What is ‘smart’ shipping? 

ZIM transformed a conservative industry into an innovative customer experience in less than five years

 A ZIM customer service team meeting at the ZIM head office (photo credit: ZIM)
A ZIM customer service team meeting at the ZIM head office
(photo credit: ZIM)

HOW TO MAKE CUSTOMERS EMBRACE CHANGES IN ONE OF THE WORLD’S MOST TRADITIONAL INDUSTRIES

Anyone can track a shipment of hair clips from the second they click the purchase button all the way to the point order arrives at their door. So why can’t large exporters and importers have the same easy access and personal touch that is so prevalent while shipping a container loaded with a much higher value of goods? 

ZIM Integrated Shipping Services currently operates as a “global niche carrier,” focusing mainly on the Asia-America, intra-Asia, cross Atlantic and cross Suez trade routes. Zim operates a fleet of 113 vessels, mostly chartered, making it a relatively agile company.

ZIM was established in June 1945, years before the establishment of the State of Israel. With its proud legacy and fresh spirit, the company has successfully integrated creative smart solutions within its already existing infrastructure. 

As an important part of ZIM’s business strategy, the company has brought much-needed innovative digital tools, along with its unique “personal touch” signature, with the intent of navigating from traditional to modern shipping and logistics.

According to Assaf Tiran, ZIM Vice President of Global Customer Service, also heading Digital Innovation, the journey began back in 2017, when Eli Glickman took office as president and CEO. “He set a new strategy for the company... and decided that the way that ZIM is going to meet its business objectives is by differentiating itself from the competition,” Tiran said.

ASSAF TIRAN, ZIM VP Global Customer Service (Credit: Zim)ASSAF TIRAN, ZIM VP Global Customer Service (Credit: Zim)

In 2017, those who were familiar with the shipping industry would have categorized it as a commoditized market, without hardly any differentiation between any of the companies supporting the global trade sector. So, the question was, what will set ZIM apart?

ZIM has put a lot of effort into digitizing its operations over the last four years with the aim of effectively building long-standing relationships with customers, and opening the way for them to easily engage with the company. “In some other industries customer service would be considered mainly as a pure ‘post-sales support,’” said Tiran. “However, in our industry, customer service is one of the main interfaces through which our customers are interacting with us.

The first interaction with the customer usually begins at the booking stage, which requires receiving a quote either directly from the relevant local sales team at one of the company’s agencies or through its online quoting and booking platform.

Even after the booking is confirmed, customer service remains the customer’s sole interface throughout the journey of the cargo, providing on-going updates regarding progress up until the cargo is finally released for pickup at its destination. 

ZIM’s customer service remotely monitors everything from the pickup, and loading up to discharge and final delivery of the cargo, while in the back ZIM’s operations teams ensure that the service will be delivered as committed. “Customer service is the main interface in which customers interact with ZIM,” Tiran said. “That is why it was crucial to up-scale our customers’ experience toward reaching the desired differentiation which will make ZIM customer’s first choice.

“Most industries went through their digitization phase much earlier than the shipping industry,” Tiran continued. “When I joined ZIM more than four years ago, digitized services were very minimal among most carriers and there was at least a decade gap vs other industries.” 

Since the shipping industry relies heavily on customer service interfaces to function within an effective capacity, ZIM decided to take exactly these focal points and go digital, while at the same time working to maintain its unique personal touch, offering those wishing to use its services a customer experience like no other.

Digitization often means more automation and less human touch. To rectify this, ZIM introduced a hybrid approach: provide the most advanced digital tools – while in parallel continue enhancing the direct personal contact with its customers. 

ZIM firmly believes in an open dialogue with its customers, which is why today, ZIM customers are an integral part of bringing the company’s digital vision to life.

For ZIM, “going digital” meant enabling the business aspect to be a complete hassle-free experience for their customers. Applying the newest digital trends in customer service came first and foremost to address the aspect which was indicated by the customers as having the highest impact on satisfaction – responsiveness! 

ZIM has implemented the most-advanced IT tools to monitor agencies’ performance and ensure customers receive the most efficient and professional resolution to their queries as well as to ensure they have various platforms that will enable them the manage their cargo 24/7.

As part of this effort, ZIM launched several digital services that look to incorporate innovative technologies:ZIM’s first initiative, “myZIM,” is a centralized personalized platform where customers have access to a wide range of digital services, such as managing their shipments, tracking them, going through their past shipment history, including all related documentation such as invoices, arrival notices and much more – all in one place. 

Additionally, customers can draft, approve and print their bills of lading independently. While these processes may be considered minor to the untrained eye, they significantly simplify the entire shipping process for the customer – making this an independent and customized digital experience.

myZIM also enables each user to define their own personalized notifications, enabling companies to set their employees up with a personal ID, sign in to their organization’s myZIM portal and choose whatever events they would like to be alerted about, or which steps of the process they would like access to according to their own individual preference. 

This gives individuals within the organization the option to efficiently track what is necessary for them, ensuring better workflow not only for the shipment but for the customer as well.

“Imagine an export company that has tens of employees, with each one managing its own shipments to its relevant end customers,” Tiran said. “Using myZIM, enables each to set its own preferences regarding cargo they would like to receive notifications for, what type of notifications (via email or even SMS) instead of us making those decisions for them. “This is how we defined B2B personalized service, making it easier for our customers to do business with us.”

MYZIM IS only one example of the company’s digital innovative approach. To further simplify the shipping process, ZIM digitized its booking processes, creating the eZIM booking and shipping instructions platform, giving account-holding customers a fast and easy way to manage their booking and shipping instructions digitally, using their PC or mobile device, for the cargo’s long journey ahead.

Furthermore, ZIM also introduced eZ Quote, a platform for non-contracted customers, enabling instant quoting and booking with guaranteed space and equipment, all through a few clicks via a digital process confirming their booking within less than 30 minutes. 

With both myZIM and eZ Quote, customers can even have immediate access to online chat support and customer service avenues, allowing them to quickly reach a representative anytime.

ZIM’s innovative vision took one step further. As ZIM believes in an open dialog with their customers, the journey toward digital transformation, along with all other recently developed digital services, came to life as part of an innovative working methodology named “Powered by our Customers.” It invites customers to take an active part in designing ZIM’s digital experience, “for customers by customers.”

“I would say that this is a pace that the industry hasn’t seen for years,” Tiran concluded. “We are leapfrogging, closing technological gaps from other equivalent industries very fast. What we did here at ZIM in four years is normally what other companies would expect to accomplish in eight years.”

This article was written in cooperation with ZIM Integrated Shipping Services.