Supply Chain Expertise and Technology Blog by TMC, a division of C.H. Robinson

Why You Should Invite Clients to the TMS Table

TMS Table

When implementing a transportation management system (TMS) a lot of time and effort goes into making sure that every party with an interest in the system is represented at the table. But there is one group that is easily overlooked even though they can play a key role in the success of the TMS: clients.

Briefing your clients on the new system’s capabilities and processes, and eliciting their feedback early on, can pay huge dividends when it comes to implementing the technology.

Here are five reasons why it is a good idea to bring clients into the loop before a TMS solution is installed.

1.     Uncover potential implementation and upgrade glitches. 

Clients may have requirements or practices that could seriously delay an implementation if they are not taken into account before the team starts its work. For example, halfway through the upgrade process it transpires that a top client cannot adhere to consolidation efforts set up during implementation.  Or a client wants an electronic integration (EDI) link to their system.  In both scenarios the implementation team may need to pause and backtrack to accommodate the connection.

2.     An opportunity to identify improvements

TMS implementations bring people together – in some cases for the first time. The discussions that take place can reveal needs that even senior managers were unaware of. We explore this bonus in our two-part series of posts Capturing the Hidden Value of TMS Solutions.

Just as your supply chain does not end when shipments leave the dock, the implementation team can’t take a truly holistic approach without this vital piece of the operations puzzle.

Similar benefits can accrue when meeting with clients to talk about your new TMS suite. During the discussions it emerges that the client places the bulk of their orders in a 16-hour period before shipment is due to take place, for instance. The practice has never been questioned, but has become a talking point because the rush of orders has a bearing on how the TMS will operate. A decision is taken to change the practice. In addition to smoothing the way for the TMS, the new procedure yields cost savings for both parties.

3.     Being proactive scores points.

Taking the time to meet with a client to explain the rationale behind your investment in a TMS cements the relationship and demonstrates your willingness to work with the company.

4.     Avoid surprises.

In contrast, if a client suddenly discovers that a new TMS system has been installed without prior warning, your stock in the relationship might go down. This is particularly the case when you have entered into agreements with  transportation service providers. An unfamiliar voice on the other end of a call about a shipment or receiving a call from a strange client service rep, are not the best introductions to the TMS.

5.     Complete the puzzle

Clients are an important component of any TMS solution. Just as your supply chain does not end when shipments leave the dock, the implementation team can’t take a truly holistic approach without this vital piece of the operations puzzle.

There are a number of ways to consult clients about your TMS. The most obvious is to set up pre-installation meetings to present the new system and explore operational possibilities or road blocks. Some implementation teams routinely give the shipper a questionnaire before the work gets underway, to garner information that is critical to the system’s success.  Perhaps you can share some of these questions with core clients. Your sales and account management teams are usually good sources of customer intelligence, and a brainstorming session with reps can be worthwhile.

Whichever method you choose, there are no downsides to including clients in TMS discussions and the upsides are substantial.