But why does customer centricity really matter when working with a 20-foot-long container? And how do the teams at Maersk actually use customer insight?
In short, their practice is to make the customer shine in front of their own customers. Read along to get the full explanation.
Maersk has a legacy of almost 120 years of shipping. Today, it is the largest container shipping line in the world. However, in recent years, the company has repositioned itself to be an end-to-end logistics partner for B2B customers.
But when navigating a large vessel in a new direction, many unknown factors must be taken into account. Global Head of Insights at Maersk, John Walker, leads global customer insights and solution development for the company.
In this process, his focus has been democratising insights and driving customer-led innovation. In his own words, he has truly taken the journey of what it means to be customer-centric.
Let’s have a look at the journey towards customer-centricity at Maersk.
When people think of Maersk, many picture a whacking great ship with over 20,000 containers on it. That is the company’s legacy. In that context, John Walker says that he is not sure how vital customer-centricity used to be.
“In the past, our customers were just the companies we billed for moving their 20 or 40-foot containers from port A to port B. The future is to be an end-to-end integrated logistics provider, which means we follow the supply chain from raw materials going through factories to the customer’s front door,” John explains.
To be able to successfully make this transformation, they need to know a lot more about the customers. So this has been the main focus for John and his team at Maersk.
When John describes Maersk’s approach to customer-centricity, he asks you to picture a lead singer with his band at a concert.
Where do you think Maersk is in the picture? At the front, leading the band? This is actually our customer on stage because we believe that being customer-centric is helping our customer shine in front of their customer. Mærsk isn’t even in this picture. We’re the lighting crew, the sound engineers and the roadies, John describes.
He sees it as a humbling acknowledgement that their long-term success hinges on the ability to make the customer shine in front of their customers.
“That is the mindset we must all own and act from,” he says.
At Maersk, customer-centricity means that every colleague must practise customer empathy and see the linkage between what they do and the customer impact.
“Customer-centricity doesn’t come on spreadsheets and in PowerPoint. It is how we behave. It is not just something you turn on when you are talking to a customer. It is culture. It needs to be part of every colleague’s natural behaviour,” states Walker.
When a company is customer-centric it is not just a few teams that think of the customer. It has to be spread across the organisation. Starting at the very top.
A part of John’s job is to encourage the leaders at Maersk to stimulate a team culture of ‘customer obsession’. In such a culture, the teams genuinely empathise with customers and employees are encouraged to solve the challenges of today and explore opportunities to shape future value for the customers.
Leaders should be able to speak with confidence about what customer-centricity means in Maersk, unpack what it means for their function and have personal stories they can tour with to role model customer-centricity, he emphasises.
At the same time, he mentions the importance of a shared view of the customer. The leaders should do that through data and tools that continuously deepen employees’ understanding of our customers and how to best create value for them.
Curiosity thrives in a fruitful environment of experiments, data utilisation, and customer interactions. We humbly acknowledge that there is always more to learn through customer interactions, data and experiments, says Walker.
John Walker and his team in Customer Insights are using different tools to get a deeper understanding of their customers. Especially when they seek insights into scalable products.
Maersk has over 40 product teams working with segmentation, but they can only get to a certain point on their own. In order to make insights truly actionable, they often have to be specific to the product.
How do they know what the retailers in India think, feel or do when considering a specific product?
This is where a tool like Sonars is incredibly helpful. I have tremendous confidence in being able to point Sonar after a stakeholder. Even given the relatively low maturity of our stakeholders, a data-led question will get translated into something commercially relevant, actionable and researchable, states John Walker.
He goes on to explain that Sonar has given Maersk a reach beyond its own resources when needing a scalable and repeatable model to get quality-controlled insights from its customers.
Maersk uses a range of partners, but Walker highlights Sonar’s ability to conduct scalable online interviews with non-expert stakeholders with a consistency that works globally.
I feel comfortable pointing the Sonar team at any internal stakeholder. When somebody on our team ‘needs to talk to the customer’, I am confident it will get shaped into a sensible, outcome-based brief, concludes John Walker.