of automating the freight quotation management process and how it can help freight forwarding companies streamline their sales operations, improve workflow accuracy, and enhance customer satisfaction.

The problem with the Manual Quotation Management

Before we get to the solution, let’s address the problems you’re going to face with manual quotations:

Inefficient and time-consuming manual processes

The main problem with a manual quotation is that it uses Emails, Excel, Word, and other tools that are not thought to support a professional pricing and quotation process. The data is saved somewhere in the wrong format and can’t be used properly for maintenance, queries, and analysis. The output of these tools is not made to help visualize and present freight quotation data as customers would expect.

Corporate Design and Branding

One common challenge in many logistics businesses is the lack of consistency in branding and corporate design across different business units or locations. Often, each location may be using a different format for their quotations, leading to inconsistency and a lack of corporate identity for customers.

Cross- and Up-Selling

Many transportation businesses miss out on opportunities to offer additional services, such as insurance or early delivery, due to the limitations of their approach. Some team members may offer these services, while others do not, leading to an inconsistent process for lead and opportunity generation.

Terms and Conditions

Another issue is inconsistency in managing all legal aspects of the quoting process. Some teams may attach terms and conditions to their quotes, while others do not. Additionally, it can be difficult to track which quote has been accepted, along with the associated rates and agreements.

Pricing Intelligence

The inability to work on pricing intelligence aspects such as the comparison of different freight rates and charges, and their win and loss rationals, based on the different industries, commodities, routes, and volumes jeopardize the competitiveness of any business. Losing big opportunities due to wrong rates and freight carrier-route choice is one of the many consequences of such inability.

Freight Pricing and Quotation Speed

Companies want to grow. But when upscaling the business with hundreds of new leads and related quotation requests, the manual pricing and quotation process becomes a hindrance. This can lead to delays and inefficiencies, which can be a disadvantage when customers are requesting quotes from several freight forwarders. The forwarder who responds faster with a good price and the right service level is more likely to win the business.

Risks of Errors and Inaccuracies

Manual data entry is the number one cause of common mistakes in freight quotations. Also here, the efficiency and time factor is a significant challenge – especially when multiple parties are involved. Due to the turnaround rate of volatile markets, freight forwarders have to handle a huge number of quotations in short periods. This increases the risk of errors.

Furthermore, when the number of quotations is large and not transparent, the burden of creating and maintaining accurate invoicing increases significantly. Statistics say that around 15-16% of invoices that are disconnected from valid sales quotations contain some sort of mistake. 

To overcome these challenges, businesses can implement digital solutions for the quotation and the related quote-to-order and quote-to-invoice process. Digital processes and data sharing via APIs can help to increase productivity, reduce errors and delays, and as such improve the quality of the customer experience. By streamlining the quotation process with digital tools and proper API integration, businesses can improve their speed, accuracy, and efficiency, making it easier to compete with other businesses and improve customer satisfaction.

Lack of visibility, forecasting, and analysis

The manual quotation process makes it harder to create a reliable sales forecast and link this to shipment history. Understanding trends of quoted prices and shipment requirements at the route level will help companies improve their real-time decisions. This lack of data and insights is challenging when it comes to meeting customer price and service expectations and can cause lower profits.

How Automated Quotation Management Works

When it comes to freight quotation management, a lot of process steps and activities can be improved and automated. Steps such as quotation request, customer data collection,  internal pricing request, final pricing and discounting, pricing revisions, approvals as well as creating modern and appealing quotation templates, content elements, and finally an efficient and effective quotation follow-up, can be easily assessed, improved, and automated. 

Reducing and automating the tasks for gathering support and data such as rates, charges, and calculated and approved pricing is a real benefit for your company and business. Automated and digital forms allow for easy filling or pre-filling, for easy approvals and e-signing, making the whole process faster and error-free.

For customers, your quotation response matters very much. Create digital quotation forms that can be supported by different communication channels such as email, mobile, and portals. Digital quotation forms are one of the key instruments for powerful digital marketing.

You can also automate your email follow-ups to increase connectivity and communication. The quotations can be provided via a digital interaction portal to allow customers to experience better access and provide feedback, start a dialog with your inside sales online and provide their ongoing sentiment (e.g. with a 5 star rating).

All this combined with professional people will help freight forwards build the right balance between human and digital interactions. The customers will decide what is better for them and being able to manage these twofold options will put your business ahead of the competition.

Benefits of Digitalizing the Quotation Management process

The moment you change to a digital quotation and pricing process you will increase your efficiency and productivity high. Below are the most important reasons.

  1.  A digital quotation process that was assessed, improved, and automated will reduce the number of preparation, execution, follow-up, and closing tasks. The tool will guide your team in choosing route and cargo details, rates and charges, and additional services, and provide the right details for notes, contract terms but also any additional sales and marketing content.

  2. An automated quotation process will allow you for a far greater number of quotes to be sent by your employees. Simple quotes can be fully automated saving time on requests that have weak chances of winning success. Your commercial team can then focus on the right quotation requests and increase your success rate on opportunities that matter.

  3.  Quotation follow-up becomes easier by sending quotations in digital formats which allows for instant responses online. The responses are immediately fed to the application and reduced the work of your commercial team.

  4.  All your quotations regardless of the product will be stored and available centrally allowing immediate access at all times to any stakeholder including operations, customer service, and accounting. 

  5.  A digital and automated quotation process will reduce your overall commercial and operating costs as it reduces the need for support activities in terms of people and time. Costs related to errors, handover to operations and accounting can be reduced to a minimum.

  6.  Quotation maintenance will be made easy for one or thousands of quotations. Any change to pricing, regardless of rates, charges, or tariff tables, can be defined and executed in seconds instead of days. Changes to existing quotations can be sent to customers by just clicking on a button. Changes are then easier to track based on revision dates and reasons. The comparison of prices over time will be possible in the easiest manner possible. 
The Difference Between Automated and Manual Freight Quotation Management

Implementing an Automated and Digital Quotation Management

The easiest way to establish an automated quotations process, that is fully digital but also supports human interactions and communication, is to use a powerful Configure, Price, and Quote (CPG) software. Networcx provides a unique freight quote and tender management module that was made for logistics companies. It has ready-made quotation templates for air, road, ocean freight, logistics, rail, and other specific logistics solutions. The CPQ module supports other critical processes related to freight rate management, pricing, approvals as well as reporting, and analysis. Here are a few tips to help you get started:
    1.  Identify your requirements: Before starting with CPQ, it’s essential to identify your quotation requirements in terms of data, process steps, forms, and desired customer interactions. Consider factors such as the size of your sales team, the complexity of your products and pricing, and the volume of quotes you generate.

 

    1.  Plan for integration: To maximize the benefits of your CPQ, it’s essential to integrate it with your other business systems, such as your booking/order and accounting system.
    1.  Coordinate with sales team: sales is responsible for creating sales collateral such as brochures, datasheets, and other sales materials. A CPQ application can include these materials in the quote process, enhancing the customer experience and increasing the chances of winning the business. 
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  1.  Coordinate with product teams: One of the critical inputs to a CPQ application is product information, including features, options, and pricing. Product teams are responsible for creating this product information, and they often maintain a product database. A CPQ application can integrate with this database to ensure that the product information is up-to-date and accurate. The product team can also help configure the product offerings in the CPQ application and ensure that the pricing is competitive and in line with the market.

Final Words

An automated quoting process is not only a necessity, but it is also a must requirement if you want improved management and to tackle competition. With everything in clear perspective, you just can’t lose with automated quoting for your freight forwarding company. The best thing is you can easily implement automated quoting with Networcx. Networcx is actually a comprehensive system to digitalize your sales, marketing, and service operations. While many CRM software becomes costly for the business in the long run, It provides a sustainable pricing concept that will help you achieve a higher ROI. Networcx offers a robust CRM for freight forwarding and logistics. It’s just the tip of the iceberg though. With the all-in-one plan, you’ll get access to all the modules and features you need to efficiently manage your customer touchpoints and commercial activities in one place.

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