Spanning oceans and continents as well as cultures and industries, the now officially launched Ocean Network Express (ONE) looks to deliver not only freight but also trust and security over a vast network of routes.
Ocean Network Express is comprised of the former three largest Japanese ocean freight carriers and this feat of mutual cooperation is something to be admired, as normally with mergers of this size one party takes over as the dominant face of the group. What the three Japanese carriers have done is unprecedented. Peacefully, and in a mutually beneficial way, they have set aside their old banners and took up arms together under ONE; uniting to become stronger and more resilient in ever increasingly hostile market conditions.
However, none of this would be possible without their loyal customer base, and as such, Ocean Network Express has kept a keen focus on their customers to ensure they do not feel any adverse effects from the restructuring of the Group. For a more in-depth look, we were honored to speak with Mr. Kiyoshi Tokonami, Managing Director Ocean Network Express (Thailand) Ltd; and Mr. Shinichi Sugiyama, Director Ocean Network Express (Thailand) Ltd further about the current state of the company and their vision moving forward.
Combining for Success
The consolidations and mergers we’re currently seeing in the container shipping industry are becoming common place due to overcapacity in the marketplace. In order to compete and survive, a carrier’s business needs a certain volume that individually is turning out to not be enough and is the merit by which many are justifying the need to unify. This is just what the three former largest Japanese carriers decided before coming together to form a new ocean line. ONE’s fleet size will encompass 1.4 million TEUs, placing them sixth in the market in terms of size with a 7% global market share.
Mr. Tokonami, said, “This merger was a necessity for our business to prosper in the future. At the same time though, we must remember that from customer side it doesn’t matter. Their main concern is how we take care of their cargo, so we much always keep a focal point on the individual needs of customers. The motto we strive for is large enough to survive, but small enough to care for our customers. Some carriers are so large they turn their business into a factory style of service. We aim to always maintain a human touch that enables us to stay close to customers. We have a combined 130 years of shipping business experience between the three former carriers, so we know how to take care of our loyal customers. It’s in our corporate DNA and will always be a core tenet of our business philosophy.”
Focused on Customer Care
Now that the official unification of the three carriers is complete, the real work is just beginning. Making sure that the customer is taken care of is at the top of the new carrier’s priority list.
A common question that they’re receiving is, what’s happening to the containers that are booked with the old carriers that have yet to arrive? Ocean Network Express was quick to assure customers that their cargo will arrive as scheduled. ONE is taking every measure to make it as seamless as possible for customers. In order to handle any customer concerns, all three previous carriers will have staff in their old offices to field customer concerns. Any customer under the old system doesn’t have to worry. The transition will be smooth as Ocean Network Express takes every step possible to ensure that customers feels no impact from the changes.
Mr. Sugiyama said, “Under our concept of ‘customer first,’ we always place customer satisfaction as our number one priority; it’s at the heart of ONE. Currently, we want to maintain all of our old facilities and vendors, so customers can feel comfortable if they want to continue delivering to the old facilities. We want customers to for now, keep maintaining what you’re doing. We want to make this transition to be as painless as possible for customers. We have customer service representatives ready to accept orders by phone, online submissions, or really however a customer is most comfortable contacting us.”
Under our concept of ‘customer first,’ we always place customer satisfaction as our number one priority; it’s at the heart of ONE
He continued, “We are also maintaining our regional offices at Hat Yai, and continuing our coverage at Laem Chabang Port, the Chao Phraya River, Lat Krabang ICD, and transportation by barge or truck; we really have all the tools a customer could need for transportation and logistics in Thailand. For customer service related issues, we have dedicated teams for trade organizations, Japanese, automotive, international freight forwarders, reefer and global account customer representatives ready and able to assist.”
United as ONE
As some customers may still be confused with whom to contact and may have other concerns, the Group was quick to mention that they will handle each customer very delicately and personally. They will have a backup system in place so if a customer makes a booking with the old carriers they will still receive the order. The Group is taking as many measures as feasibly possible to ensure that they keep the functions in place to guide customers to referring to ONE for future bookings.
Mr. Tokonami said, “It will be common that someone will call the number they have been using for year’s forgetting that we are now under the ONE banner, but no problem, everything is taken care of. Fortunately, we’ve kept almost everything over in the integration. We already have established balanced teams, and everyone is focused on customers now. The shipping industry is a service business and we must ensure customers are happy. We must mix operational excellence and service together. To do this, we have to be flexible in order to find solutions. I always tell our staff to ask themselves, ‘if I am a customer how would I feel?’ This is a very simple way to ensure we do what’s best for customers, by putting ourselves in their shoes. Keeping in close contact with an open dialogue is very important and ensures that every move we make is in the best interest of our loyal and dedicated customers.”
The first magenta colored Ocean Network Express containers to be shipped out of Thailand featured cargo from the Japanese company Canon. An event was held to mark this special occasion, and Mr. Kazumasa Sakurai, President of Canon Hi-Tech (Thailand) Ltd. was in attendance and said, “We are overjoyed to have ONE officially starting their service. It’s amazing to see the combined three Japanese carriers working together as one, creating new and timely services for the region. While this is our first shipment with the carrier, we look forward to many more in the near future and building a fruitful relationship with ONE.”