THE MANAGEMENT JOURNAL FOR CORPORATE GROWTH
                                                                             ®...
PHOTOS BY TOM ERVIN
Brand
BUILDER
HOW HANS HICKLER DELIVERED ON SERVICE TO MAKE DHL
  A CONTENDER IN THE EXPRESS SHIPPING INDUSTRY


         ...
“
Your brand
positioning has
to be really tied
heavily to your         It’s all part of a customer-service focused
       ...
DHL from its competitors was the other.              “I need to be able to look at it and I need   the entire culture of t...
The Hickler file
employees that can thrive and contribute
in that environment.                             Born: New York
...
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Transcript of "THE MANAGEMENT JOURNAL FOR CORPORATE GROWTH"

  1. 1. THE MANAGEMENT JOURNAL FOR CORPORATE GROWTH ® ® a SMART BUSINESS NETWORK Electronically reprinted from February 2007 SMART LEADERS Shakman Hospitality’s Rocky Goldman on why it’s good to have someone on your tail FAST LANE How Abbas Sadriwalla finds the right people to expand Wireless Logix Group overseas Brand builder How Hans Hickler delivered on service to make DHL a contender in the express shipping industry
  2. 2. PHOTOS BY TOM ERVIN
  3. 3. Brand BUILDER HOW HANS HICKLER DELIVERED ON SERVICE TO MAKE DHL A CONTENDER IN THE EXPRESS SHIPPING INDUSTRY B Y M A R K S C O T T t its core, the job performed by employees at DHL Express USA is a sim- ple 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 stand- ing 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 actual- ly 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 pub- licly. ¶ “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 respon- siveness, and we’re going to be the ones introducing it in this industry. You real- ly put a stake out there.”
  4. 4. “ Your brand positioning has to be really tied heavily to your It’s all part of a customer-service focused brand-building strategy for the company “We’re a distant third, and frankly, we’re OK with that,” Hickler says. “We couldn’t that employs more than 22,000 people and come in and say the other two guys don’t brand promise. delivers more than 1.2 million packages a have the basics right and we’ll have them day. right. The other two guys have the basics “It’s not always about who we are,” right. This is the most competitive express So, ‘Hey, we’re Hickler says. “It’s about what we’re about market in the world. You have to come in and that we’re relentless in going about with something that customers value here,’ doesn’t cut achieving that. Your internal initiatives to get there are one thing. But how you posi- beyond that.” Making a promise tion your brand out to the customers is the DHL was founded in 1969 in San it for more than same thing. We tend to do it in a way that is a little brazen. It’s the opposite of apolo- Francisco, but it has done most of its grow- ing outside the United States. Now owned getic. It’s, ‘Why wouldn’t we do it that way?’ by Deutsche Post World Net, the global about a year. I think that’s hit a chord.” DHL brand is the world’s leading express Hans Hickler, ” DHL’s ultimate goal is to solidify the com- pany’s standing in the express shipping market as a solid alternative to the duopoly of FedEx and UPS. However, while DHL delivery and logistics company, with global revenue in 2004 of more than $32 billion, and U.S. revenue of $4.4 billion. In 2004, the company launched a $1.2 billion invest- CEO, wants to be the flag bearer for bringing cus- ment in its U.S. operations to better com- DHL Express USA tomer service back into shipping, Hickler pete with FedEx and UPS. While increasing says the company couldn’t just come out physical infrastructure is one part of the and rip its primary competitors. plan, rolling out a strategy to differentiate
  5. 5. DHL from its competitors was the other. “I need to be able to look at it and I need the entire culture of the company, from It meant changing the way customers to be able to show it to my employees and the way employees are recruited or perceive DHL. It didn’t want to be just to the analysts and say, ‘This is where trained to the ways they are expected to another shipping company, so it created we’re going, and this is what it’s going to conduct themselves when working with the Customer Service Initiative, a strategy look like when we’re done,’” Hickler says. customers. that would help solidify with both employ- Companies must also reach customers DHL developed a program called “I’m ees and customers who DHL is and what in a deeper way to continue to receive On It” to help in the development of the values the company represents. But rolling their business. culture throughout the company. out any strategy requires careful planning “Customers don’t just do business with “All of our recognition events, all of our and even better execution. you for one year in this business,” Hickler talk about the hero, the legend stories The goal of the initiative is to provide a says. “They’re buying in to your strategy, that we have in our company relative to superior customer experience across all especially in our business, which is a very how we deal with customers or respond “ Employee engagement is what delivers that brand promise. ” Hans Hickler, CEO, DHL Express USA DHL touch points. Hickler says that such a global and international business. People to customers are tied to this ‘I’m On It’ strategy must have a foundation of data don’t switch easily, and so they need to tagline,” Hickler says. “It’s really the that supports its need for implementation. understand that what you stand for is essence of the culture change we are “In the early heyday of the express busi- there.” doing. So we have ‘I’m On It’ awards and ness, it was all about innovation and how Hickler says a strategy must have the ‘I’m On It’ pins, and we have hero stories do you move a customer’s goods from A to depth to address changes that may occur and videos at our leadership meetings.” B as quickly as you can and address clear- down the line so that the company can Hickler says the process of getting ance issues and international issues,” respond to these shifts quickly and employees to buy in to a new strategy Hickler says. promptly. There is danger in being tied geared around customer service is made Research found that developing an too closely to assumptions or deliver- easier because of his belief that employees approach that was focused more intently ables that restrict flexibility. truly want to center their work around the on the complete customer experience “A strategy shouldn’t be a finished paint- customer. while at the same time delivering on-time ing,” Hickler says. “We have to have the “There is an intrinsic desire to satisfy the service was something that was needed in latitude to put the touches on in a customer,” Hickler says. “I actually think the market. sequence that makes sense relative to the it’s an unnatural course of action for a “We literally analyzed the 82 touch points external environment, the internal envi- company to become internally focused. It that our customer comes to in our organi- ronment and everything else. ... You can happens, and it sort of happens by osmo- zation or that we extend out to the cus- lock yourself in way too tight on a strate- sis once it starts. But when you move the tomer,” Hickler says. “We worked with our gy.” ship back toward the customer, typically customers through surveys and focus Hickler says this ability comes down to your employees rally around that.” groups to understand the relative impor- being able to distinguish between the At the same time, employees want to feel tance of those touch points to changing the things that most likely won’t change and as though their individual needs are being customer’s experience.” those that may shift as time goes on. addressed based on which area of the When embarking on a large-scale strate- “It is hard to do sometimes, especially company they work in. Employees who gy, Hickler says it is important to use both when things like capital investments or work in the information technology mathematical and analytical data to gain a organizational design are involved in department, for example, need to know true understanding of what the strategy that,” Hickler says. “You have to under- how their work fits into the strategy. The needs to encompass. It is also important to stand your no-regrets moves versus same also applies to the sales department know where your company is positioned in things that are more fluid within a given or those who work in operations or any the marketplace with its brand. strategy. You can’t decide to buy an air- other department. “Your brand positioning has to be really plane one day and decide not to buy it A strategy also needs to have building tied heavily to your brand promise,” Hickler another day. Certain things, you jump in blocks that serve as its foundation. says. “So, ‘Hey, we’re here,’ doesn’t cut it for with both feet. You know what those are. “The core building blocks for us are cus- more than about a year. Effective branding Other elements of the strategy have to tomer, people and performance,” Hickler says what am I about, not who am I. have more flex.” says. “One is the customer centricity of “It has to be rolling out your brand everything we do and creating a business promise and communicating to your cus- Engage your employees that puts the customer experience first tomers that this is what we stand for.” Once a strategy has been drawn up in and therefore creating an organization and That means presenting a consistent the board room, it must be conveyed to business processes that can deliver to that message to employees, to customers, to the employees who are charged with car- one. Two, on the people side, how we cre- shareholders and to analysts who moni- rying out its components. Hickler says ate an environment and how do we hire, tor your company. this conveyance needs to seep through how do we recruit, retain and develop
  6. 6. The Hickler file employees that can thrive and contribute in that environment. Born: New York “So you have talent management com- mitments, you have employee satisfaction commitments, health and welfare, safety Education: Brown University, bachelor of arts — all of those cornerstones. You tie your degree, comparative literature strategy to how does that matter to the employee.” Hickler says constant communication What was the biggest challenge you’ve between the leader and the employee is vital in creating a culture that will thrive faced, and how did you overcome it? under a new strategy. Managing a business turnaround where there was “I’m a real believer in the effect that grassroots initiatives can have on an no business strategy articulated, low morale and lit- organization,” Hickler says. “Employee engagement is what delivers that brand tle momentum against key drivers of the business. promise.” I focused on three things: De-layer the senior management structure to deliver While he says leadership can be learned, people either have the ability to be good hands-on, tactical turnaround of the business, reassign and bring in new talent where communicators or they don’t. Those who necessary and quickly triage — focus the organization on the big turnaround, no- can do it are a step ahead when it comes to strategy implementation. regrets moves, thereby focusing organizational and management momentum on the “I do believe that people follow an exam- items that would deliver biggest value. ple,” Hickler says. “If they see leadership behaving according to the norms and val- ues of the company, then they will follow What is the most important business you’ve learned? suit. When I start in a new position, I com- municate what I stand for and what my You are only as good as your people. In order to achieve big objectives, you need to nonnegotiables are. Those have to get fil- surround yourself with strong, talented leaders. tered into the organization because they are part of the culture like anything else.” I am a firm believer that B players hire C players, and A players hire A players. Set Hickler says his calendar is filled through stretch objectives. Your people will rise to the challenges. the end of 2007 with employee town hall meetings and presentations meant to keep those communication lines flowing. What was your first job? “It’s really getting in front of people,” Hickler says. “We already have hundreds My first job was as a management trainee, and I have ever since valued such pro- of employee customer action teams that grams in the organizations where I have worked. are addressing issues germane to the employee, specifically as it relates to how As a management trainee, I had the unique opportunity to spend time in all facets of do they improve their work processes and the business and make contacts that served me well. At the end of the day, being a suc- improve their experience with the cus- tomer.” cessful manager is a lot about leveraging a network to get things accomplished. HOW TO REACH: DHL Express USA, www.dhl-usa.com © February 2007 • SmartBusiness B r o w a r d / P a l m B e a c h

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