Hi touch or hi tech? – How an post combines both

Last month I attended a very interesting event at the National Concert Hall. ‘Routes to CX excellence’ was a first class breakfast briefing, organised by a customer experience agency called Dialogue.

CEO Michael Killeen brought together a line-up of speakers from An Post, Peter Mark and Tiger to share the approaches they used to consistently delight their customers.

For me it was a thought provoking event on two levels.

First, it focused on the people issues that are critical to delivering great customer experience. That’s good because sometimes in the Tech sector we think the solution to any problem is another line of code, while often the answer is to deliver an excellent experience during those ‘moments of truth’ when the customer comes face to face with the organisation.

Second, it made me think about how companies are using technology to enhance the customer experience or even create an entirely new experience. Today technology allows companies do things that were impossible before the advent of broadband and cloud computing. So now, it’s possible to be both ‘high touch’ and ‘high tech’.

I’m currently reading ‘Digital to the Core’, a book by two Gartner consultants with the central message that every business can be re-invented as a digital business, or ‘digitally re-mastered’. But sometimes I wonder if it’s really true. While it’s fun to read about French company Babolat and their Bluetooth enabled tennis racquet, is it also true for companies here in Ireland ?

How important for example is technology for the three companies who presented at the Dialogue event?

Here’s what I learned about one of the three companies presenting – An Post – how it’s focused on people to deliver a great customer experience and how I also see the company using technology to create an entirely new customer experience.

An Post – Liam Sheehan

As Liam Sheehan pointed out, An Post is a big organisation. The company has annual revenues of € 800 million, employs 8,000 staff and operates through 1,125 post office locations. It also delivers 2.5 million pieces of mail per week and each week 1.8 million people visit a post office. That’s a lot of contact with the public and a lot of potential for problems.

Despite this, An Post consistently scores very high for customer satisfaction. This year for example it came in the top three places in both the CXi league table and the Reptrak corporate reputation survey.

So why does this State owned and unionised organisation enjoy such a good reputation? Liam Sheehan explained it was essentially down to the quality of the people. He told us how An Post staff live and work in their local community and have pride in their job. He added that many are second or third generation employees with a tradition of service and willing to go the extra mile to satisfy the customer.

Of course, management systems matter too. That’s why all complaints and failures are reviewed weekly at each office. In addition, the company uses mystery shoppers to measure service levels and rewards the most improved post offices on a quarterly basis. Within the Mails business, An Post also runs a ‘Champions League’ style competition to generate healthy rivalry between depots. Finally, it operates a ‘VIP awards’ programme to reward staff who performed outside the normal job expectation.

An Post – Liam Sheehan

Delivering a great customer experience is a constant challenge. What keeps An Post on its toes ? The answer: very demanding customers. As Liam Sheehan said in a reference to the radio show, “We’re always only a phone call away from a Joe Duffy moment”

While personal service is vital at An Post, technology also plays a key role. My favourite example is AdMailer, a new platform that illustrates just how technology can deliver a great customer experience.

AdMailer is an on-line direct mail service for small business. An Post launched AdMailer in August and it’s already hugely popular with the SME sector. Why? thanks to a great user experience – in a few simple steps companies can create targeted mail campaigns, tightly focused on specific areas with specific demographics.

Here’s how it works. First, you select a target area using the AdMailer mapping tool. Within this area, you apply an ‘audience selector’ to filter the data by a range of criteria including affluence, family size and stage in the family cycle. Next, design your campaign content using either one of the several hundred templates available on-line or if you prefer, your own original design. Finally, review your campaign, pay on-line and let An Post do the rest. Your campaign will be delivered to the target audience within three days.

If you’d like to learn more, here’s a YouTube video about AdMailer.

All businesses are becoming digital – when you look closely enough

As I mentioned at the start of this post, last month’s briefing was very interesting. In the first instance, it let me learn more about how companies use people to deliver great customer experience. It also made me think about how technology is now also key to creating customer experience

My conclusion regarding ‘Digital to the Core’ and the book’s view that ‘every business is a digital business’? The authors are right, certainly if we take the example of An Post at last month’s briefing. (I’ll return in another post to Tiger and Peter Mark and how both of these companies are also addressing the digital challenge.)

Finally, one last point. I’d particularly like to thank Michael Killeen, CEO at Dialogue Marketing for organising an excellent event with great speakers. My only regret – not arriving in time for the coffee and networking session beforehand !

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