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Interview With an Expert

Updated: May 31

Steve Myers, COO of OEC Group USA, discusses the role operations play in the supply chain and how this part of the company is so essential in serving our customers’ needs.

What is operations and why should shippers care?

Operations is the part of the company that makes sure everything runs smoothly and efficiently, not just for those who work in the organization, but for clients too. Here, customers can see how well a company is run, its values and priorities.  While operations appears to be “behind the scenes,” it is highly visible as our efforts affect the processes and systems clients use every day. Our role is not necessarily to make money for clients, but to help them keep more of it.

What is one of the most valuable things the operations division handles?

Customer service. It is a key area of operations because it demonstrates to clients how much a company prioritizes their needs and success.  A company with a strong customer service division with a high-touch approach and that quickly responds to a client’s need, which is exactly what a customer should want. With that quick response, the customer can quickly get the answers they need to move forward. As the old saying goes, “Time is Money.” A good customer service team respects the client’s time, and respecting their time is respecting their money. After more than 40 years in business, I’ve come to realize that the fastest and most respectful way to respond to our client’s needs is through a quick customer service conversation.


Effective customer service also gives the client the opportunity to educate themselves on other areas of their supply chain where they may be potentially vulnerable, while establishing a real connection between that client and a knowledgeable professional who wants to help them succeed. That kind of dedication, to both the person and operating margin, is priceless.  

In an increasingly digital world, what role does technology play in operations? Do operations divisions still need a human customer service team for clients to reach out to with questions, or can that kind of service be handled digitally?

I’ll answer your question with a question: Have you ever tried to text somebody to meet up and grab lunch? You spend 20 minutes figuring out every little detail, waiting for them to draft out their response, meanwhile you could’ve figured this out in five minutes on the phone. That is how I approach technology in operations. There are incredible things happening with technology every day, but having a person for customers to reach is still critical.  Talking to somebody is the most efficient, cost-effective way to help a client solve a problem.


That being said, technology is still a critical part of how we solve customers’ problems. We have systems in place designed to be more efficient and helpful in accounting, tracking shipments, and placing orders. What all those systems share is ease of use and efficiency. Any system you use through OEC Group is going to be easy to use and save you some time. Once customers have saved that time, they have more time to do what they do best: grow their business.  


The common denominator here is really saving time through a high-touch approach.  Solving a problem in five minutes instead of twenty is invaluable; every minute our customers spend messaging a customer service bot is a minute they’re not focusing on their business. And if you’re providing effective customer service, you’re giving your customers some of those minutes back. So, we maintain a full toolkit, digital and personal, to give that time back to our customers.

What advice would you give clients when researching a company’s operations department?

Don’t be afraid to ask for a demonstration of how to use their technology. Go out of your way to confirm that it’s both easy to use and beneficial to use.  I would also advise companies to interview customer service departments; evaluate their knowledge, see firsthand if they are helpful. Make operations part of the process — it is not always about saving money on rates, it is about saving time and being more efficient with your money everywhere.  Being proactive and understanding the strength of a company’s operations department will help you be more efficient and avoid any unnecessary and hidden costs.

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