Terrible Five

The first five months of the year "are by far the worst of the year" for ocean carriers' customer service, says Claudio Bozzo, president of Mediterranean Shipping Co. (USA) -- and he has an interesting theory why.

From January through May, he notes, carriers are consumed with negotiation of thousands of annual service contracts. Bozzo says MSC negotiates about 2,500 contracts during that period. Illustrating the increased demands on all carriers' time, he said MSC's e-mail volume spikes about 30 percent from January through May. He calls these months the "Terrible Five."

Adding to the e-mail traffic has been reduction in the staffs of many companies (although Bozzo said MSC has not had layoffs). Bozzo said the loss of familiar staff means a loss of business contacts, which encourages people to hit their computer's "cc" key to ensure that their e-mail reaches the right person in a downsized organization.

The cumulative effect can be staggering, Bozzo said in speeches to the International Commerce Club of New Jersey on Wednesday night and earlier this month at the JOC's Trans-Pacific Maritime conference in Long Beach, He said MSC estimated that copying in one additional person on each of the company's e-mails generates 15 million additional e-mails a year.

At the risk of adding to e-mail traffic, we invite your thoughts: Do you see seasonal differences in customer service? If so, why?

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