Part two – Women in the Australian Industry
Whether it be providing yacht insurance or trained crew to the Australian and global markets these two women stand out in understanding their clients’ problems and providing solutions with consistent and personal service wherever they go.
Adaptability, persistence, and hard work are the keys to success whether it be in a large corporate or small business and the women I have talked to for this series of articles have these attributes in spades. No one can foresee the future with certainty, but there are clear indications that success in the decade ahead will require a keen focus on delivering positive experiences for all who engage with your business—from consumer to employee, across generations and geographies.
There is no doubt the coronavirus pandemic and the ways businesses had to adjust to ensure their survival changed the trajectory of what our future is looking like and what businesses should do to get ready for 2022 and beyond. As a GMBA consultant we are focused on trying to understand the latest trends and technologies and offer guidance on how to prepare businesses for them.
One thing hasn’t changed during the pandemic: The most successful leaders are laser focused on staying close to their best customers and understanding the strength of their relationship with them. Just as the best leaders have constant, clear communication with employees, they do the same with their clients. Leaders are taking these key questions into consideration: What specific challenges are my customers facing? How will my company adapt our resources to address customers’ current and future needs? What are coverage plans for servicing customers?
Two women who have impressed me over the past decade are Michaela Claes, Pantaenius and Joy Weston, Crew Pacific, industry service providers whose customer focus and can-do attitudes are ensuring their products are top of mind within the recreational and superyacht sectors. It is no surprise how these successful women are dealing with the current environment. The strongest leaders are determining how they can add more value, consistently over deliver plus keep a close eye on the future. I think being prepared for every eventuality is summed up by the Pantaenius email signature “WHATEVER LIES AHEAD”
Michaela Claes is Operations Manager for Pantaenius, a family-owned company based in Hamburg, launching in Australia in 2012. I met Michaela when Pantaenius first opened their office in Sydney, she is a woman that impresses you with her warmth and leaves no doubt as to her ability to get the outcomes required for the customer and the company. Michaela manages the entire backend of the Australian office as well as being responsible for the marketing function.
The biggest challenge back in 2012 was to create awareness that Pantaenius was here in Australia and that policies and claims were handled by experienced, knowledgeable staff with lots of boating industry experience. Creating awareness of new companies in a competitive environment is no mean feat especially when you have global templates to use that do not always translate into the Australian market. Michaela and the team at Pantaenius impressed me with the way they worked with their German head office to massage the global marketing collateral to develop a marketing campaign that caught the attention of the Australian marine industry. Being a family owned and operated business Pantaenius can quickly adapt, something many large corporates are unable to do. Always with a strong focus on the business Michaela stated, “What made the difference is our product is so different to other insurance products and we are still the only onshore insurer who can offer cover for blue water cruising.” With stability being a rarity in a tumultuous marine yacht insurance market hit by big losses over the past years, the long-standing solid family owned Pantaenius is a rare breed as are people with the commitment of Michaela.
Joy Weston owns Crew Pacific, a professional recruitment & training organisation for the international super yacht industry established in 2001. Prior to starting the business, Joy worked on a number of sailing and motor yachts overseas. Joy is based in Cairns and has earnt her solid reputation as someone who understands the industry and the importance of building relationships and understanding her clients needs.
Life in the crew recruitment industry is no mean feat in today’s environment where borders are closed, and crew cannot move freely. Joy’s practical experience within the industry is extensive and she has an extensive list of global contacts and relationships due to her international yachting experiences and I would encourage you to read her story. www.crewpacific.com.au/about-us/how-crew-pacific-started
Q1. Will boat shows continue to be important to your business and do you see it critical to your business to get back to the personal relationship building that tends to be the focus of domestic and global boat shows
Like most women I have spoken to recently the answer to this question is an overwhelming yes from both Michaela and Joy. Michaela stated “Boat shows are one of the most essential ways we market and promote our product. They provide us with the opportunity to connect with our existing and potential clients in a face-to-face setting. This allows us to fulfil our commitment of building strong relationships with our customers as well as identify how we can continually improve our product and service to suit their needs. Whilst we also connect with our clients through the delivery of regular targeted newsletters which provide information relevant to the individual, this method will never surpass the value we get from the participation in boat shows and other events such as regattas.”
Q2 What are the key changes you have had to make in your business during this pandemic to survive and thrive?
Michaela, “When the pandemic hit, we immediately looked to our CRM systems to see how we can optimize the services we provide and ensure that our customers continue to see the value Pantaenius provides. Utilising our CRM system also allowed us to reach new customers. Our main success came from the creation of the targeted newsletters for our customers which received positive feedback. We also revisited previous customers and non-converted customers and provided them with personalised, market relevant news along with information and offers.
Q3. The world is now shaped by technology change, social media, consumer expectations and hyper connectivity how have you embraced these factors to develop your business?
Joy, “We have now moved fully into the digital online and social media space to market out business and deliver our training courses.”
Michaela, “We have built a much stronger social media campaign that echoes the Pantaenius philosophy. Combined with our newsletters we have managed to reach a greater potential customer base, and as a by-product have also improved our customer retention.”
Q4. Many stakeholders tell me that customer expectations have changed since the start of the pandemic, and everyone must work harder to achieve customer satisfaction.
Joy, “Crew Pacific deals with two types of Customers: one, being a young student wanting to work on a super yacht without a real understanding of the industry or desire to undertake any courses and two, being the super yacht owner or captain looking for crew. Captains and owners can be very reluctant to pay placement fees or have been burnt by other crewing agents. I now offer an option where they can take a crew member on a temp basis and be charged a temp fee. If the crewmember works out, then the difference of the full-time fee is paid to Crew Pacific. This option seems to hit the mark. We must continually look at ways to satisfy our clients issues.”
Michaela, “Pantaenius’ core identity when it comes to market approach is the assurance that everyone in our team understands boats and the risks that come with them and as such, we are able to confidently engage with our customers on such topics. Unlike our competitors we can offer informed and relevant advice or information, and all 15 of our staff are able to provide this. This is a unique advantage and is why we have such a high percentage of customer satisfaction with our service. We have put service at the very top of the list from day one. We respond to a quote request inside 24 hours in 95% of cases. We generally process policy amendments on the day and general customer enquiries are responded to within 1 working day.”
Q5. Many businesses say that they now must think more locally than globally given the many covid restrictions and border closures. You have aspects of your business that are global and local – has the mix changed. Have you refocused your business offering in any way to meet customer needs/expectations?
Michaela, “During the early days of the pandemic we saw a significant fall in both clients use of their insurance product and enquiries associated with boats located outside Australia. This has changed in the last 6 months as we have seen a return to 2019 figures associated with offshore business. Much of this increase is related to the sharp increase on high value purchases of boats in Europe and the USA by Australia clients. Most of these boats have or are destined to be imported back into Australia.”
Joy, “Crew Pacific is an international recruitment agency which means I have a large data base of crew located overseas. I still can place crew in Europe, America, and world-wide. Here in Australia and New Zealand placing crew and running training courses is a little harder with the constant border closures and crew not being able to move around. With this overflow of students not being able to attend training courses it has reduced the number of qualified staff available here.”
Q6. What is your view be of the current Australia and where do you see the opportunities/threats if the borders remain closed?
Michaela, “The boating market is very strong in Australia and NZ. COVID has undoubtedly led to significant growth in our industry, we anticipate continuing to see the trend of increased participation and use.”
Joy, “Right now for any recruitment agency it is a huge struggle to find qualified and experienced crew in Australia. There is a large shortage right now and with more super yachts being built and new owners buying yachts and building yachts it is only going to get more difficult to fulfill these job roles. Borders need to remain open, and people need to get vaccinated.”