UPS Global Freight Forwarding and Customs Brokerage put customers first and exceed expectations in wake of COVID
With COVID-19 beginning to turn the world on its head in early spring of last year, Jeff McCorstin, president of UPS Global Customs Brokerage and North America Supply Chain Solutions, acted fast.
Over in the Philippines, one of UPS’ strategic partners, DDC FPO, was working hard to fulfill orders in the midst of a government shutdown.
The freight processing outsourcers worked with McCorstin and his public affairs team at UPS to ensure production continued to run smoothly, spending a number of nights and a full weekend coordinating with the Philippines government to successfully get its employees classified as essential workers.
“It’s a humbling experience with what we’ve gone through this last 13 months,” McCorstin said. “I look back and I just get emotional.”
A fresh approach
Taking care of his customers, partners, and immediate co-workers is all part of the job for McCorstin, who has relocated 11 times across three different continents and held 17 different job assignments during a 30-year career at UPS.
McCorstin, who, during his time with UPS has lived in Brussels and Singapore and now outside of the companies Atlanta, Georgia headquarters, used to spend a minimum of two weeks every month traveling around the world to meet and discuss strategies with customers face-to-face.
The pandemic put an end to all that. However, according to McCorstin, the company that employs 540,000 people worldwide has not only adapted to new virtual policies and practices, but, in-fact, thrived under them.
“We’ve pivoted very quickly to a virtual management style and, quite frankly, in my 30-plus years at UPS, I don’t think I’ve been closer to a team than we have been this last year,” he said.
Closer than ever
In March of last year, McCorstin and his team started conducting daily Zoom calls – which the company referred to as ‘COVID calls,’ – that included about 120 people from around the world, including Asia Pacific and the Indian subcontinent, the Middle East, Africa, Europe, Latin America, Mexico, Canada, and the U.S.
These ‘COVID calls,’ allowed everyone to get together and discuss what was going on between all of their customers and supply chains. After 70 days the meetings were rebranded as Global Freight Forwarding (GFF) Connect calls, which McCorstin continues to help facilitate three times a week.
“It’s the heartbeat of our customer’s needs, and the changing dynamic of their supply chains that keeps us connected,” McCorstin said. “These calls bring us together better than what it was in the past. Being able to look eyeball to eyeball with 100 people in a zoom environment, you feel like you’re right there next to them.”
Bigger than the brand
While McCorstin and his executive team worked tirelessly to ensure the safety, well-being, and continued effectiveness of their own customers and employees, they would ultimately take on an even bigger pandemic challenge: helping, quite literally, save lives.
UPS Global Freight Forwarding, starting in March of 2020, partnered with FEMA to coordinate what was dubbed ‘Project Airbridge,’ working with four providers to help source and create logistics plans to move personal protection equipment (PPE) such as gloves, masks, and gowns into the U.S.
The PPE was mainly sourced from countries like China, Malaysia, Vietnam and Cambodia, and required daily calls with FEMA that lasted all the way until the end of June, when Project Airbridge began to wind down.
“We say that, quite frankly, this is bigger than the brand. It’s bigger than the shield,” McCorstin said. “It’s truly helping save lives one day at a time and it just makes me very proud to be able to help lead that effort.”
In addition to bringing PPE into the U.S., McCorstin and his team helped move the life-saving equipment – along with vaccine test kits – around the world, and now, over 150 million doses of the vaccine itself all across the globe.
Built for this
Going above-and-beyond to help alleviate the global health crisis certainly presented logistical challenges, but it was one that UPS Global Freight Forwarding, according to McCorstin, was not only ready for, but built for.
“All the different things, natural disasters that take place, you have to be resilient,” he said. “At UPS we have a saying that we have back up plans for our back up plans.”
The company, under McCorstin’s leadership, was not only able to successfully mobilize the proper incident response teams, but, within three weeks of having to shut down working from their operations, had 80% of their customs brokerage employees working remotely.
“Our customers didn’t feel any impact from a service perspective,” McCorstin said. “We were there to continue to support their supply chains and their customers.”
UPS Global Freight Forwarding took catering to the needs of its customers a step further when it released a new digital platform for shipment initiation in quarter 3 of last year. On April 8, it expanded to include ocean shipments, so now international airfreight, North America airfreight, ocean freight and customs brokerage services are offered on the UPS Forwarding Hub.
The platform provides self-service options, the ability to track orders more effectively, and gives brokerage customers the tools to view more details on customs clearances in real time.
“We’re living in a digital age so it’s extremely important that our technology capabilities match our customer’s needs,” McCorstin said. “(The UPS Forwarding Hub) allows small and medium businesses, but also the larger enterprises, to be able to book online and then be able to track it all the way through from origin to destination, pickup to delivery, all in one place.”
UPS Global Freight Forwarding’s dedication to customer service hasn’t gone unnoticed, either. According to McCorstin, the man who describes his leadership style as ‘transparent,’ and calls himself an ‘empowered servant leader,’ receives multiple letters a week from customers, commending him and his team for the work that they do.
The feedback, according to McCorstin, is much appreciated, and fits perfectly into UPS’ strategy statement of customer first, people led, and innovation driven.
“When we exceed our customers’ expectations, and we get letters commending going above and beyond. That really makes me smile,” he said.
Going forward, the president who started as a driver more than 30 years ago said the company will continue to work to ensure that customers all around the world have the same positive experience. That, regardless of their country of origin, they will have a strategic partner that can offer seamless cross-border trade and transportation services.
This vision seems to fit right in with the company’s new purpose statement: Moving the world forward by delivering what matters.
A phrase perhaps never more appropriate than now, after McCorstin and his team at UPS Global Freight Forwarding helped move the world forward through the pandemic and into the promise of brighter days ahead.
UPS Supply Chain Solutions offers a comprehensive portfolio of services to enhance customers' business performance, including logistics and distribution, transportation and freight, consulting, customs brokerage, and international trade services.
UPS provides the expertise and the scale to meet the total supply chain needs of customers worldwide, whether it requires the movement of goods, information or funds.
UPS Customs Brokerage
12380 Morris Road
Alpharetta, GA 30005