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   Vol. 16 No. 67
Tuesday August 22, 2017

The Fixer at American Airlines Cargo
Rick Elieson, Jennifer Stelling and Eric Mathieu

Eric Mathieu

     In today’s world of instant global communication, everybody has the ability to be a reporter. The modern world has offered up customer experiences for public consumption, turning the management of expectations into a delicate balancing act.
     As American Airlines Cargo Director of Customer Experience, Eric Mathieu is a key force in walking that tightrope and securing the emerging air cargo fortunes at the world’s largest airline.

Accentuate The Positive

      “If you make a mistake,” Eric says with a slight, pleasing French accent, “you must admit what happened, provide your customer with the exact details of the fix, and prove it.”
     It’s a simple sensibility, says Eric.
     “Customer service is all about keeping it simple. And pleasant.
     “I came over to cargo from the USAir side, having joined the airline at Paris in 1991 out of the tour business, where I worked developing the North American market.”

Challenge At American

      “Sales, operations and customer service were the set up when I joined American Cargo, and all three were involved in handling customer concerns.
     “But that meant up to 19 people might get involved at one level or another to handle a single call before the question or complaint or even compliment was routed to the people that could action a response.”

Spray & Pray

      “I call that approach ‘spray and pray,’ so when Jim Butler brought me on, my first action was to move headfirst into the task of centralizing the process. That action has continued through both the American and US Airways (note: at the time of AA US Merger, USAir was US Airways) combining of services.
     “Today at AA Cargo we offer the shipper a contact point in customer service that is an interdependent advocate.
     “I can tell you from my vantage point: air cargo is complicated.
     “Many moons need to be aligned for success.
     “The idea for me is to keep things simple, human, and tell the truth.
     “At American Cargo when you write or talk to us, we endeavor to make the experience personal for each customer by building interpersonal relationships.
     “Often in the cargo business, customers are wary of someone other than their salesman (meaning the airline salesman) getting involved when there are questions or issues.
     “So we put our customer relations team together with our sales team and made a series of joint customer calls, putting a face on both services and humanizing the process.
     “Today at American Cargo our customers can look forward, as mentioned earlier, to a total interpersonal experience.”

Tracking and the Proactive Factor

      “Throughout the shipping process, we aim at keeping the human factor important, we also continue to develop and introduce modern self-service tools for our customers. Like our new online tracking tool.
     “Once upon a time,” Eric notes, “most incoming calls were from customers looking for an update about their shipment journey.
     “Today, three years later, our centralized approach and tracking tools has lowered that number significantly we expect that will continue to diminish as we continue to enhance our online tracking tools.
     “We also believe in being proactive. For example, if we notice that a shipment will experience a missed connection, we proactively rebook it on the next available flight and inform the customer before we get the call.”

Passengers & Cargo

     “I consider my time in the passenger division very valuable in preparing for air cargo.
     “Today when you look at it, one experience is above and the other below the wing.
     “But both require immediate attention when things become an issue, and failure is not option.
     “Service and sales is like a marriage where both parties really have to make an all-out effort to work together.
     “For our part, cargo service enhancements have been approached in terms of what is right in front of us.
     “That can be viewed as the low hanging fruit.
     “So for example if (god forbid) a shipment goes missing, American Cargo has a CRM system installed that launches a search within two hours.”

Measuring Success

     “Let’s face it, you cannot do better than also internally measuring performance data because as we review our aggregated monthly reports, we discover patterns.
     “So if Miami passenger loads are robust and that impacts cargo we can make adjustments on how we conduct our business.”

All About E-Freight

      “No doubt in 2017 and moving forward American Airlines cargo is about growing both its international and domestic footprint to serve many new destinations, and that requires dealing with different forms and systems in air cargo.
     “A year ago (June 2016) AA was 34 percent E-awb.
     “Then during December 2016 that number rose to 62 percent.
     “By the end of this year we expect E-awb to land at 75 percent.
     “The ongoing challenge is bringing on our small freight forwarder customer, but in all cases we will expand and enhance our offering to make it easy to electronically do business with AA Cargo,” says Eric.

Transformational Eric

     “I like cargo,” Eric declares.
     “It is complicated, but I thrive on challenges.
     “I like it because I can see the impact of what I do and the result a great air cargo service can have on peoples lives.”
     Eric is 54 years old.
     When he was offered the job, he accepted the post on the condition that he could work in Dallas, where he is based today, but continue to live in Miami, Florida, which he described as his favorite city in the world.
     “I work in Dallas but live in Miami because three years ago my partner Andi and I fostered a son, Alex, who was four months old.
     “My greatest joy has been to see this beautiful child grow into this world.”
     Eric says for relaxation he loves Mediterranean cuisine, running, and skiing.
     “You know I was born and raised in Lyon, where good food and skiing are a way of life,” he confides.

The Fixer Looks Ahead

     As he continues his yeoman work at American, Eric Mathieu is very much “The Fixer” in the great challenge of perfecting customer relations.
     “We want to be like [Apple’s] Siri, always having an answer,” says Eric Mathieu.
     “Making it easy to do business with us and being pleasant whilst lessening the administrative burden rings true to us.”

Publisher-Geoffrey Arend • Managing Editor-Flossie Arend •
Film Editor-Ralph Arend • Special Assignments-Sabiha Arend, Emily Arend • Advertising Sales-Judy Miller

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