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
“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
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.”
“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.”
“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
“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.”
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
“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.”
“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
“So for example if (god forbid) a
shipment goes missing, American Cargo has a CRM system installed that
launches a search within two hours.”
“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.”
“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
“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.
“I like cargo,” Eric declares.
“It is complicated, but I thrive on
“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
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.
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.”