Intensive dialogue and interaction will help us where Svitzer has unique competitive advantages and allow us to price smarter than we do today.

According to Steffen Risager, Head of Business Transformation, we’re setting out on an important journey to better understand our customers, which will help us more exactly pinpoint what – and where – customers are willing to pay for our services. “This is the other side of the coin – the commercial side – from the internal efficiencies we’re pursuing to make Svitzer more competitive (see article, page 10),” he says. “Last year we learned a lot about our own operating model, how we serve our customers and what the cost is – we’re now starting an equally intense examination of our commercial relationships with our customers.”

This initiative was kicked off at the Extended Leadership conference in Abu Dhabi and was addressed specifically in two workshop sessions. The first one, called “The voice of the customer”, was a first for Svitzer, as two customers were invited to attend in person. They came prepared to pose challenges, and the workshop participants formulated solutions. “These were great sessions,” says Steffen, “and we got positive feedback about our structured approach and solutions. What I had not expected was that both customers said that we didn’t suggest outside-the-box solutions. That to me was the interesting part, because it ¬highlighted that we have to work harder to understand what the customer truly needs and not jump right into ‘solution mode’ based on past assumptions.”

”The second conference session was called, “What are customers willing to pay for”? “The conclusion we reached,” says Steffen, “is that we need to better understand the pain points of our customers in a given port.” In Harbour towage we serve multiple customers across multiple ports and one size does not fit all – even though that’s how we tend to sell our products today. The take-away is that we have to move from selling towage to selling services, and as part of that commit to providing different service levels to different customers. Our base product may be towage, but we need a different way of defining what services we provide.” 

During Q2 the commercial teams in Europe and Australia will be talking with a large number of customers to do exactly that – to discover and define more precisely what Svitzer qualities like reliability, safety, ease of doing business and price actually mean in specific situations. Reliability, for instance, can mean something completely different in a tidal port and a non-tidal port or for a gas carrier vs. a bulk carrier. “We’ve been in business more than 100 years, and we do know a lot,” says Steffen. “But customers change and if we don’t regularly have this kind of dialogue with them, we can fall behind.” A status update on these customer conversations will be presented at the leadership meeting in August, and the team will work through the autumn on defining what their findings are and how we should price our services to match different customer needs.

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Flemming Jensen, Executive Vice President Middle East and India for Inchcape Shipping Services answers questions about participating in Svitzer’s Extended Leadership conference Abu Dhabi.

 What were your key take-aways?
“My key take-away was that there is rather significant potential for further cooperation between Svitzer and ISS in the MEI region and beyond.”

What would you recommend Svitzer do differently to strengthen our value proposition? 
“I would suggest that Svitzer consider developing holistic solutions for the ports that could do with professional management assistance to improve on their operational performance. These solutions could include everything from analysis and strategic planning through to complete turnkey management agreements, with the objective of course being to inject Svitzer’s own assets where possible.”