DPD prides itself on being the premium parcel delivery and logistics service in the UK. It knows that it isn't the cheapest provider in the market, but it aims to prove its value by delivering a stellar customer service. This has been put to the test during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, where demand for home delivery of parcels and goods has accelerated in recent months, as people spending more time at home continue to make the most of online shopping.
Sinead Croke, Director of Customer Experience at DPD, was speaking this week at Salesforce Live UK & Ireland about how the company was able to quickly shift its customer support and call centre services to home working overnight, thanks to the use of cloud-based technologies. During this time DPD also carried out an upgrade to Salesforce Lightning for its call centre platform and Croke shared details of how the company is using data to persist with a laser focus on CX during this challenging time.
Croke said that when the realities of COVID-19 hit, DPD's initial expectation was that online shopping would dry up and that the company should expect to batten down the hatches. However, as we know now, this was not the case. She said:
The absolute opposite happened. So we are probably quite fortunate that the challenges that we have are the opposite of what most people are going through. We have seen rocketing parcel volumes, our business is up about 50%. The challenge for us is to recruit enough drivers.
We've divided the year into two peaks. Usually we have a peak at Christmas, but now we have peak 1, which was in the summer, and now we are getting ready for peak 2, which is Christmas. So our [challenges are] all about volume. But our customers also pay a lot more to ship a parcel with DPD than they do with one of our competitors and we have to make sure that service is consistent. So that's the biggest challenge that we've had, maintaining that level of service throughout COVID.
DPD has been a Salesforce and NewVoiceMedia customer for years, for its call centre operations. And as noted above, DPD decided to continue with its upgrade to Salesforce Lightning during the height of the pandemic, despite the shift to home working and increase in demand, which has already returned some strong results for the company. Croke added:
We were rolling Salesforce Lightning out across 450 people. Our plan was to be more efficient, make it easier for the advisors. We created this fabulous new experience for them and that made their life a lot easier, because it preempted things. For example, when I go back onto the floor in the call centre I always forget to do data protection checks when I phone a customer. So we thought let's just have it streamlined.
The first thing that comes up on the screen for the advisor is, make sure you check that you're talking to the right person. It's made the whole experience much more focused on to prompt them what's next. Their calls have actually gone down by 15 seconds. That's not much to someone that's not in a call centre, but it equates to over 300 case savings a year. So from our perspective, the migration was fabulous.
Distributed customer support
The pandemic has undeniably resulted in a huge boost to home working culture for companies. Prior to the onset of COVID-19 there was arguably a perception that people wouldn't be as productive at home as they would in the office, which has now rightfully been challenged. However, the shift does require having effective digital tools in place, as well as a new approach to distributed collaboration.
DPD thankfully was already operating in the cloud for its customer support operations and the change to remote support was able to happen quickly. Croke explained:
We have Salesforce in all the call centres and we have call centres everywhere, not just in the UK. It was ridiculously quick how we were able to mobilise from being based in a call centre, because all of our advisors are office based, to within 24 hours being at home. They're on a cloud telephony platform. So overnight we were able to switch them on and not miss a heartbeat. The service level stayed the same. We didn't have to close down channels like some people did, it was just business as usual.
Croke said that during the first two weeks of working from home employees definitely experienced a ‘novelty factor'. However, this quickly wore off and the practice of working from home has now become routine. In fact, according to Croke, employees across the business now have an increased appetite for working in a distributed way and are asking to work from home more consistently, even when offices reopen. Croke said that this has "really challenged DPD's thinking".
However, the company is still thinking about how it measures the productivity and success of its customer support teams, when working in this way. Croke explained:
In DPD we are very numbers driven. So, how are you going to measure the success? When we moved to home working we had weekly dashboards that showed how productive people were being before we went to home working, and then after. But I also think you have to be quite brave, none of us knew what to expect. It's like any project you embark on, you think it's going to be one thing and then it turns out to be something different.
I think the two things that have been quite successful for us are that we've got really good ways of measuring success and measuring how everything is going. And then the other thing is that we do tend to be quite brave and take a risk - i think you have to be. If you want to go fast, you have to be quite comfortable with risk.
How to successfully implement change
Croke has been with DPD for seven years and has now been through two upgrades with Salesforce across the call centre operations, amongst other projects. This has obviously resulted in a number of lessons learnt in terms of how to successfully manage change across the business.
The first piece of key advice is that executive buy-in is essential - but that in order to truly achieve this, don't just focus on the financial savings. Make sure that those in senior leadership fundamentally understand what it means for improving customer experience. Croke said:
It's one thing to have a big business case that tells you exactly how much you're going to save, it's a whole other thing to get people to engage in it on a really emotional level. I'll give you an example, we were trying to put in a whole new phone system and it was a massive investment. My colleagues on the board were not really engaged in why we really needed it. So I got them all to phone into the system, to experience the system before we put Salesforce and NewVoiceMedia in. And they experienced the frustration. And a customer's level of tolerance is way lower.
You can put in all the dashboards you like, but when you have somebody sitting on a phone and they can't get through, people get very engaged and very emotional. I think that's what's missing sometimes in business cases - you can have a big document telling people what they're going to save, but get people to immerse themselves in the consumer experience and show them what needs to change. You'll get a different reaction.
In addition to this, Croke said that when thinking about customer experience, it's essential that you have a crystal clear understanding of what the business is trying to achieve and what the fundamental goals are. She added:
I think you have to have a really clear understanding of who you are and what you're looking to do. We are very fortunate at DPD that we are very clear that we are a premium carrier. We are not the cheapest, but then we constantly feel the need to justify why we are better than the others. We have innovations coming out every six months. We try to do something new for customers every six months. What's going to make them smile?
Our clarity is that we want to be the best UK parcel company and we want to make sure our competitors are always looking at us going, how did they do that? So for us it was really clear and it really centred around that. I think when you start any transformation journey, if you don't have that clarity, you can fumble in the dark. I'll be honest, the first time I launched Salesforce I didn't have that clarity and we did make a few mistakes. But the second time around I'm much more razor sharp on what I'm looking to do, because I know exactly what the brand is about and what the directors are trying to achieve.
Preparing for the second peak
Croke explained that DPD has been preparing for its second peak in demand since back in May, with huge online shopping events such as Cyber Friday and Christmas just around the corner. Some of this is operational, investing in vans and traders, but it has also been working with retailers to understand what uplift they are likely to experience over the coming months.
In addition to this, 8 million people in the UK have downloaded the DPD app, which provides interesting insights into what to expect. Croke said:
From a consumer perspective, we can see from having the DPD app on the consumer's phone exactly what they're shopping, where they're shopping, and we use all that to plan. So we know exactly how many people we are going to need not only in the call centre, but in every depo. The investment is massive, it's over £2 million this year for Christmas, to make sure we are ready. If you're paying for a premium service, you pay for 52 weeks of the year, not just for the weeks outside of Christmas.
In addition to this, DPD continues to focus on not only improving the customer experience once a problem with a customer occurs, but also trying to eliminate those problems in the first place. Again, data here plays a huge role. Croke admitted that this agenda took a bit of a back seat in the early days of COVID-19, but has since been accelerated. She explained:
When we started 2020 our plan was to really look at what was driving customers to call the call centre. Because let's be honest, none of us want to call a call centre. We have great insights into why people are calling the call centre, to understand what stage in the journey that happens.
By doing that, we discovered that a small number of drivers were cutting corners and creating complaints. So we took that data and we started interviewing drivers and we issued points. If you get up to 21 points in DPD, your contract is terminated with us. That project was rolling along nicely and then COVID happened and we put it on pause because it was all hands on deck.
The reality was that nothing in the business really changed, all we got was more and more volume. And we probably could have accelerated that faster. The good news is that we've now halved our complaints, even though we've got more parcels being delivered. But looking back now, we probably over estimated how much COVID would impact on my area and we could have gone a bit faster.