Vendor customization and electronic data integration were the top vendor and software factors fleet managers consider when buying software, according to a survey conducted by Carrier Logistics Inc.
Like other vendors, the New-York-based software provider routinely surveys customers and potential customers. CLI’s recent survey of 200 trucking executives asked them to rate various factors they consider when considering vendors and software.
The top factor in selecting a vendor to work with was the vendor’s ability to customize software to a company’s specific needs. Close behind was the ability to easily reach engineers when questions or problems arise.
These findings are somewhat different than they were 10 years ago, says Gary Snyder, manager of business development, CLI. Customers stressing the importance of vendor customization “really surprised us,” he said. Snyder said company officials had expected today’s customers to be more interested in a “plug and play” option.
The fact that so many listed availability of support as a top consideration was also a surprise, says Ken Weinberg, vice president and co-founder CLI. “I thought that was significant. We thought some of the other items would be more important than support.”
For instance, having access to the software’s source code did not score high. “I think they are still looking for vendors to understand their needs,” as opposed to customizing the software in-house.
Weinberg says the results suggest that carriers are not evaluating software as much on functionality. “They assume that’s there.”
As for the software itself, survey respondents listed EDI and other electronic integration capabilities as the number one factor when considering a product.
Return on investment ranked a close second, with overall cost ranked third. Ease of integration with legacy products and third-party applications and the capability for real-time shipment tracking/alerting rounded out the top five concerns.
Snyder was surprised that the ability for the software to run on multiple platforms — which would track the current mobility trend — wasn’t ranked higher. “But people are more concerned with other factors,” he says. “All of the IT questions: whether or not it’s in the cloud, or if it’s Windows-based, did not come up as high.” What the results show, he says, is that “our job is to give [customers] support. Even if they are happy, it doesn’t mean we don’t continue working with them.”
The importance of vendor customization also underscores the trend toward less in-house IT programming and customization. Fleets still want to be able to customize software to their needs, but want their vendors to do the work rather than bringing that work in-house.
The results, Weinberg says, “support the fact that every carrier is the same, but different. We have to acknowledge that.”
That means making the changes customers want and need. On the other hand, not all customization is cost-effective, he pointed out. “We have to temper some of the requests that don’t improve things, but just increase costs.”
Snyder believes the survey underscored the importance of vendors and carriers understanding what the system will be like up front.