By Claes Eek Thorstensen,
President & Chief Commercial Officer, Thome Group
Management of visitors onboard vessels has always been important. It reflects the company, management onboard and the individual. Every visitor onboard should be treated with the same attention, respect and service. They are all important and must be seen as customers.
It is essentially customer management and everyone onboard must contribute and work together to create a good atmosphere onboard. If we compare to our daily lives ashore, we all appreciate feeling welcomed, positivite energy and good service. It gives a good impression and we feel valued. There is no difference onboard.
All visitors want to feel welcomed and appreciated.
The style onboard also reflects on all of us. Good housekeeping, dress code – uniforms or proper PPE is essential to be an impression of safety culture, management and crew competency
Who are the visitors onboard? Visitors can be characterized in many categories – owners’ representatives, oil major inspectors, charters representatives, class surveyors, surveyors (cargo, bunkers, insurers, pre-purchase but not limited to), Port State inspectors, company representatives, makers representatives / service engineers, service companies and the list goes on.
It is important all visitors are treated well.
A few guidelines on hospitality management onboard:
Prepare for visit
All visits in port, anchorage and on-voyage should be well planned. Complete all checklists, good housekeeping, instructions to all officers and crew on dress code, prepare food and beverages and prepare spaces that will be accessed.
Make sure that all is well prepared for visitors and that they are taken care of. You should plan to attend to the visitors and give them attention.
All papers work required must be well prepared.
One of the most critical moment is the welcoming and the first minutes onboard. All people will form an impression during the boarding and the initial interaction with the crew onboard. Ensure that the guests are met at the gangway, formalities followed and brought to meet the senior officer/s.
The meeting must be courteous, informative and give a feeling of being planned and in control.
If the initial impression is not good, it is difficult to change this opinion.
Greet them as you would into your own home. Ensure that they have a cabins / space to change, leave their belongings. Offer them something to eat and drink. Let them feel comfortable, valued and at ease.
Understanding the Human Psychology
We must have an understanding of the human psychology. The visitor/s may have had a difficult day, in a difficult period or personal problem that may affect their mood. This is where EQ – emotional intelligence is important. The ability to empathize, situational awareness and control emotions.
Convey feeling of being respectfull, show flexibility, being a problem solver and dependable.
Be cultural sensitive
The shipping industry is global and we are exposed to multiple cultures and religions.
Be aware, considerate and respectful to the local culture and religion.
Pay attention to the visitor.
With everything well prepared, listen to the agenda and plan accordingly. Ensure they are being attended to at all times. Give them attention and if not able to attend to them personally assign an appropriate officer to the task.
Good communication skills are essential. Be clear and concise. Listen and do not argue. Your points and views should be conveyed in a proper manner.
Ensure that the departure from vessel is well-planned, all points related to visit is summarized, action points agreed and wish them safe travels.
Hospitality management is a team effort and everyone is vital to the experience and also the result.
Please remember that preparation, positive attitude, service mindset and a smile goes a long way.