Steven Ellis joined IAG Cargo as an Operations Manager, where he learned the importance of time-sensitivity for urgent freight. In this interview, he talks to us about being the Critical team’s first hire, 24/7 customer service and last-minute must-fly cargo.
Can you tell us a bit about your background?
I first joined as an Operations Manager, and worked four years in that role. Two of those years were spent in Premia, IAG Cargo’s premium freight facility, where I learned how to work in a time-sensitive environment. When IAG Cargo launched its dedicated Critical team, which offers customer service to forwarders that require guaranteed capacity, I was the team’s first hire. Being involved since its inception gave me insight to different aspects of the role, and my focus now is to achieve a high level of operational performance and customer satisfaction.
Can you chart the success of Critical?
Critical’s success comes down to the dedication of the team – we’ve visited customers all over the world, made our booking system seamless, and introduced a team in Madrid and transformed the product into a 24/7 operation. We’ve seen new business off the back of these, specifically in the aerospace and pharmaceutical markets, and its grown greatly as a service.
What’s the secret to great customer service?
Firstly, the product performs impeccably. Our team offers a layer of protection to help prevent any potential booking or operational issues, and we monitor each shipment through every step. This means working closely with operational teams and ground handling agents across our network to ensure that shipments complete every expected milestone. Although we have a number of ways that we prioritise Critical shipments, our team leaves nothing to chance and communicates all movement with stakeholders.
We pride ourselves in offering personalised and transparent communication, tailoring the service to specific requirements if necessary. Critical customers require quick response times because of the time-sensitive nature of their bookings, so we ensure that they have complete visibility and peace of mind by making ourselves available around the clock.
What major shipments does Critical handle?
Aircraft parts, computer and mobile phone components, life-saving vaccines, ship spares and oil rig machinery. We also manage ad hoc requests, which can be anything from a musician’s set design to Formula E vehicle parts, and Christmas trees for cruise ships.
What challenges do you face day-to-day?
Operational implementation is one, and we work hard to ensure that we are on top of our capabilities and constraints so we are as informed as we can be about the shipment and its handling requirements. We always look to be one step ahead of our competitors, recognising gaps in the market.
What has been your most rewarding experience to date?
Critical saves the day for our customers every day. It’s often the more challenging shipments are the most rewarding, as with larger volumetric shipments such as large aircraft seats. In a number of cases, we have had to orchestrate and complete the build of 12 seats across six aircraft pallets, two hours before departure. Having different teams work together to achieve something seemingly impossible under such tight time constraints is a testament to the capability of the product. The feedback we receive from customers makes working in the Critical team even more rewarding.
Find out more about Critical.