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Interview with Helga van Oeveren – Customer Service – Rotterdam Office

Customer Service – Always on top of the latest news
Interview with Helga van OeverenCustomer Service – Rotterdam Office

Always on top of the latest news

‘Whether it is a storm, a traffic jam, strikes or Brexit, every day is a challenging puzzle,’ says Helga van Oeveren. A conversation about the fast-paced life of logistics.

The quay of the port of Rotterdam seems to be deserted. A single pilot boat defies the crested waves, probably to help out a cargo ship. An iron fence hangs loosely on its hinges, its squeaky sound barely hearable. Samskip’s head office stands tall above the surface of the quay while the storm is wrapping its big, windy arms around the building. ‘Today is a good example of how the Customer Services department needs to pull every string to get the ordered cargo to its destinations on time,’ says Helga van Oeveren (52), who has been working at Samskip for two years.

What are the consequences for your department when a storm of this size hits the shore?
‘Some of the ports are closed, some vessels are delayed. And of course, there are vessels that have already arrived, but cannot unload their cargo because the containers would be swinging in their chains if you would try to get them on shore. So, most of the cargo will be late due to the bad weather conditions. This means that the whole journey needs to be reorganised to get the container to its final destination. We need to contact our customer, the rail terminals, inland barges and truck drivers to reschedule the load.’

Luckily storms like these do not hit the shores too often…
‘In our department, ‘a storm’ can be anything. Whether it is the weather, like today, or a sudden strike in a port. The latter means that you need to recalculate the shipping fees and inform the customers. Most of our customers are very understanding, because ‘storms’, in any way or form, sometimes just occur. It helps when I can make it very clear to them that we will always deliver the goods as soon as possible and when I keep them informed about the steps we make.’

What kind of customers or cargo are you responsible for?
‘I am on the UK and Ireland trades. This can be anything from shipping clothes, waste, food or machinery. Most of the shipments are to or from Germany, Belgium, France, Austria, or the Netherlands, of course.’

You must be on top of the news, then. What does a potential Brexit mean for your job?
‘We are preparing for a Brexit just like our customers are. A lot needs to be organised, but no one knows for sure what kind of changes it will bring. We have all just been trained on how to handle customs matters. A training like that is a very proactive approach to circumstances that might or might not be changing. Samskip is very much on top of these things, which I like because it gives us all the extra information we need.’

Challenging indeed. You’ve worked here for two years now. Have you always been in logistics?
‘No, I got my nursing degree on the job. Then after twelve years, I changed the course of my career by working at a company which made promotional gifts. Later on, I opened a similar business for myself. So, I have never been in logistics, but I did ship 20.000 promotional gifts every year. So, I was not completely new to the business. During my whole career, one thing that has always been essential to me was taking care of other people’s needs. And that is very important if you want to succeed in this job. You need to think fast, be flexible and understand exactly what your customer needs.’

You’ve had some very different jobs. Where do you see yourself working in a few years from now?
‘I still feel the urge to develop myself even further. I believe I am good at keeping customers happy, and when they are not, I can make them happy again. So at some point, I see myself in a sales role at Samskip. I would love that. It is a great company. But for now, I am going back to my office because the storm is still hitting our shores today and a lot needs to be done to get the cargo in place on time.’