As a leading global chemical storage provider, Stolthaven Terminals is committed to maintaining the integrity of its customers' products which, for this business, means a lot more than providing consistently safe, high-quality services.
The team has also gone to great lengths to design its strategy around its customers and to make clear that every employee, whatever their role, is responsible for delivering a great service.
On any given day, Stolthaven Terminals’ 14 sites are storing more than US$4 billion of its customers’ products. So, the company mantra to ’care for every last drop as if it were our own’ makes very good business sense. But the team understands that developing strong partnerships is just as critical for its success. And this starts on the inside.
Creating a customer-focused culture
Customer centricity is an integral part of Stolthaven Terminals’ business strategy and everyone – whether they are customer facing or not – is responsible for applying it to their daily role. But this mindset didn’t happen overnight; there has been a concerted effort over the past three years to evolve the company culture in a more customer-focused direction.
President of Stolthaven Terminals, Guy Bessant (pictured), explains: "Customer centricity – and how we work with others – is a crucial part of achieving our mission to be the most respected global storage provider and is central to our success. Within Stolthaven, we truly believe that we must all understand our customers' needs and then work together across functions to deliver a positive customer experience and create value for all stakeholders."
With this in mind, the business launched a comprehensive training programme in early 2019 to align all customer service departments worldwide with the global strategy. “Then Covid-19 happened, and we rapidly and successfully developed online modules for the programme to keep our momentum going,” says Bessant. “We have always had our customers in the forefront of our mind, but our teams have been receptive and adaptable in terms of further embedding this philosophy.”
Stolthaven Terminals also created local customer leadership teams, which include people from all levels and departments of the business who ensure the service remains focused on the customer at every stage and touchpoint of their journey.
“We have always brought our sister companies on board to make sure we give our customers the integrated service they need. It’s a great feeling knowing we can work together to solve almost any problem for our customers." Rick Clark, Account Manager, Stolthaven New Orleans
Manon de Bruijn, Customer Service Manager – Europe, explains that the first step was to make sure employees understood why it was essential for everyone to adopt a customer-focused mindset. “We kept to the consistent message that customer centricity is about understanding our customers' needs so we can deliver the ‘right’, tailored service to them. The right service makes our customers' lives easier and helps them fulfil their objectives, which can improve their profitability and foster happy, loyal customers for us. Quite simply, we all win together.”
Ultimately, the aim of the culture evolution was to embed the mindset to the point that it became second nature at every level, in every department and across all locations. And today, employees from all regions are walking, talking ambassadors for customer-centred ways of working.
“When we work together as a team and have open communication, ultimately this comes across to our customers in our face-to-face interactions and other communications", says Kelly Fuller, Account Manager, Stolthaven New Orleans, US (pictured). "The collaboration we have with all departments allows each of us to pass along pertinent information so we all have a better understanding of what the customer requires and how we can work together to deliver it.”
Bill Haysom from Operations at Stolthaven Dagenham, UK, agrees: "When we know what the product is, what it is used for and who the customer is we can give a better service and information to the ship crews and truck drivers with whom we interact. In this way, we can give a good representation of the terminal and that gets fed back through to the customer.”
Collaborating to ease customer pain points
Stolthaven Terminals’ partnership approach also extends to working with other Stolt-Nielsen businesses to deliver the best possible service to customers.
The prevailing company ethos is that Stolthaven Terminals provides a vital service that is part of a longer supply chain. Customers will need transportation services before and after products are stored at one of its terminals and the team is always thinking about how it can make those connections more seamless.
When truck-driver shortages caused serious logistics challenges in the US this year – as they did in Europe – many of Stolthaven New Orleans’ customers turned to rail to move their products from the terminal. But driver shortages in that sector meant that the railcars weren’t returning quickly enough to empty tanks before new product arrived.
“Two customers had a Stolt Tankers ship coming in laden with their product but their tanks at our terminal were already full,” recalls Fuller. “We immediately reached out to Stolt Tank Containers and arranged for them to move the product, and store the excess in their isotanks, until our tanks could be emptied.
“It was an immensely successful collaborative solution, which saved the customer demurrage costs and allowed them to keep their supply chains moving. It helped Stolt Tankers too as they could discharge the cargo from their ship on time.”
This has long been the way things are done at Stolthaven New Orleans says Rick Clark, Account Manager, Stolthaven Commercial (pictured). “Wherever it’s made sense, we have always brought our sister companies on board to make sure we give our customers the integrated service they need. It’s a great feeling knowing we can work together to solve almost any problem for our customers, and it’s a huge advantage for all Stolt-Nielsen businesses.”
Mark Lim, Commercial Manager, Stolthaven Singapore (pictured), agrees that cross-business collaboration not only benefits customers, but also provides a competitive advantage: “When we work together and have those strong relationships between businesses, we can proactively offer our customers solutions rather than them having to go and find one. This is something many of our competitors can’t do.”
Hitting the mark
The New Orleans example of putting the customer above all else is one that is echoed across the company. It demonstrates how Stolthaven employees are committed to ‘living’ the customer-centric approach, but what of the customers themselves? After all, customer centricity means very little if it isn’t making a difference to the target audience.
Fortunately, the strategy is delivering benefits to – and reaping rewards from – customers across the Stolthaven map. A representative from Covestro, one of the leading suppliers of premium polymers and a long-term customer of Stolthaven Terminals worldwide, said recently: “Stolt people know and understand our business. They are responsive and eager to work with us... [We receive] excellent communication from Customer Service, and Operations accommodates our changing needs.”
Meanwhile, ExxonMobil described the team it works with as: "Responsive, willing to listen to customer needs; a strong customer relations team.”
And there is no shortage of official accolades. In the past 18 months, Stolthaven Terminals has received a number of customer awards for outstanding performance. LyondellBasell awarded Stolthaven Houston its GoalZERO safety award; Stolthaven Santos was named 'Best Terminal in Brazil' by two customers, Dow Chemicals and Raízen; and Dow Chemical Logistics named Stolthaven Singapore the Dow S4TAR Logistics Best Service Provider for the second year running.
“The chemical industry is now facing unprecedented challenges,” says Bessant. “In the past few years alone, the world has faced major disruptions which have impacted supply chains, and these seem to be happening more frequently. For example, in Europe now, we have high energy and feedstock costs and the conflict in Ukraine.
“At Stolthaven Terminals, we believe that working closely with our customers will not only give them an even better, more tailored service, but also enable greater resilience in their supply chains. And working closely with our sister companies in Stolt-Nielsen will allow us to address common challenges we – and our customers – face, including around improving the sustainability footprint of the supply chain."