March 2011 | Sponsored | Knowledge Base

Global Air Service That Inspires Customer Confidence

Tags: Air Cargo

When you buy global air transportation services, what you are really buying is confidence. That’s because when you send freight by air— and when your customer is anxiously waiting for that shipment to meet production schedules or avoid penalties— no one can afford uncertainty. The freight has to be there on time, period, no matter how many languages, customs requirements, and currencies are involved along the way.

This complexity, combined with the air carriers’ specialization in specific lanes and the inability of carriers to work directly with shippers, makes global air a very demanding transportation service. When there is virtually no room for error, choosing the right freight forwarder— one with strong account management skills, carrier relationships, and space agreements— can greatly boost the success of your global air program.

But how can you be sure that your global air service provider is up to the challenge?

The good news is, there are questions you can ask to narrow the field to only the most qualified global air service companies. Ask:

1. How does the provider know they can provide consistent execution? Providing consistent service depends on the strength of the freight forwarder’s relationships with carriers in multiple modes and their capabilities in specific countries. Look for providers that have already secured block space agreements (BSA) or committed purchase agreements (CPA). Also, the greater the provider’s connection to each leg of the transit— picking up at origin, transporting the shipment airport to airport, handling customs, and making the delivery— the greater degree of success you will have. Other indicators of consistent execution include years of experience handling challenging shipments and the ability to track shipments in transit, resolve problems quickly and efficiently, and confirm final delivery.

2. What options are available? The urgency of shipping by air and delivering on time requires fast, smart decisions, because once the shipment is in motion, it’s difficult to change direction. It’s crucial to know whether your supply chain really needs next flight out, second day, third day, or other air service, and to understand the cost differentials associated with those services. Making sure the shipment is on the right carrier and mode from the beginning provides the best chance of success. Identify providers that not only provide multiple shipping and pricing options, but also help you determine the best plan of action for each shipment. Asking about options will reveal the strength of the provider’s network of resources and how readily they can provide good alternatives that won’t compromise service.

3. How will the provider communicate with you and your customer? Communication problems can cause service disruptions as freight is crossing borders. Your provider should have EDI connectivity with carriers for transit information. They should offer global visibility and user-friendly technology. And they should be able to explain how their systems and technology make it easier for all parties to communicate about all the details of your shipments so that everyone understands the progress of the freight.

4. Does the provider offer account management? If you have problems with a shipment, the last thing you want is to be shunted to a customer service representative without the skills or training to help you. Expect a good provider to tell you how they recommend problem-solving alternatives that can keep the freight moving and meet the delivery deadlines. Listen for evidence that they also offer other services to support problem resolution, such as rescue shipments, claims management, tracking and tracing, and post-delivery follow-up.

5. Where is the provider located, and who runs their global air shipment operations? At times, agents or subcontractors can satisfactorily handle the various legs of the air shipping process. But when planes are grounded by security issues, or shipments are delayed and must be moved from plane to ground to keep the freight moving, there’s no substitute for having someone you know physically present who can put their hands on the freight and handle any necessary paperwork. Choose a provider that has offices and employees on the ground at major ports and airports around the world to mitigate any potential issues on your behalf.

6. In addition to global air service, what customs services does the provider offer? If you can obtain both the air services and customs clearance for your shipments through the same provider, you’ll have fewer people to keep track of and more cost-effective, streamlined shipments.

It pays to do the due diligence on your global air service provider because ultimately, no matter where your freight is headed, it is you, not the provider, who must answer to the customer for a late delivery. That’s why your choice of a provider is so crucial to your business if you ship around the world. By choosing the right provider, both you and your customer can trust that time-sensitive inventory will arrive on schedule, as promised.