Industry's customer service leaves much to be desired

Column by: Ben Dart, customer interface manager for DHL Express, UAE.
Logistics, COMMENT, Business Trends


Column written by Ben Dart, customer interface manager for DHL Express, UAE.

The fact that there is a far-reaching problem with customer service in this region will come as no surprise to anyone. We all have painful experiences to talk of and while no organisation on earth can please 100 per cent of people 100 per cent of the time, the problem crops up when they do not take the time to listen to their customers as they should. And then, when they do ask for feedback, they do not take the steps necessary to make things better.

A good example of this is when dealing with the call centre of a bank – going through the rigmarole of getting through to the right person and explaining the issue, only to be told you have to go into your branch to resolve the issue. They might consider it to be a ‘good’ call because they answered it efficiently and followed the specified protocol. But is the customer left feeling satisfied? I very much doubt it.

Indeed, the customer is more often than not left feeling that the person who is supposed to be helping them is actually making the whole process more difficult than it needs to be. It is not their fault – they are tied to a script and are not necessarily empowered to make decisions that will ultimately improve the customer experience.

It’s not just banks; creating an exceptional customer experience – from start to finish – should be the cornerstone of every business, whatever sector it is in, and wherever in the world it is. And with so few organisations in this market seeming to make it a priority, achieving high standards of customer service provides a great platform to help businesses stand out from the crowd.
As a customer-focused industry, logistics providers such as us need to be aware of the importance of making our customers’ lives easier. At the end of the day, our customers are our life-blood. At DHL we are incredibly proud of our history, team and unique global connectivity, but, when it comes down to it, we recognise that there are other integrators out there who, in one way or another, are making the logistics sector a very competitive playing field.

But the one area where the logistics sector is not delivering as well as it could is in the area of customer loyalty. DHL believes that this is the key to keeping customers in the long term, which is why we differentiate through service leadership to achieve customer loyalty.

We are committed to finding out what our customers want, and while we still believe that tools such as annual customer satisfaction surveys are useful, they do not tell the whole story, because they represent only a moment in time. Nor should a complaint be the only tool we use to identify a problem. We believe that the industry needs to be more proactive than that. We need to go out to our customers and ask them about the experience.

And that is what we have done. We looked – and continue to look – at examples of best practice, not only from within our industry, but also from leaders in other fields.

The process really opened our eyes and that is why, three years ago, DHL Express UAE became one of the first divisions within DHL globally, to introduce a sophisticated matrix system called Net Promoter (NPA) - used by the likes of Apple, GM and Four Seasons hotels.

With the goal of maximising customer loyalty and, ultimately, increasing market share, all employees are empowered to make the changes needed to improve their NPA score, resulting in a personal commitment to improve customer satisfaction and implement improvement processes for failures or dissatisfaction.

The process shows that a lot of the issues raised by customers were not relating to the customer service function of the business – a significant insight that has changed the way that DHL does business. The trend is towards reducing the amount of effort needed on the part of the customer. For example, as a result of customer feedback, DHL has it easier and more convenient for customers to pay by introducing an e-billing payment process. This has achieved a more than 80 per cent take-up rate to date.
By identifying the root cause of customer dissatisfaction, we have embedded customer service in the heart of the business, with everyone taking responsibility for it.

NPA has made an invaluable contribution to significantly increase DHL’s market share in the UAE express logistics market in 2011, with the company experiencing double digit year-on-year growth.

This just goes to show how achieving customer satisfaction can benefit the wider business – which is why DHL has now implemented NPA in other markets across the region.

As a business tool, NPA has proved itself and shown us how we can do a good job even better. And, with so many other leaders in business adopting its methods, we are hopeful that levels of customer service will improve across all sectors.

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