We’re kicking off a new series of posts where we interview our innovative and forward-thinking customers about their company, current freight trends, and how digitization is impacting the business.
Our first post in the series is with Jason Fowler, the President of Air & Sea International. We discuss:
- How a culture of world-class service has been ingrained in the business since it was started by Jason’s father over 35 years ago
- What it means to be a true supply chain partner vs. just a vendor
- How they went head to head with K+N, Expeditors, and Maersk to keep a large customer’s business
- How they’ve used Logixboard to compete digitally to win new business against Flexport
Without further ado, let’s dive into our interview with Jason!
Can you tell us a little bit about Air & Sea International…
Air & Sea International was started by my father in 1985, he’s still CEO and comes in and does a heck of a lot of work every single day. He made sure to create a culture at our company as a family based business, and because of that, we really treat all of our employees and our customers with the highest level of service.
We move predominantly ocean freight, full container loads. We also do air freight, domestic trucking and we’re a fully licensed customs house broker with three customs house brokers on staff.
We really try to ingrain ourselves as a supply chain partner for our customers rather than just another vendor. We’ve had customers for over 20 years, and some of the biggest name customers here in Salt Lake city. By becoming a critical partner in their supply chain and providing the best customer service, we have been able to have a really high retention rate.
Can you elaborate a bit more on what it means to be a supply chain partner…
Yeah definitely. A lot of freight forwarders will just try to sell to the lowest common denominator, the lowest rate, whereas we consider ourselves as a partner, we’re really focused on understanding our clients business so we can set them up for success.
And so in the sales process, we take a much deeper dive into their supply chain to understand where we can add value. And maybe sometimes we’re not the best fit, you know, for businesses with a more simplified supply chain maybe, and they just need the lowest rate, that’s probably not a good fit for us.
We try to find the best way to get your cargo from point A to point B, and we’re really good at that, that’s what we excel at. So, especially in times like this, where people are struggling to move cargo, we’ve found a lot of success.
So what does being a supply chain partner look like in practice? Can you elaborate a bit on that…
Absolutely. So recently there’s one of our customers that moves probably 10,000 TEUs a year, and they were struggling to get containers moved with the traditional carriers that they work with. We heard about this delay and then came to them with a big list of other carriers that they had no clue even existed and an outline of the services they offered. We presented them with the options and they quickly signed a contract with one of these new carriers. They’re now actually quickly becoming one of the core carriers for this client.
Along those lines, being flexible and being able to pivot easily is another one of our core strengths. A lot of the national or international brands like K+N and Expeditors don’t have that advantage that the small medium sized forwarders do, which is being able to pivot and to really create a program that is unique to every single customer.
You also talked about how great customer service is a foundational part of your business, can you share a bit more about what that means at Air & Sea International…
Yeah of course. So for years and years we didn’t have a voicemail because my father was very much against any sort of an auto attendant or voicemail picking up. So picking the phone on the second ring and making sure we were always available was the most important thing for him. When he started this business he wanted to create a transportation company that would be proactive and focus on communication and transparency as a core part of our customer service.
So even if there was bad news about something, we want our people to let the customer know as soon as possible, because they’re going to find out one way or another. And if you’re proactive about it, it’s going to go a lot farther than having them find out themselves from someone else.
We always try to communicate what’s going on, but also have a plan in place if something has gone wrong. So it’s like, here’s the problem and here’s the plan going forward. It’s not just delivering bad news or good news, it’s also about being proactive about having a plan and a solution.
And it’s not just about the shippers, it’s also about developing relationships with the carriers. We try to become a partner with our vendors as well, so we get better attention, which helps us provide better service to our customers.
Switching gears here a little bit, you’ve been in the industry for a long time, what are some of the changes or industry shifts you’ve noticed recently…
You know as the carrier lines have consolidated they’ve really figured out how to maneuver the supply and demand curve, with blank sailings and these higher rates. I’ve never seen anything like it in this environment.
So with that being said, especially with rates being so high, it’s extremely important that your customers have some transparency to where their cargo is. They need to know when it’s gate-in, when it’s gate-out, and they need that real-time information 24 hours a day. That’s a big part of why digitization is so important to us, it provides that on-demand transparency.
Especially during COVID when you have a lot of our client’s employees working from home, you need that transparency so they can communicate together.
Can you talk a bit about what led to you searching for a digitization platform like Logixboard?
To be quite honest with you we had entered into an RFP with one of our larger clients and we were competing with K+N, Maersk, Expeditors, and more big players.
So we were looking for solutions that would allow us to have the same reach and technology as some of these larger forwarders. And some of the solutions we looked at before just weren’t as robust as a Logixboard. We were able to get onboarded quickly and retain the business, which was really critical for us.
It’s been a really good sales and marketing tool for us and a great way to get our foot in the door. Nowadays you need something that is different than everybody else. We’ve shown it to a few prospects, and I know recently two of the prospects we’ve shown it to utilized Flexport and they actually like it better than Flexport and switched over to us.
Can you elaborate a bit more about how you’ve used Logixboard in your sales and marketing…
You know these big forwarders have these tools, but they don’t have the personalized service that is super important. The first rule in logistics is really to get your cargo from A to B. It’s like fight club, right? Like the first rule of fight club is you don’t talk about fight club.
First rule logistics is to move your freight, but like I said earlier, everybody says that’s what they’re good at, but it’s impossible to know until you become a customer. So having a tool like Logixboard really helps give us that opening to get our foot in the door and then the customers can see what we’re really capable of, and they can experience our service. But early on in the sales process, Logixboard really helps us show what it will be like to be a customer and how we use technology to provide great customer service.
That’s a wrap on our first customer spotlight post. If you’re interested in being interviewed for a future post reach out to email@example.com. To learn more about how Logixboard can help you embrace digitization to improve your customer experience, request a demo or email firstname.lastname@example.org.