Carriers can leverage technology and a customer-first corporate culture to deliver outstanding service, but that’s not always enough - the entire supply chain needs to be equally as focused on and capable of meeting customer expectations.In the air cargo industry, customer-centric service has to be a supply chain team effort. Getting something from Point A to Point B requires the vigilant management of multiple processes, each dependent on the other. One small point of failure often affects not only the job at hand, but ripples across the entire business ecosystem.
Here are four strategies that will help air cargo executives optimize the performance of their entire supply chain to surpass even their most demanding customers’ expectations.
1. Utilize Multiple Channels
From self-service and apps on their mobile device, to web sites, open messaging platforms, phone, and in-person conversations, customers want to utilize the channel that best meets their needs at any given time. Consequently, the experience needs to be seamless – the pertinent data needs to be pulled from across your entire supply chain and business lines, and made available to employees as well as customer-facing applications and services.
Here’s the bonus: When a unified system is in place, you can also leverage customer and supply chain data to create new and expanded revenue streams. As IATA President Tony Tyler said at the IATA World Cargo Symposium last month, “Perhaps the answer lies in industry data-sharing platforms… or possibly e-commerce will be the igniter of change. The industry certainly cannot afford to miss the opportunities that e-commerce is opening up. The delivery models keep evolving. We now have click and ship, click and deliver and click and collect solutions.” It’s not just a matter of choice - improving air cargo customer service is a necessity not only for remaining competitive, but for taking the industry to the next level.
2. Embrace Digitization
In the same speech at WCS, Tyler also noted that the air cargo industry’s “own embrace of digital processes moves slowly.” If you’d like to pick up the pace, choose a project that has multiple benefits. Digitization minimizes vulnerabilities across the supply chain while helping air cargo operators predict and control arrival times. When a digital conversation is enabled across the supply chain, you have the foundation for a customer-centric service.
Key actions and conversations should be digitized whenever possible to produce efficient, predictable, repeatable outcomes. Digitizing processes allows a business to fully leverage its existing capacities and capabilities, respond quickly, predict both opportunities and complications, and reduce the chances of introducing human error in the areas where it is most likely to creep in, such as manual data entry.
3. Take a Unified View
Your customers are only one part of a very big picture. Their needs have to be balanced with your entire supply chain’s capacities and their customer’s needs. To manage such a broad set of conditions, you need real-time insight into the entire demand ecosystem.
Thankfully the air cargo industry has, for the most part, moved past the idea of strict segmentation of data and processes based solely on business divisions. We all know that siloed data represents lost opportunities, since predictive business intelligence planning works best when it draws upon data from across the entire ecosystem. Segmented solutions make It much harder to extract maximum worth from data, as well as unnecessarily complicating business management of the supply chain. Silos also slow access to the information necessary to provide customer-centric services.
4. Leverage Data-Driven Decision Making
A customer-centric, connected supply chain provides a wealth of data that enables you to deliver real-time information and visibility to the customer. There are also numerous air cargo challenges that can be improved with predictive analytics, all of which are tied to very specific metrics. If you don’t have a specific outcome in mind, and a way to measure results, your project will not be as provably effective as it might have been.
Predictive analysis can, for example:
- Predict the optimum route with lowest handling costs
- Predict “risk” profiles for claims, security, and customs
- Predict workforce requirements
- Predict asset requirements
- Predict optimum load-ability
By predicting – and responding accordingly to – the above conditions, air cargo carriers can save on fuel, personnel, trucking, equipment depreciation, and maintenance. Additionally, it can fine tune interlining and GSA agreements based on profitability, bring new insight to the cost/performance trade-offs in bidirectional versus unidirectional networks, help airlines to avoid fines and penalties, reduce risk, and remediate any unavoidable problems more effectively.
When it comes to examining the ebb and flow of business demand, the driving force is simpler than it appears: When carriers take a customer-centric point of view, they bring the entire supply chain into alignment, and enable stakeholders to better meet all of their customers’ expectations.