After cutting his teeth in product and brand management roles in a number of multinational firms, Kim MacGillavry joined DHL Freight, based in Bonn, Germany. Over the last 15 years, Kim has worked his way up the business and has been responsible for DHL’s customer experience transformation – successfully differentiating itself from the competition in an increasingly commoditised market.
He puts success down to the need to start with people, and not processes, in creating a customer adaptive business.
In your experience, tell us why feedback from customers and employees is so important when implementing new technology solutions.
The key challenge when investing in technology is to stay focussed on your goal. If companies took a critical look at their IT projects and stopped those which don’t either help employees do their jobs, or contribute to better customer experience, my guess is that there would be a lot fewer projects to work on.
Technology takes on a life of its own and companies can get lost in the minutiae of technicalities and business cases – and lose focus. Making sure that customer and employee needs are voiced from conception right up to deployment is common sense but not common practice. Building the VOC (voice of the customer) and VOE (voice of the employee) into the decision making process, not only helps you focus on what truly matters, but also ensures minimal scope creep.
Commonly IT projects are deployed with an excess of features which overcomplicate development and aren’t used in the end anyway. Similarly, project teams get carried away and develop tools with more features and sophistication than the users are able to handle.
What technology have you invested in to improve customer experience at DHL, and what were your reasons?
In a logistics business, improving the customer experience is complex because the end-to-end customer journey is so varied. Customers have multiple interactions with different employees and the front line team can’t resolve things alone.
This has pros and cons: on the one hand, it gives us lots of opportunities to connect with customers to influence their experience, which consumer businesses find much harder – but on the other hand, it’s a massive challenge to create a consistent customer experience: each step of the journey needs to be perfect to prevent weak links destroying the whole experience.
So we took the bold move to put in place all the different IT technology required along the customer journey to ensure a perfect end-to-end experience. To make this seamless, all these tools need to be fully integrated. Usually companies prefer to implement one application at a time – that’s fine if the objective is to improve one particular interaction. In our industry though, that won’t have a measurable impact on customer perception. If you want to improve satisfaction and loyalty, you need to make the whole journey work at once.
At the same time, it becomes essential to also hardwire the back-end processes because unless these work, and are supported by an engaged workforce who are willing to follow customer centric processes, any investment in technology is unlikely to have the desired effect. It’s a huge project, but connecting all the dots by integrating front and back end processes and tools is the key to success.
How did you begin this process, and how did you ensure success?
In the run up to making the larger investments, and – crucially – before making any organisational changes, we tested the basic processes in the field. Under the banner “Making the first move”, an initiative was started which replicated the target processes using legacy systems. This was a great way to learn and refine the programme before going full scale and making bigger commitments. We measured both customer and employee perceptions before and after, and ran the initiative for two consecutive years.
The results were hugely encouraging. Customer engagement shot up, as did employee engagement both in Customer Services as well as other departments that CS collaborated with. A lot of customers gave praise to specific people and that simple recognition was both evidence that the experience was memorable as well as hugely gratifying and encouraging to those individual employees.
What advice or tips would you give other companies wanting to invest in new technologies to transform CX?
To get everyone on board, you need a committed leadership team, a customer centric culture throughout the company, and collaboration across departments. Without each of these three things, technology will have no effect.
Technology cannot make managers better leaders, but it can encourage better collaboration which can result in employees being more engaged. My suggestion to any company embarking on a CX journey is to test the maturity of your organisation along these lines before even considering any investment. At the end of the day, your people create the experience, not your technology.