ORLANDO — A year may not seem like much, but for Delta Cargo’s president, Gareth Joyce, the preceding 12 months have been an epic journey that led to a promising turnaround for the cargo department that had been stuck in the doldrums for years.
From the moment Joyce began, it has been a learning experience for the former Mercedes-Benz Canada executive who traded his wheels for wings last May. “The first thing you notice about the airline industry, from somebody coming from outside, is just how complex the logistics system is,” he said, during a one-on-one interview with Air Cargo World yesterday at the CNS Partnership conference.
For Joyce, however, the learning phase had to be brief if he was going to reverse the fortunes of a carrier with cargo revenues in steady decline for the last three years; in Q4 of 2015 alone, Delta Cargo had last of fifth of its cargo business, sparking rumors that it might disappear altogether.
Such talk is lessening now, as Joyce has presided over tidy turnaround at Delta Cargo, beginning with a modest 0.5 percent rise in year-over-year cargo revenue in Q4 2016 and continuing into Q1 2017, with a 12 percent year-over-year growth in March. “Our vision was to delivery to highest on-time performance in the industry, coupled with a very high affinity for customer connectivity,” Joyce said.
“One of the things I learned was, people tend to be a little transactional about [cargo], but it’s not,” he added. “It is transactional on a day-to-day basis, but so much of our ability to win customers’ confidence is dependent upon how far we will go to show the right commitment to our promise.”
Establishing a policy of “true customer empathy,” the native South African focused in customer service during his first year on the job, establishing a 24-7 call center. He also enacted a proactive notification system through Delta’s call center. “If we see interruptions in service coming – for example a weather-related event or a maintenance event – we’re able to push notifications to our customers early, informing them of their change and informing them what the rebooking plan is.”
Joyce agrees that the recent reversal of cargo losses is a sign that his policies are “a sign of the wave bottoming out” and an initial return to growth. “All the indicators are that we’ve turned that corner and we’re starting to move northeast in our metrics – and we’re hearing that from our customers directly.”