APM Terminals: Game changing customer focus in Gothenburg
Improved organizational flexibility is transformed to rapidly increasing customer satisfaction at APM Terminals in Gothenburg. In a joint venture with the local port authorities, APM Terminals prioritize a range of activities designed to facilitate better customer journeys via Gothenburg. Net promotor score feedback from customers is going up.
“We came from a low level, but now customer satisfaction is rising like a rocket,” says CEO Henrik Kristensen from APM Terminals in Gothenburg. “To me it’s a journey, and we are putting a lot of effort in to understanding our customers. Before customers came to the vessel, and we knew little about their needs or priorities, other than loading and discharging the cargo. Now we want to understand each customer, and we want to be relevant in several phases leading to the loading or un-loading of a container in Gothenburg.”
Strikes and lockouts
Two years of industrial strikes and lockouts in 2016 through 2017, where APM Terminals and the unions played the leading roles, led to loss of reputation, loss of market share, loss of jobs, labor cost reductions and establishment of new manning solutions. APM Terminals focused on being more flexible to serve customers, even if vessels arrive outside scheduled hours. The extended maneuverability and workforce flexibility after the years of conflict is now making the significant difference.
The difficult 10 per cent
“Every harbor can operate effective in sunshine and tailwind, when vessels arrive according to plan. We are focusing on the 10 per cent, where exceptions are needed. What can we do to help our customers reach their goals in a critical situation? We want to excel when it’s most important for the customers to feel our commitment and partnership,” says Henrik Kristensen.
If a vessel arrives too late, APM Terminals will now for example be able to load and unload during night time. Other issues regarding connections to the railway, calling in flexible staff and more can also come in play. Vessels can be late because of bad weather, delays from other ports etc. but APM Terminals strive to ensure, vessels still leave on scheduled departure and help bring the vessel back on schedule.
Proactively meeting customer needs
“We need to be able to control our own processes, to forecast and to work with deviations. If we furthermore understand customer needs we may be able to come up with fast and valuable solutions,” he says.
One example could be to use the terminal overview of shipping lines stock of empties to proactively suggest to add X number of empties to the loading, to help the customer to position empty containers at a more logic location, for new loadings. APM Terminals is now launching ‘Gothenburg Gateway’, a concept where a container in the future can be placed on a freight train anywhere in Sweden and load onto a large ocean-going vessel within 48 hours. APM Terminals has 25 daily rail shuttle connections to over 300 destinations in Sweden and Norway reaching cargo owners within 24 hours. The company has focused on understanding the entire customer journey, and a partnership with management consultants from Customer Agency is playing a vital role.
Game changing customer centricity
“We have learned a lot about customer experience management in general, but the team from Customer Agency has also done in-depth interviews with cargo owners, importers, exporters and freight forwarders. This has raised our awareness on the business aspects for our customers, and this knowledge will be a game changer in the way we look at our processes and manage our resources,” says Henrik Kristensen
APM Terminals Gothenburg embarked on the customer experience journey inviting the local port authority, Port of Gothenburg to join the initiative, as well. Customer Agency’s work included customer interviews, detailed process mapping and assessments. It also gave an overview of strengths and weaknesses and actions ahead to realize new opportunities and win market share.
Culture and communication
“Customer Agency helped us carve out 11 segments in which we could focus our effort. A lot has to do with communications and culture. The internal behavior starts to change, when we ask “are our customer´s happy?” on daily stand-up meetings,” says Henrik Kristensen.
Gaining back customer confidence has a lot to do with performance and minimization of fluctuations in the pretty complex business of running a container terminal: Was service delivered according to service level agreements? Did vessels leave on time, with agreed volumes, did the takt time on the grid meet trucker expectations? Were cargo trains handled within agreed time slots?
Closer to IKEA and Volvo
“It is very important to share and celebrate improvements. We have started to communicate pro-actively with customers, and we have enhanced our view on customers. Cargo owners, freight forwarders and shipping lines have different needs, and by getting closer to these needs, we can be a better partner. It is also relevant for us to talk directly to for example IKEA and Volvo as they are important cargo owners in Sweden,” says Henrik Kristensen.
APM Terminals Gothenburg is being rewarded by customers for the effort to improve customer centricity. Every quarter Customer Agency is doing a customer survey for all 76 ports in APM Terminals worldwide network, and Gothenburg has seen very large improvements, as Net Promotor Score among customers is going up.
“The team from Customer Agency has been very strong in balancing the global interests in APM Terminals and the local situation here in Gothenburg. They have extended their focus to integrate the viewpoint of the Gothenburg harbor authority, and this has been vital for the creation of the concept of Gothenburg Gateway,” says Henrik Kristensen.
APM Terminals’ container activity is roughly 40 per cent of all activity in Gothenburg harbor. Roll-on-roll-off and Oil & Gas, and passenger traffic are also important, and Sweden is generally characterized by large trailer and bulk business as well. Gothenburg has a strong position among the 56 harbors in Sweden because of it prime geographical position, with the largest rail connectivity in Sweden and the fact that more than 15 shipping lines all have weekly services to and from Gothenburg.
“The key for us is to include the employees on the CX journey. We are using town halls, marketplace initiatives and local kaizen waves. We want to make everyone aware of the customer side of their activity. It’s done by sharing customer feedback from NPS survey, sharing the CX roadmap and explaining the Gothenburg Gateway value proposition in employee workshops. It’s about inclusion, making the employees a very active part in creating a true customer centric approach,” says Henrik Kristensen.
In a longer perspective the work with customer experience and customer journey holds new potential for APM terminals in Gothenburg. It will be possible to create new solutions for the land side customers. And that journey is just getting started.
“Cargo owners, freight forwarders and shipping lines have different needs, and by getting closer to these needs, we can become a better partner. It is relevant for us to talk directly with both global cargo owners, the IKEA´s and Volvo´s, but very much also help to create value for small to medium size companies. Sweden is located in the periphery of Europe, every company need effective transport solutions” says CEO Henrik Kristensen from APM Terminals Gothenburg.