We are fortunate enough to have an exceptional spread of clients around the world, from the largest, most successful “household” names in maritime to the smallest, most dynamic firms, clients undertaking all aspects of maritime trade from ship owners and managers through to SnP and Chartering brokers.
For us, feedback from our clients is key to developing a product that delivers real value. As we approach the end of the year, it seemed logical to look back and canvas some of our newer clients to see not only what they liked most about CompassAir, but what they considered were the features that added the most value. As always, we take note of any suggestions, however minor they might be, where improvements can be made, the most valuable of which are then incorporated into our development plan.
The following represent the most common observations, with an insight into how CompassAir contributes.
• Agility – “Things get done that much quicker”
• Teamwork – “Our team is working much better together”
• Accessibility – “Available regardless of where we all are”
• Value – “Saves money”
• Edge – “Able to get a head start on our competitors”
• Simplicity – “Up and running in no time, with very little training needed”
• Current – “Regular product updates”
• Support – “On the rare occasion something goes wrong, it’s fixed fast”
• Innovation – “Clever use of AI”
• Migration – “the move to CompassAir was easy, quick and painless”
1 Agility – “Things get done that much quicker”
With CompassAir continuously evolving, we not only incorporate the latest technological and software developments to help our clients, but we also are able to act on their especially valuable feedback, suggestions we get from individual everyday users of our software.
Speeding up and simplifying workflows has consistently been at the top of the list of qualities our clients look for when changing software, and because of that, this has always been a guiding principle in the ongoing development of CompassAir.
Speeding up and simplifying brings to mind automation and no better example of this is CompassPulse, which makes use of Artificial Intelligence. For example, for an SnP broker CompassPulse will perform many repetitive tasks, accurately and quickly. This allows a broker’s time to be focussed on adding value, simultaneously delivering an edge in terms of the ability to respond to opportunities in advance of one’s competitors.
Aside from CompassPulse, other feedback we have received makes reference to the more established features of CompassAir, including
• Message rules, for example – these first define certain characteristics of a message, and then determine how that message is treated. Then colour coding of messages can also be automated, enabling a user to spot immediately the general type of a message.
• Another feature much liked that saves a significant amount of time, and reduces the number of emails being sent back and forth, is integrated chat, or discussions. Discussions can take place in two ways, firstly chat with other CompassAir users in an organisation, similar to WhatsApp, and secondly users with access to a shared mailbox can have a group discussion “on top of” particular emails that are sent and received.
• Alongside these, NotifyMe is proving to be very popular with our new clients. Marking a message “NotifyMe” means CompassAir will be watching out for future emails in the same thread, which could be as simple as a reply to an email that has just been sent. As soon as the anticipated reply arrives, an alert is sent both to a user’s mobile and desktop application. When using this feature one is immediately aware a response has arrived, without the need to waste time checking.
Having mobile access to CompassAir, effectively carrying your office around in your pocket, has also proved to be invaluable to the clients we canvassed. With the recently launched, new designed, enhanced mobile app, seamless “business as usual” is now more available than ever, no matter where you happen to be.
We will explore this topic in more detail below, but those clients who have not used a genuinely shared mailbox before, for example having used Outlook, they have found their team now works better together, is more efficient, is more productive and gets things done that much faster.
2 Teamwork – “Our team is working much better together”
Team email collaboration software is the cornerstone of what we do. Whilst we have specific modules that serve to increase the productivity of those in the maritime sector (for example, S&P brokers and Chartering Brokers), our underlying messaging software can bring benefits to almost any type of business.
The starting point is a shared mailbox. With each team member having individual access, the benefits include unified communication, an email address that acts as a hub, delegation of tasks being that much easier, with transparency increased along with productivity. For more of an insight see our articles “Shared mailboxes – what, why and how?” and “Making the best of your inbox”.
Discussions, or Integrated Chat, also expedites teamwork. One way in which this happens is when they take place around (are effectively attached to) a particular email. Clients have commented on the benefits that are achieved, including a reduction in the number of emails between team members, faster communication with colleagues and the creation of a permanent audit trail. Last but not least, integrated chat brings with it the ability to discuss a particular email, to agree how and who should respond, simultaneously attaching to the thread those thoughts and comments, useful if they need to be reviewed later, again all without adding to “email noise”.
On the subject of reviewing emails before they are sent, the use of a scheduled outbox – where the user determines the delay before an email leaves the outbox – has proven to be invaluable when emails need to be reviewed before being sent.
With our mobile app, all this functionality can also occur regardless of where individual team members happen to be. This is especially valuable with brokers regularly travelling as they do, in other words, it means a team does not have to be in the same location to operate efficiently, in fact they need not even be in the same part of the world.
3 Accessibility – “Available regardless of where we all are”
Being able to access the same information, irrespective of where you happen to be, this has proven invaluable to many of our new clients. There are a surprising number of our competitors who still do not provide a web-based service – so the advantages were clear to those clients who moved from these providers. On the other hand, many of our clients were previously “Outlook/Excel” users, and whilst they had online access, this combination was never the most efficient solution to the challenges they faced (for an insight into the shortcomings of Excel for a maritime professional, please do read our article on the subject).
Outlook of course is a superb tool for handling an individual’s emails, however it is far less efficient when being used in conjunction with a shared email address. This has been illustrated with the feedback we have from the ex-“Outlook/Excel” client group, who, as they grew, many started to feel pressure as the challenges increased. The first nasty symptoms being extremely slow search and email handling. On top of that, having an integrated vessel database, accessible 24/7 wherever you happen to be, automatically brings advantages that need no explanation. For more information on this subject do read our article “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?”
With CompassPulse always on, working 24/7, and sending notifications to both a user’s desktop and smartphone, it leads to a faster response to opportunities, faster than one’s competitors regardless of your location.
Another invaluable feature of the mobile app, that our clients have put at the top of the list, is the ability to use it to send circulars. No longer does a broker have to wait until they return to the office to bring to the attention of their contacts available opportunities.
4 Value – “Saves money”
For us, CompassPulse is all about adding value, although more than one new client has described its use to be a significant source of cost savings. We have had similar feedback regarding our automation features, and it is evident that using resources more efficiently will often result in a reduction in expenditure.
CompassPulse and CompassAir automation allow our clients to reallocate resources, to use them in a way that adds the maximum value. An example of this is the automated process of Purchase Enquiries (PEs) – see our article on the subject. By making good use of artificial intelligence, resources can be applied to those activities that add more value. Not only that, AI also speeds up processes, delivering a valuable competitive edge. For example, in some of our smaller clients it was the broker who identified and recorded an incoming PE. Not only can CompassPulse take on this task, taking note of the PE as soon as it arrives in the inbox, CompassAir immediately scans the vessel database, and recommends ships currently for sale that meet the requirements of the potential buyer. Clearly, if a broker is simply presented with a list of recommendations rather than having to undertake laborious administrative tasks, they will have more time to apply their skills in a way that really adds value.
For those clients who utilised administrative staff to record PEs, they have been able to use this resource in more profitable ways, rather than to carry out repetitive tasks. One recent example, where PE Recorder was put to good use, was where a client found the recruitment of suitably qualified support staff to be especially challenging. By utilising CompassPulse, with its ability to reduce repetitive manual tasks, significant savings in expenditure on contractors were soon realised.
5 Edge – “Able to get a head start on our competitors”
Along with simplifying and speeding up workflows, ensuring our clients have a competitive edge is a similarly important priority for us.
Using CompassPulse is possibly the most powerful and obvious way such an edge can be achieved. This is attained by significantly reducing the number of repetitive tasks and freeing up more time for a broker to apply their skills to activities that create the most value. In addition, with CompassPulse detecting for example Purchase Enquiries and Commercial Advices as soon as they are received, and then not only matching available ships but also delivering recommendations in a matter of seconds, any broker who makes use of this tool cannot fail to immediately find themselves ahead of their competitors.
NotifyMe is another CompassAir feature designed to give a user a head start. Along with the other automation features referred to elsewhere in this article, this represents another way to stay ahead of the competition. Our clients have commented on the time it saves – on average we check our emails 15 times a day and it takes around 20 minutes to recover each time. In this case, we are looking for important emails – if you cut that checking by just 3, that’s an hour of quality time saved each day for each member of the team.
Having access to all the information available in the office, including documents, emails, ship data and so forth, no matter where you happen to be, has proven to be invaluable to our clients. It means, when needed, the service our clients provide can be made available 24/7 – for some this is even when on vacation! All this is made possible with our mobile app and our web-based software.
6 Simplicity – “Up and running in no time, with very little training needed”
The beauty of Outlook is its familiarity and ease of use – it is “intuitive”. We take satisfaction with CompassAir also having been described in the same way by numerous clients, and although having similar qualities to Outlook, we like to think we can take at least one further step by being industry specific. Our software is designed to meet the needs of companies within the maritime sector, having fairly unique operational needs and allowing access to unique features, whilst at the same time avoiding the expense of custom software. For a more detailed insight into the differences between generic and industry specific software, the pros and the cons, do read our article “Outlook or Industry Specific”.
Whenever help is required however, it’s always available either through our Solutions or Support departments, the former maintaining regular contact with our clients and providing complementary tuition whenever the need arises. On the rare occasion technical assistance is required, our Support personnel are always there to meet challenges as they arise.
As mentioned elsewhere, CompassAir is constantly subject to a rolling development program, simplification of workflows being an important goal. Coupled with seamless migration, the experience from importing data through to full everyday use is one of ease and simplicity.
7 Current – “Regular product updates”
As mentioned previously, CompassAir is constantly being developed, improvements being introduced not only in response to invaluable feedback from our everyday users, but also in response to changes in technology. A few years ago it would have been inconceivable to imagine the assistance now provided by CompassPulse, even for ourselves let alone our clients. With technology advancing so quickly these days there are so many opportunities to make our products more sophisticated. Luckily, with our clients being so extensive in terms of activities, geography and size, with their feedback we are able to focus only on incorporating those features that add the most value, that make the everyday life of our user easier and more productive.
As well as introducing new or updated products throughout the year, our mobile app and web-based SnP software being good, recent examples, we issue a regular list of the new features introduced, three or more times a year, where all program updates are listed along with detailed explanations for each.
8 Support – “On the rare occasion something goes wrong, it’s fixed fast”
We have already made reference to the services available from our Solutions and Support departments. Hopefully the times when the help of the latter is required will be few and far between. However, when they are needed, their speedy response in getting to the heart of the problem and finding efficient solutions means one less thing to worry about.
9 Innovation – “Clever use of AI”
Artificial intelligence surrounds us in our everyday lives – from suggestions for new friends with Facebook, what you might like to consider watching in Netflix, to fraud prevention when using online banking through to Google’s sophisticated predictive search algorithms.
Despite this familiarity with AI, interestingly CompassPulse generates much excitement when it’s first introduced to our clients’ workflows. There are probably at least two reasons for this. The first may be familiarity with Facebook and Netflix. For example, everyday use leads us to forget just how clever is the technology that lies behind products we are making use of every day. Secondly, CompassPulse on the other hand, more often than not has a very significant impact on the daily routine of an SnP broker. No longer do they have to scan what can amount to hundreds of messages a day, record Purchase Enquiries, note Commercial Advices, search their vessel database to find matching ships or, importantly, worry about missing any of this – all these time consuming, repetitive tasks can now be undertaken by our software, consistently, accurately and without being subject to the effects of fatigue.
10 Migration – “the move to CompassAir was easy, quick and painless”
Never an easy decision to make, switching software provider should only be undertaken if one is sure it will bring significant benefits to a business. This is particularly important when it relates to applications as critical as communications. For a more detailed insight into the subject do read our article “Beware the hidden costs of switching software providers”.