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Earlier this year, a survey by MoneySavingExpert rated Yodel as the UK’s worst delivery company for a second consecutive year. The criticism is nothing new to Yodel as the group has been making efforts to improve the reputation of the company since the merger of HDNL and the UK domestic arm of DHL in 2010.

Dick Stead, executive chairman for Yodel, admits that the merger had a negative influence on the company at the time, but he believes that the company’s reputation is undeserved when benchmarked against current performance standards. These include a 49% rise in customer satisfaction ratings over the last 18 months via the company’s Have Your Say customer feedback program.

What is the Have Your Say program and how does it work?

In the past, Yodel went through a very difficult integration when DHL merged with HDNL, as is the case when many a merger happens. Therefore it was important to us, as we move away from that period, to get genuine feedback from customers, not historical viewpoints.

Now, every time we make a delivery or attempt to make a delivery, as long as we have an email address or telephone number, we contact the customer to let them know what happened with that parcel and we give them an opportunity to rate our services.

They are asked to answer three questions about their satisfaction with the delivery and the driver, and whether they would be prepared to recommend our services. We end up with a standard opportunity to derive something similar to a ‘Net Promoter Score’.

The beauty for us is that we are among the largest delivery companies in the UK, and we are the only one that invites our customers to rate us regardless of the outcome. That allows us to get a really strong picture of what the customer is thinking.

All the ratings we get are based on a live parcel being delivered to a real-life person at a real-life address. It’s important because you do see surveys where you don’t have to validate who you are, and lots of people take great fun in responding negatively to those sorts of surveys.

We wanted to make sure this was absolutely accurate. We use a third-party company called eDigital to run the survey on our behalf. Most people respond very quickly, so we have live feedback within minutes, sometimes even seconds, and that means that if the customer is unhappy for example, and the ratings are negative, then our survey company can pick that up immediately and send it back to our organization. We can then contact the driver in real time and say that the customer was unhappy and ask them to go back and see them, so it’s a real-time feedback loop.

We also have a social media team that uses award-winning software called Cadence to scan the internet and look for people who are making comments about Yodel. In a similar way to Have Your Say, we try to interact with people who have had a poor experience, so long as they are a real customer with a real delivery, and try to respond as positively as we can to resolve the issue.

What influence does the Have Your Say program have on the Yodel business model?

The survey not only provides us with real-time information, but it also paints a picture for us about our organization. When we started doing these e-surveys about 18 months ago, we were finding satisfaction scores that were pretty disappointing and we had Net Promoter Scores which were negative, so that tells you that we weren’t providing the service that was needed.

The customers were able to write their feedback, which allowed us to listen and to really understand the problems. The net impact is that over the course of those 18 months we have re-trained and re-qualified certain drivers and in actual fact about 30% of drivers have left our business in that time. We are determined that the people we employ moving forward are able meet the demands of today’s customer. It has been an opportunity, based on this feedback, to make sure that we have the right people in place.

The impact has been that we have moved from a pretty poor performance, to something we can now be really proud of. For example, we now have an above average Net Promoter Score when we look at the retail industry. Unfortunately there are very few parcel companies who operate this system, but those who do are marked significantly below Yodel. The same can be said for our customer satisfaction levels as we sit in the top quartile of what you would expect from a retailer and we’re not happy until we get to the top.

Every customer service center shares good news and bad news with drivers on a daily basis. We can see on a regular basis those drivers that consistently perform well and we can see what they’ve done that gives them the leading edge that we need across our business.

For those who have not done so well, we can sit them down and check that they’re with the right organization and if so, deliver the right training program that will ensure that they do meet the requirements going forward.

What other methods do you use to measure the company’s performance?

The second method we use to validate our performance is with Trustpilot. The reason that we’ve picked Trustpilot is because every single rating has to be validated, so votes need to have a live parcel number attached to them. In the last 18 months, we’ve moved from a score of 0.9 to 6.6. There’s only one carrier in the UK ahead of us.

What benefit does this have for Yodel’s clients?

We run the largest survey in the industry and had over 80,000 responses over Christmas. This has evened out to around 20,000-25,000 responses per week at the moment. We share this feedback with our clients when they register, which means that if we see that a customer has had a bad experience, then the retailer sees that at the same time. This exchange of information helps us to have a very different debate with the client. In the old days we used to work to a target of delivering 98.5% of the parcels on time. But the 1.5% gap is still a large figure and no one wanted to address that we were just working to a statistic. We are now working to the true voice of a customer, which allows the retailers to make changes to their operations, changes in packaging, changes to the services they offer. So it’s been an incredible tool to help us work with our retail partners to make sure the customers get the best possible service.

How do you see the e-commerce market developing in the UK?

The market will continue to grow and will continue to be good news for the UK economy. E-commerce will become the norm, but we have to be careful to make sure that consumers know exactly what they’re buying. There’s a whole supply chain at work, from the supplier of the items, to the retailer’s warehouse, to the carriers. It’s a concern that there are times when the consumer is given a time for a delivery when it’s just not feasible because there can be delays anywhere in that supply chain.

Our research shows that 99% of customers are satisfied when they’re communicated to. If something goes wrong, or something is delayed, then customers understand if you talk to them about it and explain what’s going to happen next.

Most people want the parcel delivered at a time that is convenient to them, not necessarily the next day. We shouldn’t be surprised that a consumer chooses next-day delivery if it’s offered and it’s free. But at peak times, there simply isn’t the capacity to meet those needs.

We could take a lot of cost out of re-deliveries and avoid annoying customers by telling them it’s next day, when it’s actually delivered three days later. Then we can continue with this phenomenal growth. The last thing we want to do is to create a wedge over the next two years where the consumers are dissatisfied.

The MetaPack survey showed that all carriers, not just Yodel, failed customers over the Black Friday period. My fear is that those customers over that time period, who were failed by all carriers and all retailers, will now have an element of dissatisfaction that they need not have had. We need to work together to get the consumer satisfied with what they’ve got. There are some that suggest that the reason why the market slowed down so quickly in the last week of Christmas is because people lost confidence and moved back to shops. We’ve got to get it right between ourselves.

Interview by Daniel Symonds

February 19, 2015

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, editor-in-chief

Helen has worked for UKi Media & Events for nearly a decade. She joined the company as assistant editor on Passenger Terminal World and since progressed to become editor of five publications, covering everything from aviation, logistics and e-commerce to meteorology. She has a love for travel and property and has redeveloped three houses in three years. When she’s not editing magazines, she’s running around after her two boys and their partner in crime, Pete the pug.

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