It was a creative question to kick off the company’s Voice of the Customer program: If UPS and its competitors were standing at a bar, what would the brand be wearing and what would it be drinking?
Speaking during a recent Conference Board customer experience (CX) event, the logistic giant’s executive vice-president and CMO Kevin Warren remembered one response in particular. UPS, the shipper replied, would probably be a guy, drinking a glass of scotch, wearing a flannel shirt and sporting a comb-over.
“Now there’s nothing wrong with any of those things,” Warren said. “But our company is a growing, thriving company. We knew that we needed to kind of update the mental model of who we are and how we showed up differently.”
This was particular important within a customer segment Warren and the UPS team identified as a big priority: small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). Besides representing the backbone the economy, SMBs are highly profitable for a company like UPS. Yet the feedback from surveys and conversations with customers clear: SMBs saw UPS as internally-focused, with a lot of friction in its CX.
“On average UPS will deliver 20.5 million packages in the US a day – that number can get to 23 or 24 million if we start talking globally,” Warren said. “So even if you deliver with 99 per cent accuracy, that’s still a lot of packages that have a problem.”
The domino effect of 16 sub-journeys
Addressing those problems was initially difficult in part because UPS is organized by business functions that were tracking their own key performance indicators (KPIs), Warren said. As a public company, meanwhile, it needed to balance customer needs while managing the bottom line.
Like many organizations, UPS was focused on boosting its Net Promoter Score (NPS) as a CX metric, but Warren wanted to look at it more holistically – comparing how the company ranked vis a vis its competitors, for instance. And trying to streamline a single customer journey would not get the company where it wanted to go.
“We found out that there were 16 sub journeys,” he said. “There were three that were really really, really important, where, if you didn’t nail those, could contaminate the rest of the journeys.”
Warren and his team discovered that while UPS provided great CX on the most obvious stages, like delivering or picking up a package, for example, there was room for improvement in others. These included resolving a billing issue or tracking a claim.
“When things went right, they went really right. But when things went wrong. It could fall down and mean a poor experience,” he said, adding that customer journeys weren’t always one from the same starting and end points. “Maybe the journey started the UPS store, but that UPS store wasn’t connected into the network. Or maybe there was a package that was damaged and we had to call a call center, where the metrics were about how quickly we can get you off the call.
UPS’s CX strategy therefore became about aligning all of the departments up to make sure they work in concert, and that they all see the same data. Warren said the company also put management and the leadership processes that now guide behaviors and drive a greater culture change to focus more on customers.
Three elements that make up UPS’s brand relevance metric
UPS also developed its own propriety metric, simply called brand relevance, which Warren said has three components. One is called consideration – how does the SMB view UPS versus its competitors? The second is momentum, which involves getting customer feedback on how they see UPS innovating to improve. The third is about measuring perceptions of UPS around environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors.
UPS uses a third party to survey customers on brand relevance on a quarterly basis, where it develops a composite based on those three areas and benchmarks against its rivals.
“One of the things I feel really good about is that in a matter of maybe five or six quarters, we went from middle the road from a brand relevance standpoint to best in class,” he said.
Other areas of CX Warren said UPS monitors closely include how easy it is (or not) to sign up for services from its web site or engage a salesperson and the turnaround time for a price quote. The latter area informed the developed of an automated pricing tool called Deal Manager, which is powered by artificial intelligence (AI) and can provide quotes to salespeople in minutes. There is also a self-service option for UPS’s smallest customers where they can provide three pieces of data to get a quote.
Quotes were just one part of the digital experience that UPS has changed, though.
“Our website was very engineering focused. It had language that wasn’t customer friendly. It was cluttered,” he said. “We had a third party company to evaluate it versus our competitors. They came back with 3,200 pages of opportunities to improve, which led us to simplify the design.”
Operationally, UPS has also simplified pricing to help SMB customers make decisions more quickly, and reimagined processes with its direct sales team to reflect customers’ preferred ways to do business.
Next up, Warren said UPS is continuing to explore how it can meet customers where they are – and not just in terms of where it can send a truck. Last May, it set up a presence in the Metaverse as the official shipping partner of ComplexLand.
“We don’t know how quickly or how fast this is going to mature,” he said. “But what we do know is we need to be there.”
Shane Schick tells stories that help people innovate, and to manage the change innovation brings. He is the former Editor-in-Chief of Marketing magazine and has also been Vice-President, Content & Community (Editor-in-Chief), at IT World Canada, a technology columnist with the Globe and Mail and Yahoo Canada and is the founding editor of ITBusiness.ca. Shane has been recognized for journalistic excellence by the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance and the Canadian Online Publishing Awards.