Brand builder

At its core, the job performed by employees at DHL Express USA is a simple one: Take a package from Point A and deliver it in a safe and timely manner to Point B.

But as DHL executives assessed the landscape of the express shipping industry, they decided that this simple process had developed a hitch.

CEO Hans Hickler says finding a strategy that eliminated that hitch became the focal point of an initiative to bolster the company’s standing in the express shipping industry.

“We start with the premise that customer service is not alive and well in the shipping industry,” Hickler says. “We actually believe it’s not alive and well in the U.S. in general. The business community in the U.S. has strayed from the path of putting the customer at the center.”

The notion that customer service had declined to such a degree became an important component of the new strategy and how it would be conveyed publicly.

“We’re not saying that DHL is here, and therefore, customer service is back in shipping,” Hickler says. “What we’re saying is that what we stand for is, we won’t rest until this industry is known
for its customer service and responsiveness, and we’re going to be the ones introducing it in this industry. You really put a stake out there.”

It’s all part of a customer-service focused brand-building strategy for the company that employs more than 22,000 people and delivers more than 1.2 million packages a day.

“It’s not always about who we are,” Hickler says. “It’s about what we’re about and that we’re relentless in going about achieving that. Your internal initiatives to get there are one thing. But how
you position your brand out to the customers is the same thing. We tend to do it in a way that is a little brazen. It’s the opposite of apologetic. It’s, ‘Why wouldn’t we do it that way?’ I think that’s
hit a chord.”

DHL’s ultimate goal is to solidify the company’s standing in the express shipping market as a solid alternative to the duopoly of FedEx and UPS. However, while DHL wants to be the flag bearer for bringing customer service back into shipping, Hickler says the company couldn’t just come out and rip its primary competitors.
“We’re a distant third, and frankly, we’re OK with that,” Hickler says. “We couldn’t come in and say the other two guys don’t have the basics right and we’ll have them right. The other two guys
have the basics right. This is the most competitive express market in the world. You have to come in with something that customers value beyond that.”

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