“Keep your customer satisfied,” is AF-KL Cargo’s long standing motto. However, it seems that maybe many small and medium-sized forwarding agents must have overheard this slogan. To get them on board, the freight carrier came up with WHAT COUNTS last December, a new service proposition tailored to the different needs of SMEs. First market reactions are highly encouraging, claims VP Europe, Gertjan Roelands in a one-one with CargoForwarder Global.
Due to the positive feedback from customers based in the Netherlands that served as a test market for WHAT COUNTS, the product will be rolled out worldwide by the end of Q1, announces Mr.
Not easy to reconcile
But who are these SMEs? This is almost a million euro question, and up to now not easily answered by the AF-KL sales and marketing people despite their wealth of experience. A truly challenging task, because it is an extremely large and diversified group, spanning from regional to international actors, consisting of all-rounders, specialists, niche players or agents focusing on a single product only. In a nutshell: small and medium forwarding agents are not easy to reconcile, have very specific needs and act in different markets.
According to AF-KL Cargo data, SME’s account for an approximate share of 85 percent (!!) of all customers. In the past, the carrier’s sales people have approached them selectively through their traditional channels of account management, whereas now they are pro-actively contacted via the new digital platform “myCargo.” The new tool informs them about relevant offers based on the individual agent’s level of specialization, products shipped and main trade lanes on which they mostly move their goods on. This is complemented by mileage bonus points forwarders are awarded for booking shipments, provided they have become members of the carrier’s ‘BlueBiz’ loyalty program. The product is rounded off by dedicated telephone support given by the service department. “This pro-active information we provide is not only about lowest rates but also about available capacity on certain routes that might be of interest for a number of our customers,” explains Gertjan. He adds to this that this is done selectively on a balanced rate to avoid bothering clients by flooding them with emails or constantly calling them.
Their reactions seem to be encouraging. “We see the appreciation for our product tailored to SMEs going constantly up,” he says.
He concedes that the mileage program is an additional argument, supporting the appreciation of WHAT COUNTS.
The question is why AF-KL Cargo came up with their SME designed product only now, and how come this hasn’t happened already years ago. Gertjan’s simple and convincing answer: “Thanks to our platform myCargo we only now have the appropriate digital means for transmitting and evaluating big data volumes, providing us with in-depth information on many SMEs and their particular needs.”
AF-KL Cargo has developed WHAT COUNTS from an agile perspective. It is a learning organism, constantly driven and fine-tuned by customer needs. Enhancements are made every three months, with the booking of pharma products via ‘myCargo’ standing next on the agenda.
By accessing the portal, customers can manage their booking autonomously. An integrated and very transparent approach that led to a higher satisfaction of AF-KL Cargo’s clients, claims manager Roelands and “an increase of our market share in this specific customer segment.”
BlueBiz complements ‘myCargo’
Having said this, he emphasizes that telephone or email are not old school yet: These traditional channels “are always backing up our online propositions.” The digital approach combined with human interaction creates an appropriate framework for learning more about the SME’s needs and upping the cargo volumes originating from this group.
Next to WHAT COUNTS, AF-KL Cargo now also offers a new service called Shipping Blue, a worldwide package delivery service, launched last December, and developed for passenger customers. All BlueBiz mileage members are now able to ship packages of up to 30 kilograms to any destination worldwide at “a highly competitive price,” emphasizes the carrier. It’s a door-door service with guaranteed delivery within three to five working days. For each shipment, customers will receive Blue Credits. These bonus miles they can exchange when booking a ticket.