Maersk Line is moving towards allowing booking exclusively online. This will generate substantial savings for the shipping company, which will be able to restructure its workforce and, in the long term, automate much of its customer contact. This will be a major change in a highly traditional industry in which, for example, half of customers in the US still place orders over the phone.
This online booking only initiative is part of "the new normal": Maersk Line’s new strategy to become the industry’s undisputed leader. Here the focus is on reliability of on-time delivery, which must be as high as 95% by the end of 2012; environmental performance; and ease of business. These will be achieved through completely new online booking systems.
“The objective is maximum ease of business for our customers. They will be able to make the vast majority of bookings online. It is important to us that customers can decide for themselves which solution they prefer. They’ll be able to use the website for smaller bookings, while larger customers will operate through common data exchange,” comments Chief Commercial Officer at Maersk Line, Hanne B. Sørensen to Ritzau Finans.
An online culture will generate high cost savings for Maersk Line because this will dramatically reduce the amount of time spent on relatively simple transactions.
“We receive between 15-30 million telephone inquiries per year. So you can imagine the savings for us and our customers if they can trust the information on the net. Almost 10% of the calls are inquiries about when containers will arrive,” says Hanne B. Sørensen.
And customers would much prefer not to have to call to make simple bookings or to check on status.
As early as September, Maersk Line will be launching a completely new website which will make it easier to book over the net. At present, online bookings account for 75% of all bookings. However, it is primarily in Western and Central Asia and South America that online booking has become popular. The US and Northern Europe lag behind, with half of all customers continuing to grab the phone when they want to make a booking.
“In 18 months we will be completely up and running, and then there will be no excuses for not booking over the net. It will be so intuitive, that it will be automatic. Just as in personal internet banking, and in the airline industry. In the future, it will also be possible to book from your mobile phone,” explains Hanne B. Sørensen.
Maersk Line has studied Ryanair, the Irish airline company that revolutionised the airline industry by introducing online booking and payment only.
"We will steal Ryanair's good booking idea, but not their low-cost customer service. If something goes wrong, and a container is stuck somewhere, we will have the industry's best customer service personnel ready and waiting to help. They will have solutions available at the same time as a customer discovers a problem," explains Hanne B. Sørensen.
This development will further expand the current trend in Maersk Line, in which simple customer service functions are outsourced to the Philippines and India.
“Outsourcing has improved the efficiency of the entire organisation, because the employees are less bored and more motivated. Eventually, the service centres in Asia will be automated. Much of what you can outsource you can automate, but it will be at least five years before this becomes a reality,” concludes Hanne B. Sørensen.
The new strategy is paralleled by a major focus on customer care. Maersk Line has assigned dedicated teams to its 150 top customers to ensure ongoing contact. And Maersk Line has a panel of 6,000 customers providing continuous input on how their customer experience and cooperation with Maersk Line can be improved.
Disclaimer The Danish version of this article appeared on 24 June 2011. This article is copyright Ritzau and is translated and reproduced with permission. Reproduction, retrieval, copying or transmission of this article is not permitted without the publisher's prior consent. Ritzau does not guarantee the accuracy of the information contained in this article nor does it accept responsibility for errors or omissions or their consequences.
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