“Treat the customer as if you are the customer.” Wise words for any brand to live by in the 21st century. The customer is the most important stakeholder in the organisation.
The manner in which customers search, consume, engage and seek support has seen a significant shift in the last year. This transition has major implications for businesses across industries.
A recent PwC research reveals that approximately 59% of global consumers surveyed amidst the pandemic felt as though companies have lost touch with the human element of customer experience, and 75% of the customers surveyed stated that they preferred to interact with a human being rather than an automated machine.
While the pandemic has created certain restrictions when it comes to human interface, it is essential that companies understand what their customers are seeking and modify their practices to deliver a personalised customer experience.
And thus COVID-19 has brought along with it a wave of digital transformation globally. In line with this shift, several brands have re-routed their customer outreach, sales processes and service delivery during this contingency. From the start of my career to date, I have observed that the way brands interact with customers depends on how customers interact with the dynamic and ever-changing world. This is especially true now more than ever – the year that saw the greatest disruption we have witnessed in our lives. Only companies that have been able to keep pace with changing customer expectations continue to remain ahead of the curve.
The wave of digital transformation is changing the way businesses operate and engage with customers. Contactless services and technology interventions in service delivery have become the accepted norms of the present, rather than that of the imminent future. Industries are adopting digitalisation initiatives to drive business efficiencies, and realising the value that can be harnessed through a digital-first agenda. This is not just in terms of cost efficiencies and savings, but also in terms of an elevated customer experience.
A silver lining out of this particular crisis is a greater emphasis on conversational AI, chatbots, social media interactions, and more evolved tracking tools to deliver a level of service that has become an expectation, rather than an aspiration. At DHL, we have enhanced customer service through tools like a chatbot with an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system. The analytic algorithms of the IVR help to address frequently asked customer queries as well as directly connect customers with customer service advisors for speedy resolution.
Speaking specifically about the logistics industry in this context, we realised that while our customer service team as well as our customers were confined to their homes, quality service would always require a personalised approach, enabled by technology.
Given the shift in purchasing patterns of customers over recent months, there is a tremendous rise in e-commerce volumes globally. The logistics industry is also an enabler of Covid related supplies, medicines and vaccine deliveries. Therefore, it is vital for leading service providers like DHL to improve digital communications infrastructure to up the ante on real-time tracking systems, as well as continue to offer one-on-one servicing through an empowered customer service team.
As last-mile deliveries during the pandemic led to safety concerns, we recalibrated customer service through an OTP-based non-contact delivery system. And we leveraged our On-Demand Delivery (ODD) that allows customers to schedule deliveries according to their convenience.
Additionally, digital payment solutions for payment of freight charges and duties helped us to maintain the safety of our customers and our frontline workers. Digitalisation, very importantly, has made it possible for our customer service team to deliver the same high levels of performance while working from home.
While technology has enabled us to serve our customers seamlessly in this contingency, what has helped us succeed is our “Insanely Customer-Centric Culture”. This culture is the reason for our customer service employees to stay motivated, provide high-quality service, and go the extra mile for our customers. Without that human element, we would not have succeeded even with all our technological interventions.
In conclusion, I believe that the pandemic has led businesses to focus on delivering excellent customer experience, as well as ensuring employee engagement. This is a learning phase for everyone and a journey of continuous improvement. As companies, consumers or suppliers, we will keep adapting in positive ways to the dynamics of the situation. The crux lies in personalised service, enabled by technology. This is the approach for profitable growth and the differentiator to engage key stakeholders in the business – our customers.
This article has been authored by Sarbani Sengupta, VP-Customer Service, DHL Express India.