Flexibility strengthens maritime customer relationships

These are the times when decision-makers are looking for safe harbours in terms of solid brands and trusted thought leaders who can show the way, inspire with new thinking, and provide stability. The important thing is, they won’t forget it. In the shipping industry, this means that suppliers who can offer flexibility in their services and solutions are more likely to build strong and lasting customer relationships. The COVID-19 pandemic has created an unprecedented economic environment, adding to the list of challenges that global businesses, including the shipping industry, must overcome.

However, by being adaptable and responsive to their customers’ changing needs, maritime suppliers can build trust and loyalty even in these challenging times.

CBC sector link: Marine & Logistics

Challenges have compounded, not changed

Even before the pandemic struck, ship owners, and other stakeholders were faced with tough decisions over key issues around decarbonisation and digitisation. With the monumental disruption to the global economy over the last few months, things have been made harder still. Shipping represents 90% of global trade, and even though COVID-19 is expected to reduce the amount of this trade by up to 32% in 2020 (according to a report by Willis Towers Watson), there is still enormous pressure to keep sailing, particularly following the declining capabilities of the airline sector.

As a result, priorities have changed, and many shipping businesses have been forced to focus on reworking operational processes and rethinking commercial strategies. However, this does not mean their previous agendas have suddenly disappeared. Far from it. Only now, budgets are smaller, and banks are less willing to finance expensive projects, such as those needed for fleets to meet future emissions regulations.

CBC case link: MAN Energy Solutions

Where there’s hardship, there’s opportunity

This is where service providers come into the picture, and, crucially, how well they position themselves in the eyes of their customers. Of course, most are also dealing with their own challenges from the pandemic themselves; however, it does mean there are opportunities to provide support in new ways and where it is needed most.

Daniel Vengel Jensen, Head of PrimeServ Two-Stroke Marketing, explains: “Right now, oil is cheap. As a result, many of our container vessel customers are running at full steam, some showing a 60% capacity boost. This has meant they have needed more spare parts, which has been good for our business.

“However, it has also increased the need for our specialists on board, which with travel bans has not been possible. So, our teams who would have been dispatched to help have been finding innovative ways to transform our onsite services into digital services. We have also moved the launch of our automation software products forward, as customers need them now more than ever.”

You say you’re a solution provider? Prove it!

These initiatives were communicated via a powerful email marketing campaign to a highly targeted customer base, which also highlighted how MAN PrimeServ was going the extra mile to adapt to evolving needs and solve evolving problems. This proved very effective not only in creating new business, but invaluable in strengthening customer loyalty.

“After the financial crisis in 2008,” says Daniel, “we learned the value of supporting customers during times of uncertainty. The crucial point is to stay flexible, which is why in recent months we have found ways to work around restrictions, to provide remote technical support or find local experts, and even to help customers build business cases to secure financing from banks. Customers greatly appreciate having a partner who is looking out for them when things get tough, and it means they stick with us when conditions improve.”

CBC blog link: B2B growth through a customer-centric strategy

Be the brand they trust

Of course, this is just one example where a service provider has found ways to build stronger customer relationships during difficult times. But it highlights the importance of being adaptable and responsive to changing circumstances, and how flexibility strengthens maritime customer relationships. This approach is not limited to the shipping industry, and there are many ways to position your business as a brand people can rely on when it matters.

Content such as thought-leadership perspectives or market analysis for example can be equally as valued, helping decision-makers to better understand their options and choose the right path ahead. The important thing is to make sure you gain the right perspective into their specific situation to keep your offering as relevant as possible, and to deliver it in a way that resonates most effectively.

Right now, there is a rare opportunity to reinforce ties with your customers and build greater trust and loyalty in your brand. The chances are, like MAN PrimeServ, you have the competencies and resources in place already – all it takes is the right insight and a little creative thinking to adapt your value proposition to their needs, and you could come out of this downturn in a far stronger position.

If you’d like to discuss your situation and your options in more detail, you can drop Managing Partner Ralph Krøyer a line on +45 35 25 01 75 or at rk@cbc.dk.