Striving for a Happily-Ever-After Customer Experience

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Customer Experience
Customer Experience
Susan DeLaney, vice president of customer experience, UPS, leads a problem-resolution team that guides ever-improving customer experiences.

A big believer in happy endings, Susan DeLaney strives to ensure that every one of UPS's customers has a perfect finale to their shipping experience. As vice president of customer experience she has been entrusted with designing and executing the company's vision for the ideal experience for the company's shippers and receivers.

Part of that journey is recognizing that things will occasionally go wrong. In fact, four different surveys identified problem solving as the most important issue for customers. So several years ago DeLaney formed UPS's problem-resolution department, which identifies potential negative experiences and redesigns systems, processes, or policies to prevent them. This included overhauling the routine and systematic responses that customers were receiving when filing claims for damaged packages. Now, when damage occurs the customer is given specific details as to why it happened, for example having used paper tape for a package that required something sturdier.

This detailed information, together with an online tool that explains proper packaging, helps customers avoid similar problems in the future and has increased UPS's scores for caring by double digits.

"UPS has very good service, and people know that. But how you react when things go wrong makes all the difference in the world. It can make or break a customer experience," she says.

DeLaney believes that people inherently want to help others and, when given the opportunity, employees do the right thing. However, processes or the overall organizational design sometimes act as stumbling blocks, inhibiting an employee's ability to help. One element of DeLaney's job is to identify these elements and remove the hurdles. As part of this she introduced an "empathy" initiative that accentuated the need for agents to listen to customers.

"This allows the agent to focus on the customer rather than just the processes he was trained on. Too often [employees] were trying to get through the check marks. But now, the check mark they get is for listening to the customer," says DeLaney, adding that this change significantly improved the customer experience.

Her latest project is setting up a customer experience team that will build a comprehensive voice of the customer program. The project, part of a global customer experience initiative, will identify key moments of truth, disseminate the client's viewpoint across the company, and launch projects addressing any experience deficiencies.

DeLaney says listening to the voice of the customer and reporting back to the organization is the single most important part of her job.

"For me, the most valuable information is when customers are taking their time to tell us in their own words what's on their mind." Despite her tireless work, ensuring that customers are at the core of

UPS is the easy part of her job, DeLaney says, explaining that the company has taken this approach since it was founded by Jim Casey back in 1907. "Customer focus is part of the DNA here, and it's reinforced daily," she says. "UPS has been around and growing for 104 years, and that's because of the singular focus our founder put on the customer. You can't stay around that long unless you're delivering what the customer wants."

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EXPERT OPINION