Interview Hasan Faraz, Manager, Pakistan Area Customer Experience, Maersk
PAGE: What does Customer Experience mean to Maersk?
Hasan Faraz: Customer experience for us at Maersk essentially means the holistic perception of what our brand and business stand for. We are keeping our customers at the heart of every decision we take and therefore customer experience revolves around customer-centric mindset, where the end-result is to constantly improve our customers’ satisfaction and resulting in their ever-growing loyalty towards Maersk. Customer Experience is an integral part of all our offerings allowing us to differentiate ourselves in the industry from others.
Our Customer Experience teams look after every function within the business. These start right from booking and go all the way to invoicing and dispute resolution and cover everything in between – ocean and landside transportation, customs clearances, 4PL, customer implementation management and so on.
We believe that it is imperative for us to prioritize customer experience in every possible way to ensure the successful implementation of our strategy to be a global integrator of container logistics.
PAGE: Please tell us some of the key issues facing the shipping and logistic industry globally as well as in Pakistan.
Hasan Faraz: Shipping and logistic industry is the backbone of any economy and the driving force for all sectors, be it agriculture, manufacturing, or services. Like all industries, it is encountering change in today’s time driven by change in customer expectations, unanticipated events, and technological advancement.
The shipping and logistics sector has traditionally been full of tedious, manual processes. It is high time the sector adopts technological advancements especially during these fast-paced times where contingencies are impacting everyone every now and then. It is imperative that processes are digitized and automated to bring in higher efficiencies, more visibility and higher predictability which will ultimately improve customer experience.
The unanticipated situations like COVID-19 restriction, Suez Canal blockage and other such events can have a huge impact on demand and supply of goods. Consumption of goods around the world is increasing and with limited containers in the market coupled with bottlenecks in the logistics ecosystem is resulting in limited capacity. Freight rates are a function of demand and supply, and in the current scenario, they are increasing at rapid rate.
At Maersk, we are working at full capacity with available containers, repositioning the empty containers as much as possible and are helping customers resume their supply chain without disruption. Globally, in the second quarter this year we accelerated the injection of around 260,000 new dry containers into our fleet. This comes after the 400,000 TEUs (twenty-feet equivalent units of containers) already added to our fleet from July 2020 to January 2021 and in total, an amount significantly higher than what would be in-fleeted under normal circumstances.
PAGE: How can companies work on tackling these issues and how does Maersk work on it?
Hasan Faraz: The transport and logistics industry is still in the nascent stages of its digitization journey. Investment in technology infrastructure and integration of services to a unified platform is the first step. Your customers’ needs should take precedence when designing a company-wide digitization solution so that it not only makes your processes efficient, but also makes the customer journey seamless.
At Maersk, digitization is an intricate part of our strategy. We aspire to deliver a world class experience to our customers, and we make that possible through prioritizing value-added engagement and providing customized solutions based on our clients’ needs.
Another big step in the transformation journey was the launch of TradeLens, a platform underpinned by blockchain technology that offers efficient, transparent, and secure exchange of information throughout a shipment’s journey, to foster greater collaboration and trust across the global supply chain. TradeLens is built on the foundation of its global supply chain ecosystem, comprising shippers, freight forwarders, ports and terminals, ocean carriers, intermodal operators, government authorities, customs brokers and more.
It makes documentation processes more streamlined, efficient, and contactless; allowing customers to save time, effort and improve efficiencies.
In the broader sense, there is a requirement to be more resilient in supply chains to tackle the problems that the sector is currently facing. Supply chains are generally extremely complex, and the longer they get, the more the complexity. Resilience in supply chains will help us to have solutions for contingency situations and will make life easier for customers.
PAGE: What would a customer experience transformation mean?
Hasan Faraz: Customer Experience transformation means taking the leap into obsessive customer-centricity for us. This means putting Customer Experience at the heart of all our decisions and actions. With the aim to simplify customers’ way of doing business, we focus to help find solutions for them for not only today but tomorrow as well. In today’s ever-evolving world, customers’ requirements are changing, requiring more flexibility and seamless service from their service provider. That is only possible through customer obsession.
Our Customer Experience (CX) Vision 2025 is to empower our teams to deliver a consultative and value-added customer experience that helps us grow with our customers. We are dedicated to help our customers succeed and add value to their supply chain by designing self-service solutions and an integrated platform for both our customers and our agents. This will lower customers’ efforts in acquiring the services they need, as well as enable our agents to reduce response time and improve CX with a faster turnaround time.
CX Vision 2025 also chalks out a cultural framework for the employees on what service we want to get. As part of our strategy, we want to shift our internal focus to value-generation for our customers. Digitization and automation are at the core of this.
But a push towards digital and self-service will not mean disappearance of human touch. In fact, automation of transactional tasks will free up time for our teams to be data-driven and use metrics to focus on generating added value to our customers – through cross-selling and a more consultative approach. In a nutshell, we want to empower our customers through digital self-service and internally empower our teams to create value addition and craft innovative solutions to our customers business needs.
PAGE: COVID-19 pandemic since March last year has impacted business, particularly shipping and logistics around the world. Being one of the largest shipping entities how has your company handled it and ensured that your customer experience does not get impacted?
Hasan Faraz: When COVID-19 pandemic hit the world, we set ourselves three main priorities – to ensure the safety of our employees, to support our customers’ supply chain needs and to help the society fight the virus.
For our employees a business contingency plan was made, and all the employees were shifted to work-from-home mode. The teams ensured that the daily operations were not impacted due to the change of place of operating business. For the essential staff, SOPs were kept in place to which everyone strictly adhered to.
As for the vessel and logistics, they kept running without any hindrance throughout the pandemic period. And with our digital transformational journey, customers were able to book their cargo through our digital platforms – www.Maersk.com from the safe space of their office or home. We instituted online payment settlement facility and released documents online to ensure that safety measures are followed as we had responsibility towards our employees, customers, and the society.
In this difficult time, Maersk rolled out different wellness programs to help employees fight the stress they might get from an enclosed space of their home with no colleagues or friends being around.
PAGE: In times of uncertainty, such as the closure of Suez Canal, disruptions due to of COVID 19 and equipment shortages, how difficult was it to respond to questions being asked by clients during this period of uncertainty?
Hasan Faraz: When we say that we are keeping our customers at the center of every decision we take, we truly mean that we are obsessed with customer satisfaction. And it is not limited to delivering what products and services our customers want. It also means that we are extremely transparent with our customers. With the uncertain situations that the world has seen over the last year and half, Maersk CX department was committed to sharing updates with customers on daily basis through customer advisories. To further facilitate customers, we had different modes of communication available – online chat, phone call or email for the customers to reach out to Maersk for any additional information required regarding the situation or their shipments. There were times when we had to communicate difficult situations and roadblocks causing inefficiencies in our services. But we did not hesitate while doing so and ensured that come what may, our customers remained informed of the realities. We strongly believe that if we are not honest and transparent in the tough times, we can never find solution and learn from them to improve for the future.