The luxury of being a boutique airline

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Having previously worked on the shipper side, Andres Perez has been able to bring in other perspectives to the air cargo industry.

Speaking to Air Cargo Week at air cargo Europe, Swiss WorldCargo’s senior director – head of business development and customer experience previously worked at Estee Lauder and Swarovski, working along the supply chain, which was why Ashwin Bhat head of cargo at Swiss WorldCargo wanted Perez to join the business.

Perez says: “I had a lot of transportation responsibility from procurement to the last mile, working in all the fields along the supply chain.”

In his shipper role, Perez did deal with Swiss WorldCargo via the forwarder. His dealings were not intended to cut out the forwarder but understand the airline’s capabilities for his role in global transportation for travel retail.

Perez admits he was attracted to the idea of working for an airline because he likes flying and is interested in the technical side of aviation.

Being chained to an office desk meant Perez wanted to escape and have a connection to where the action was happening.

“This is why I wanted to work in the supply chain and not banks or anything else because I want to see where the action happens and where things move. This is what I believe is the most fantastic thing of the cargo industry,” Perez says.

The airline sector was also somewhere he had not been involved in. He says: “I was quite sure I could bring an added value into a closed industry. For me the air cargo industry is still quite a closed industry with the connection between the forwarder and the airlines and on both sides, there are a lot of people who worked their lives in the industry.”

Perez wanted to bring a different perspective, saying: “I wanted to adapt our services to the needs of the one who requires transportation, and that’s not the forwarder, that’s the shipper or the one who ordered stuff. In the airline industry you always talk about the shipper but often it is the receiver who pays for transportation and therefore takes the decision.”

Question everything

He says his instinct was to question what the airline was doing, so before doing things differently, Perez had to learn why they were being done in certain ways.

Perez comments: “Even though air cargo is the quickest form of transportation, in the digital field the industry is quite a slow mover so I had to learn that it takes time.”

Swiss WorldCargo is actively pushing electronic air waybills and is working on capabilities such as APIs, web services and cargoXML to move away from the standard cargo messages.

He says: “Without having the foundations, you cannot just quickly transform into the digital world. So we look at what we call the digital compass where we have three parts. What we want to achieve is the digital customer experience but for that you need the technical capabilities, that’s the second part and without adapting your processes the other two don’t work.”

Swiss WorldCargo tries to ensure it embraces new technologies to the benefit of the customer, but Perez says it must provide an added value.

He says: “As a small organisation, we’re small and lean. Everybody and every investment must be productive. We don’t have many capabilities of teams that can try to build up something that we don’t know what the added value will be. We have to focus on technologies where we see an added value.”

Quality and customer centricity

Perez is confident about the future of Swiss WorldCargo, saying the two points that make the airline different are quality and customer centricity.

He believes that the airline needs to digitalise the customer experience. Swiss WorldCargo is working on projects alongside Lufthansa Cargo because it is easier to make investments within a larger group rather than doing it as a smaller player.

Swiss WorldCargo is working on a new customer relationship management system, giving the same capabilities but different instances between the two airlines.

Perez says: “This will enable our sales people to better understand the customers and to better interlink different stations that have the same customers to enable much better digital information in customer talks. We still keep the customer closeness but we can work with real-time data not only on revenue and development but also on what went well and what went wrong, the whole history of the customer.”

As a smaller airline, Perez believes this makes it easier to be closer to the customer and more agile adapting to their needs.

He says: “You need to have some USPs because without full-freighters we can’t compete with the big consolidation quantities that are being shipped around. We also have it easier with small teams on our out stations where everybody knows what jobs the other people do.”

Not only do the staff know how to do each other’s jobs, Swiss WorldCargo wants to offer a personalised service.

Perez says: “We believe that if something happens, we should contact our customers personally and offer a solution instead of just having an automated email that ends with we’re sorry for any inconvenience.”

Perez says Swiss WorldCargo wants the customer to believe the airline is there for them. Part of digitalisation means having automated messages but when dealing with difficulties, Swiss WorldCargo wants to ensure there is a personal contact.

He says this is what makes Swiss different. Perez says Swiss WorldCargo not only works with small and mid-sized forwarders but also the big global players who use the airline for specific needs.

Perez says: “One of the big ones always calls us his little boutique airline and that’s what I like to be.”