Keeping business running: Ocean customer service and process support

Welcome to our new article series in which we shine a spotlight on how different teams across our business are adapting to support your needs during these challenging times.

Clare Schultz

First up in our series is the Ocean Customer Service and Process Support team. For a department that relies heavily on physical paperwork, equipping employees – spread across three continents – to work from home proved to be quite a challenge. Here general manager Clare Schultz explains how the team pulled together to ensure a smooth transition and a continued high level of customer support.

During the pandemic, what’s been the biggest challenge for your unit?

The biggest challenge was navigating multiple sites and countries – our team is based in Southampton, Bangkok and San Salvador – and ensuring all staff were set up comfortably at home with the right equipment and support. We had multiple things to consider including practicalities such as how we could offer original bill of lading printing and phone support for our customers.

How did you go about solving this?

With 70 team members across three countries, communication was, and is, key. Our managers, HR and IT personnel in each location are collaborating closely and sharing learnings to ensure everyone feels supported and able to continue supporting customers in turn.

Our local HR managers keep us up-to-speed with government regulations as they are announced, meaning that we remain as agile as possible.

IT has also provided fantastic support; we installed soft phones in El Salvador, for instance, to ensure customers calling though our centralised number would still be connected to the right departments. We also devised a solution for setting up printers that would allow our team in Southampton to print original bills of lading from home.

There are still some occasions when we need to physically receive and handover documents, and in these instances we have drawn up a rota so that one member of staff only attends the office one or two days a week. Customers are then notified by the local sales team that they can visit our offices on those days.

How are operations running today compared to ‘business as usual’?

The majority of our operations are running as normal today. We still have some requirements around tasks that require physical presence and/or paperwork but with the support of our agent network, commercial and operations teams as well as flexibility from our customers, we have been able to continue business as usual in most areas.

What has the response been like from customers?

Overall, it’s been positive. Our customers appreciate the constant channels of communication; when we have needed to engage with them about specific process challenges, they have been open to discussions and finding the best solution possible.

Are there any changes that you will consider implementing as a permanent way of working?

It’s a little early to tell, but we have seen that there are benefits – flexibility and reducing our carbon footprint, for instance – while working remotely.

We hope that many of the electronic solutions our customers have agreed to as a result of this situation will remain, such as receiving invoices over email rather than by post, and allowing system release on original documents. I believe electronic solutions such as these will allow us to drive better operational effectiveness for customers.

How is the way the team works likely to change in the coming months as we begin recovery?

Our primary focus will continue to be on employee safety, so we will assess the workplace and work processes to ensure we are adhering to the recommendations for safe working environments. The foundation we have with our team working remotely is strong so I think we will see a well-prepared return to work in all our locations.

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