My coach used to say to me “Behavior breeds behavior”. I could not agree more, especially when it came to the crew management and how the companies treat their people onboard. Because the crew’s behavior will return like a boomerang. 

The shipping company with a reputation of the great employer will benefit from being able to attract talents and keeping high crew retention rate. But not only.

As we are moving from the information era into the customer’s era, the need for Customer Experience Management (CEM) becomes more obvious for the shipping and offshore industry. While the maritime industry is not the one where customers are dealt with on day-to-day basis, it is important to keep yourself updated on what are the customers’ current challenges and concerns.

Just to clarify the difference between Customer Relation Management (CRM) and Customer Experience Management (CEM), the latter oversees and organises every interaction between the customer (or the client, as more referred in shipping) and every employee of the company. It is more of what client feels and perceives while communicating with company’s employees. Whether it CEO, CFO, people in chartering or crewing departments, the clients want to get the professional answer to his request, proactive and open communication.

As shipping companies want to build long-term relations with the clients, “Voice of the Customer” programs, customers journey mapping, and other related initiatives can assist a lot.

So, who in the shipping company is responsible for the client’s feelings and perception? It is as for the safety, all are responsible. While staff ashore normally understand the principles of CRM and CEM, we often forget about the crew onboard.

The maritime industry is built on the relationships. People working in shipping and offshore, know each other through the years, meeting up at various events and gatherings, and while changing working places, usually stay within the industry.

Therefore, it is often that business relations are very solid and trustful between ship owners, managers, operators, and suppliers, and people know each others’ concerns and challenges.

But what about employees onboard? The crews who are the company’s greatest assets and sometimes the weakest chain in the process of building successful client experience. It is because many of the crew are on temporary, voyage contracts, and being not familiarised well with companies’ policies and procedures, it is difficult for new-comers to get a complete understanding of the situation. Employed via third-party manning agencies for the short trips, crew members often joining vessels without proper briefings.

It is the primary responsibility of a ship manager to familiarise their manning agents (or own local offices) with employers’ policies so they can instruct the on-signing crew in the proper way. In reality, its only drug & alcohol policy, and joining procedures are the information the crew is provided with. But what about the other policies, as language policy, anti-corruption or code of conduct? Were they written only for the office staff?

I experienced the situation when at the galley during the lunch, the group of crews of one nationality was talking their language, keeping one other national completely isolated from the rest of the crew. How he felt and what he was thinking that moment?  For client rep who was sitting at the next table, this was an example of poor management and an inability of the company to make crews obey company policy, according to which everyone should use the English language for communication on board.

Here are three things you can do to improve CRM together with your people onboard, in order to make the company more attractive in front of the clients.

Branding

Did you know that for example, Statoil has got not only a position of a Brand Manager in its numerous list of ranks but also the Employer Branding Manager? The task of this position is to attract job candidates through the company’s brand. The company is actively promoting the employer’s brand via social networks and media, as simply posting job description is no longer enough to compete for the best employees. Branding is important and it is not just the nice image of the company in the media, but it is rather a perception of the people, of what they feel when they hear the company’s name or see the company’s logo. The clients are among them.

Innovation

Innovation and new technology can assist shipping companies to deliver a better end-to-end customer experience. Digital and mobile revolution has brought a huge change on how people are communicating, ashore and onboard. For the clients of shipping companies when they are visiting vessels, all the details matter. From the first glance, they can assess the organisational quality and safety dedication. With the new technology, it becomes easier to handle safety briefings, familiarisation tours or make digital introductions of crew onboard instead of spending hours for answering repeated organisational questions. So, the goal is that the clients would start building a visual profile of the vessel and the company, making a perception of proactive, well-organised unit.

Crew Communication

Clients are expecting complete transparency and availability of data. While hundreds of emails are flying between client, office and the vessel, it is normal practice when the clients are communicating with the vessels directly. The way Master or heads of the departments held communication, matters. The professional, proactive and clear communication is what clients will appreciate and value. Read the article https://shipcosts.com/blog/work-in-silo.html

By stressing the importance of the three areas above to your people onboard, where you can improve the clients “feelings” about the company and the vessel, can be an adding value factor for the successful customer experience management. Because it is known fact that the ship is only as good as her crew.