DHL Freight goes in depth with strategic interviews

Ferrij Suijkerland, Head of Business Development Support | DHL Freight

DHL Freight is one of DHL’s six operating companies and supplies a wide range of products and services in the field of (inter) national transport and logistics. Every year, the company conducts a large online customer satisfaction survey from its European headquarters in Bonn among its European customers in 40 countries.

“This provides us with a lot of feedback which we use to continue to perform well in areas we excel and to improve in areas we perform less. Additional research may be necessary in order to be able to take an in-depth look at the local level. It is true that questions can be added to the large DHL survey to obtain in-depth insights at a local level, but it remains a generic study. In the Netherlands, at the beginning of 2018, we felt the need to take a deeper step and gather insights which the online survey could not provide as much, ”says Ferrij Suijkerland, as Head of Business Development Support responsible for this in-depth process.

Suitable agency

It took Ferrij little effort to find a suitable agency to carry out the additional research. “Integron had already carried out a similar survey for us in 2013 and another DHL operating company, Gerlach, has an active collaboration with Integron as well as a few other transport companies that we consider good colleagues. When I called Integron to make an appointment to discuss this, I did not have to explain who we are and what we do, and we were able to hit the ground running right away. ”

“When I called Integron to make an appointment to discuss this, I didn’t have to explain who we are and what we do, and we were able to hit the ground running straight away.”

Arjen Maliepaard, Managing Director, was Ferrij’s discussion partner on behalf of Integron in the run-up to the investigation. “It was very nice to be able to carry out such a strategic project for a client such as DHL Freight. We consider the fact that they entrust us with their key accounts as an enormous token of confidence in our knowledge and skills. All of our people involved were well aware of the responsibility this entailed. It was up to them to get the best out of themselves to bring this to a successful conclusion.”

Qualitative feedback from key accounts

DHL Freight distinguishes different customer groups in its Dutch customer portfolio. Ferrij: “Our need to go into depth was emphatically with 20 key accounts. They are very important to us and we wanted to know what they expect from us, how satisfied they are and whether they are loyal to us. We did this through strategic face-to-face interviews with a total of 32 contact persons with decision-making authority, spread over all the key accounts. The interviews contained both open and closed questions and the non-Dutch-speaking contact persons were interviewed in English. ”

Various Integron Consultants have been deployed for this. “Integron itself also planned the appointments, and each contact person received a short questionnaire in advance by e-mail. The response was sent directly to the Integron results dashboard, enabling the interviewers to prepare properly. All we had to do ourselves was sending a written notice of the investigation to the contact persons based on the format that Integron provided. ”

Points for improvement based on the interview analysis

All interviews were recorded, transcribed, analysed and reported. “In total, the research provided us with 22 different points for improvement to get started with. That may seem like a lot, but it is precisely the reason for us to deploy in-depth research. We don’t just want to talk about customer centricity, but put into practice all the different insights. Since the interviews did not only ask about the satisfaction with certain matters, but also about the importance attached to those matters, we can easily see, based on a priority matrix in the results dashboard, what the improvement potential is per point and assign the correct priority to each point. ”

“Since we also asked about the importance that is attached to certain matters in addition to satisfaction, we can easily see in the priority matrix what the improvement potential per point is based on, and assign the correct priority to each point.”

One of the points for improvement from the survey is to act more proactively. “If things threaten to not go as they should, our customers want communication right away. In the research follow-up, this point is therefore given attention in every follow-up session. From the Board of Directors to the Sales and Customer Service departments, all these levels are informed and activated with the help of Integron. We have opted for interactive sessions as much as possible where attendees can respond to the feedback from the survey, discuss it with each other and Integron, and work on the points for improvement in a workshop.

Interactive sessions

Benjamin de Mooij, Consultant at Integron, provided the interactive sessions. “It was good to see how eager all stakeholders were to get started with the strategic interviews. Take the session with Account Management as an example, which concerns their largest customers. During the session, they reflected on the points for improvement that emerged in the interviews and made proposals for actions and follow-up. In addition, after the session they received login codes for the results dashboard, in order to be able to view all interviews with their key accounts. Based on this, they each formulated two or three points for improvement per account”.

Ferrij can look back on a successful collaboration with the Integron project team. “For me it goes without saying that these types of studies are partly carried out by an external agency. Customers should not be inhibited in giving their honest opinion. If we let our own employees or their DHL account manager conduct the interviews, there is a risk that this will happen less often and that it will provide hardly any relevant feedback. ”

Permanent improvement potential

A correct frequency of research is important in order to generate permanent improvement potential. “My preference is to conduct more in-depth research among the key accounts. Not every year, but at least once every two or three years, which can be determined later on. What is certain is that it will cost us little to find a suitable agency for this. ”

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