Digital Entrepreneurship in Shipping: How ZIM is Changing the Game with Customer Experience
Assaf Tiran – VP Global Customer Service
Until three years ago, it was almost impossible to find digital practices and high-end technologies in the shipping industry’s customer experience. Customers and shipping liners alike have become accustomed to the slow pace of technological advancements.
But then, ZIM decided to play a leading role in the shipping digital revolution. It announced a new vision: to lead the way in innovation within the containerized shipping services, both in products and customer experience. Being among the first to realize that the world had changed and that without transforming the old operational approach into a 21st century customer experience-focused approach, the company would eventually become irrelevant, ZIM invested millions of dollars in IT systems, digital tools, initiatives, and changed its organizational structure.
The Personal Touch
“The world of container shipping services has been characterized by a ‘survival’ mode over the last decade. The number of global players has shrunk by almost half due to mergers and acquisitions, while most of the remaining top 10 carriers entered operational alliances, leading to almost no differentiation except in the basic product and price. As a result, customer loyalty has been low”, explains Assaf Tiran, VP of Global Customer Service at ZIM.
Tiran explains that the goal was to differentiate ZIM from its competitors and become a leader, by focusing on building a relationship that creates confidence and peace of mind, so that customers repeatedly choose ZIM. The company also launched a variety of digital platforms and services, while maintaining the human and personal touch enabling each customer to choose their preferred channel.
ZIM extended its unique personal touch across all interfaces, from the booking stage, with its complex documentation processes, through ongoing updates, up to the actual release of the cargo.
“Our human response time is one of the leading response times in the industry. Our service representatives are equipped with the best contact center solutions, including an advanced CRM system enabling them to truly ‘know’ the customer, alongside a leading knowledge management system”, says Tiran.
The Digital Revolution
This revolution could not have happened without the involvement of the customers themselves. “A little over three years ago, we launched a wide-ranging campaign in the various digital media which called on community members to take an active part in shaping ZIM's digital service experience. Fortunately, the campaign generated a wide response, and as of today we have over 800 global ‘influencers’ on board. Since then, they have been involved in the decision-making process, and have sometimes taken part in the user-testing stage”, Tiran explains.
The main challenge is implementation, encouraging customers to embrace changes by choice and not by default. Hence the introduction of the ‘Powered by Our Customers’ approach, where ZIM customers take an active part in designing ZIM's digital experience – By Customers for Customers!
New Customer-Centric Features
ZIM’s official website has been upgraded, and an advanced personal area called ‘myZIM’ has been introduced, which has a wide range of services customized to the individual user.
One of the most popular features is Draft B/L, which has digitized the traditional, manual process of approving and editing the draft Bill of Lading. “We actually developed the ability to manage a joint document where the two parties involved in its creation can now collaborate digitally, very similar to editing a Word document”, explains Tiran. “Just three months after the service went live, it has already received the highest rating among the various features.”
During the COVID-19 outbreak, the company introduced a new system, enabling customers to receive real-time mobile push notifications regarding urgent changes to the company's worldwide operations.
“Customer feedback clarified that such extreme situations require creative solutions on top of the usual customer advisories posted on our website, as it was quite clear that our customers, already struggling to maintain business continuity themselves, were confronted with additional difficulties as a result of these emergencies. Based on this feedback, this new service went live, which eventually resulted in increased downloads of our mobile application”, he says.
The ZIM Advantage
ZIM has become one of the top ten companies in global shipping. It has maintained full independence, remaining outside the major alliances in the industry – which has allowed the company to promote collaborations in certain trades while continuing to operate independently.
ZIM is a multinational global company, but at the same time is very proud of its Israeli ‘Startup Nation’ DNA and strives to leverage this entrepreneurial M.O. by introducing new strategic initiatives such as the recently announced collaboration with e-commerce giant Alibaba. “As our vision states, we have set ourselves a clear goal to introduce innovation wherever we operate, in the way we deliver shipping services”, Tiran says. Further proof of this can be found in its collaborations with several groundbreaking Israeli startups such as WAVE and Ladingo.