NASHVILLE — The score so far: Consistency and predictability are better than faster speed. Associations work well with each other, but there’s room for improvement. Electronic air waybills (e-AWBs) are worth the trouble it takes to switch over from paper. And forwarders are actually the segment that’s getting the most out of e-AWBs at the expense of carriers. Such are the unofficial results of the audience (a carrier-friendly one, apparently) poll taken just before the “Enhancing the Customer Experience” panel discussion on Monday.
Once the electronic clickers were put down, session moderator Brandon Fried, executive director of the Airforwarders Association, kicked things off with a discussion about the speed vs. reliability issue. While there was general consensus that it’s better to be predictable that fast, panelist Angel Ramirez, vice president of United Cargo’s Global Operations, said that there’s always room for process improvement in terms of speed, although 24or 48 hours may be asking too much.
Thomas Puglisi, vice president of airfreight operations at Kuehne + Nagel, also questioned whether everyone is using the same metrics. “It all depends on what the demand drivers are,” he said. “Your answer is always going to be different depending on who the customer is.”
While agreeing with the importance of consistency, Ray Jetha, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Consolidated Aviation Services, said that it’s important to always streamline your processes and to have a system in place. “Our export process used to have 38 steps,” he said. “Be we were able to reduce it to 16.”
Using last year’s congestion at Chicago O’Hare as an example, Fried asked about the panel’s experience with reducing recovery times. Greg Weigel, vice president, global operations, for AIT Worldwide Logistics, Inc., said that after adopting a stringent metrics program, they had seen “a big improvement in recovery times,” and that “handlers are getting better at metrics and accountability.”
On the question of the use of technology to solve problems, no one said there was a “silver bullet” that could do it all, but that there might be one someday. “In the world we’re migrating towards, yes, it might happen,” Ramirez said. “If we all measure things the same way, we can only improve. The challenge is, can we ever get to that one common language?”
He was also quick to add that, while technology has a lot of value and can create efficiencies, “the essence is process. If you don’t have that strong process behind you, no technology is going to help you.”
Finally, regarding training of employees, AIT’s Weigel said it’s important to make sure they understand the company culture and way of doing business.
“Twenty years ago, the idea of customer service was very different that it is today,” said K+N’s Puglisi. “It’s a matter of teaching them perspective. Show them what their driver does – not just the basics, like phone and email. They have to understand who the driver is on the other end of the line.”
Ramirez said United Cargo “evolved, and went through a process,” looking at training “from a cost reduction approach.” He said he “spent quite a bit of time working side by side” with customer sales agents. “We needed them to represent us,” he added. “There’s the reliable way, but is there a better way, too?”