How often has the phrase “we put the customer first” been uttered, but with no sincerity or meaning behind it? Probably as many times as “our employees are our most valuable asset”…

Lucas Vos, COO of global giant Maersk, touched on the area on customer-centric service in a recent speech at the Global Liner Shipper Conference in London. Mr Vos stated that “it used to be ‘our way or the highway’, but that is changing. We are listening and have a panel of customers. We don’t start a single project without listening to customers. This is a fundamental change in how we do things.” This is excellent news for clients of Maersk and is probably tweaking the ears of potential customers as well. Moreover it also makes business sense for Maersk: what is the point of starting a new service if no one is willing to pay for it?

However, is it really conceivable that in the current economic environment shippers - or indeed companies in general - are actually willing to look beyond the rates being offered when choosing a supplier? For some there will be a definite ‘yes’ to this due to areas such as capability, but it is still a large task to convince clients that potentially paying a few cents more is a better business decision than going for the cheapest solution.

Market research can certainly help with these issues, as can a good dose of advertising and positive word-of-mouth. Maersk looks like they are doing theirs. Have you done yours?

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