The pace of change in the delivery and logistics sector is breakneck; new technologies are constantly shifting boundaries and customers’ expectations. Who would have thought that a few years ago you could literally track a delivery right to your doorstep? But guess what industry experts reckon will be the biggest factor in retaining business? None other than good old-fashioned customer service.


DHL copter[1]Let’s be honest, although every major firm pays lip service to the concept, many also fail to deliver. Call centres in other countries, supermarkets that insist you serve yourself – and they call this progress!

Global freight and mail giant DHL has put these factors under the microscope as it faces serious challenges now and in the future. On the one hand it is examining cutting edge technologies but on the other it is reassessing how to interact with clients, particularly in the business-to-consumer field.

So, for instance, in some warehouses it has been experimenting with Google Glass, the search giant’s internet-connected spectacles. In another ground-breaking idea it sends parcels to the boots of car owners.

But all the technology in the world will have little impact if the core expectations are not met – deliveries on time and communicating what is happening when that standard cannot be achieved.

Fatima Sullivan, Vice President of Customer Services for DHL Express Sub-Saharan Africa, says, “If the customer is not the key focus in all activities, whether it is improvements in delivery times or query resolution processes, efforts are wasted. Customers know what they want, and how they want it. You just need to listen to them.”

She points to the recently released report titled Customers 2020, which reveals that by 2020, customer experience will overtake product and price as the key brand differentiator, and therefore more emphasis will need to be placed on the experience a company delivers to create a competitive advantage.

“The voice of the customer is therefore an important element to consider when planning your strategies. Customers want to engage with companies who can provide a service, but are also able to tailor-make solutions and respond quickly to changing demands. In the logistics industry, where unforeseen delays may arise, it’s important to be able to react quickly and proactively communicate with your customers. Engaged customers understand that things go wrong sometimes, but they need to trust that you are able to recover from it in a fast and professional manner,” added Sullivan.

“It’s not just about problem resolution, but more importantly, about determining the root-cause, and to ensure that the problem does not occur again.

“Customers should also be able to access various escalation channels easily – there’s nothing worse than situations where frustration levels are high and you cannot track down the right person to assist you. In DHL’s case, we introduced a best-in-class feature to our website which we refer to as Straight to the Top (STTT). This allows customers to have access to the DHL Express senior management team, including the Africa management board. It’s all about accessibility and speed of query resolutions.

“We need to make sure that every individual in the business understands the impact they can have on the customer experience, and focus on the smaller details that drive quality. A customer-centric culture can only be achieved if all employees have the same goal in mind – to delight the customer at every opportunity.

“We service over 40,000 customers across sub-Saharan Africa and the only way we are able to provide the service quality that our customers have been accustomed to is by having a team of 3500+ Certified International Specialists, all focused on the same thing. Your people are the golden thread that keeps it all together. You can have the best customer feedback tools and CRM systems, but if you don’t have the right people analyzing the data and implementing the solutions, your business cannot move forward,” concludes Sullivan.


German delivery powerhouse DHL has seen business boom in the consumer sector with the huge increases in online shopping. It is delivering more parcels to the man in the street than ever before – now 45% of all commerce. This brings a specific challenge because it is not dealing with its own customers but those of Apple or Amazon.

Sumesh Rahavendra, Vice President of Sales for DHL Express sub-Saharan Africa, explained: “The burgeoning middle class and abundance of SMEs in Africa present great opportunities for financial services companies to provide retail banking services to individuals, as well as trade finance to SMEs. We see SMEs as the engine for growth in Africa and the lack of access to finance can often hinder their development. With one of the fastest growing middle classes in the world, there is a wave of consumerism for all types of goods and services such as FMCG, electronics and pharmaceuticals.”

The future shape of financial services in Africa 2015 report by PwC says financial services are a riskier prospect in Africa than in some other regions of the world.

“While most international banks are moving towards e-commerce, in Africa, a number of local banks still share information and conduct business with hard copy documentation,” adds Rahavendra.

An Accenture report titled African financial services come of age, suggests a promising future for the region’s banking sector. It reveals that the development of consumer payment networks took years to become fully functional in mature economies, while many countries in Africa are now beginning to expand their traditional payments infrastructure to adapt to new international standards.

“The local retail banking sector is increasingly making use of new technology such as ‘Mobile Money’ platforms. Consumers have started to move away from physical cards, instead relying on their mobile phones to conduct day-to-day banking transactions.

“In addition to mobile money solutions, most African countries have made a concerted effort to improve their transactional security by moving from the traditional ‘swipe card’ form of retail banking to chip and pin.

“From a logistics point of view, while banking sector documents continue to present significant shipment volumes intra-Africa, with the new technologies available, there is an increased need for equipment such as servers, ATMs and supplies to be moved into and around the continent, as banks expand into new countries and rural areas. As technology and requirements change, so do our supply chains, and we work very closely with our customers to ensure that we offer them the best possible solutions.

“The financial sector fueled DHL’s expansion into Africa in 1978 when global banks needed to get documentation to Africa, and it continues to help shape our service offerings on the continent as the sector matures. As the only logistics company to be present in every country and territory in Africa, we not only have front row seats to witness the impressive growth of the sector, but are fortunate enough to work with some of the largest and emerging financial institutions on the continent and play our part in their growth story”.



DHL has its very own innovation centre designed to speed development of game-changing new services.

  • The Internet of Things alone will give the logistics industry an US$1.9 trillion boost, generating US$8 trillion worldwide in value over the next decade
  • Global distance selling of €616 billion (in 2013) will grow annually by 10.7 percent until 2018: innovations in eCommerce to change the way we live
  • Group commits to extending logistics industry leadership position in innovation with its structured ‘Trend Research Value Chain’ development approach


Stock_3Frank Appel, CEO Deutsche Post DHL Group: “I believe that while capital and experience are undoubtedly important, it is innovative ideas that will steer our future. At Deutsche Post DHL Group, customer-centric innovation is key to two of our major ambitions. One is to play a pioneering role in spearheading the global evolution of logistics which is at the core for the sustainability of our planet. Second, to remain the logistics leader by innovating products and services that our customers need most – whether that is to make an e-commerce delivery, design a global supply chain or ship temperature sensitive pharmaceuticals. To achieve this, we will continue to look far into the future, where our goal is to continually strive to convert our innovations into marketable solutions, to make our customers more successful.”

DHL and SOS children’s Villages have developed a partnership over five years to improve the employment prospects of disadvantaged young people across 11 African countries.

The concept was launched in South Africa and Madagascar, 2010, but has spread rapidly.

“Education and employability are highly important topics for Deutsche Post DHL Group and, through our GoTeach program, play a central role in our Corporate Responsibility strategy,” said Christof Ehrhart, Executive Vice President, Corporate Communications and Responsibility, Deutsche Post DHL Group. “We are keen to support the direct development of future logistics talent, but we also firmly believe that education and employability make an important contribution to stability and prosperity in the world. Through five years of partnership with SOS Children’s Villages, we have already seen first-hand the benefits and positive impact that engagement between business and charities that create opportunities for young people can have.

“Empowering youth and improving their employment prospects is the objective of the international partnership between SOS Children’s Villages and Deutsche Post DHL Group. The success of our partnership is rooted in the commitment of our employees who volunteer their time to mentor youths aged 15-25 and to help them get ready for their foray into the job market,” said Christoph Selig, Head of GoTeach Program, Deutsche Post DHL Group.

“Employees mentor youths from both SOS Children’s Villages and SOS Family Strengthening Programs, and organize a variety of tailored career development activities that deliver tangible results for the mentees,” he added. “It really has been a joy to see the partnership and correspondingly, our outreach to young people, grow. To date, our employees have engaged with over 3,500 youths in Africa.”

In 2014, DPDHL Group volunteers organized more than 160 different activities reaching more than 1,600 young people from socially disadvantaged backgrounds, offering over 100 internships and finally permanently employing 25 young talents.


Stock_4DHL offers national and international express delivery for parcels and envelopes as well as freight transport across air, ocean, rail and road. It offers tracking, electronic proof of delivery and a variety of other services for business customers such as security and insured good.

Its mission statement emphasises the desire to be ‘The logistics company for the world.’

This goes beyond the simple fact that, “as a global company,” says the company, “we are present in over 220 countries and territories, or that we are often the very first logistics company to enter new markets. Our vision stresses that we want to be the logistics provider people turn to – their first choice not only for all their shipping needs, but also as an employee or investor.”


The company’s mission statement, has four main elements:

1) We want to simplify the lives of our customers
2) We make our customers, employees and investors more successful
3) We make a positive contribution to the world
4) We always demonstrate respect when achieving our results

We are successful when you are
We strongly believe that pursuing all of these goals is in our interest and in the interest of all of our stakeholders: customers, employees, investors and the planet as a whole. We add value to people’s interaction with us, whether with excellent services or products, by engaging our employees and nurturing their talents, or by being a solid, long-term investment on the stock market. And, we show concern for our world and our communities with our various corporate responsibility programs under the motto of ‘Living responsibility’.

Green technologies

Optimized transport routes, vehicles with alternative drive systems and energy-efficient warehouses: There are many ways to reduce climate-damaging CO2 emissions and other environmental impacts in the transportation and storage of goods.

Working with its customers, the company wants to leverage this potential. At DHL, they call this GOGREEN, believing that environmental protection and business success are not just compatible, they are closely interlinked.

With expertise and global presence, DHL can offer business customers a broad portfolio of green products and services. By providing detailed Carbon Reports, they show them where they stand in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. Though CO2 emissions have the biggest impact on climate change within logistics other greenhouse gases (GHG) like methane or nitrous oxide are also reported. And in accordance to the internationally recognized, cross-sector standard ‘Greenhouse Gas Product Lifecycle Accounting and Reporting’ DHL also takes upstream emissions into account that originate in the production and transport of fuel and energy.

“In our Green Optimization service,” says the company, “we work with customers to identify areas for improvement, and ways to achieve a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. We analyze our customers’ entire logistics chain, and work with them to optimize trade routes and transportation modes. Additionally, we suggest ways to improve their overall environmental performance.
And to compensate for unavoidable emissions, we offer Climate Neutral services. Participating in the voluntary emissions trading scheme, we purchase carbon credits from selected projects, reducing emissions and benefitting local communities. Since January 2014 we do not only offset CO2 but other greenhouse gases like methane or nitrous oxide as well, taking GOGREEN from carbon neutral to climate neutral. Based on the new GHG Protocol for Products we also include upstream emissions from the production and transport of fuels and energy.


The DHL Trend Research team is dedicated to researching and leveraging trends in the logistics industry. The researchers capture the top logistics developments on a yearly basis in DHL’s Logistics Trend Radar. The dedicated ‘Trend Research Value Chain’ outlines a structured approach towards sustainable and innovative business solutions: starting with the identification of relevant topics in the Logistics Trend Radar, followed by more detailed Trend Reports on certain themes which thereafter will be translated into Proof of Concepts as well as tangible exhibits in the Innovation Center. At the end of this process, these products and solutions will be completely handed over to the respective business unit for implementation into their operations or business processes.

Only recently DHL Supply Chain together with its partner Ricoh has successfully tested smart glasses and augmented reality software in the Netherlands – the resultant warehouse picking process improved by 25 percent. And now, DHL is exploring the use of wearables in additional areas and in collaboration with further partners. Another promising innovation was covered by the trend report on ‘Self-Driving Vehicles in Logistics’. This highlights the key elements and significant potential of autonomous technologies in the logistics sector with various best-practice applications from different industries. It also examines concrete examples of self-driving vehicles across the entire logistics value chain from autonomous transport and assisted picking in warehouses to last-mile delivery.


DHL Global Forwarding, the air and ocean freight specialist within Deutsche Post, has scooped the award for Africa’s International Freight Forwarder of the Year for the third time. Roger Olsson, CEO, DHL Global Forwarding Sub Saharan Africa, says, “DHL offers tailor-made solutions to businesses in Africa and it’s a service that’s second to none. It’s a tribute – to be named number one by STAT Time’s readers – to DHL’s strong African team that their dedication to excellence in international freight forwarding has been recognised yet again. DHL has been supporting the business in Africa for more than 35 years now but what’s most important is that we have continued to anticipate, adapt and create services that clearly meet Africa’s fast evolving business needs and help fulfill its vast potential.”

According to the 2014 year-end report by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), trade activity across the African region remained positive despite major economies Nigeria and South Africa underperforming for parts of 2014. Regional growth supported demand for air freight and capacity rose just 0.9% for the year as a whole, helping to strengthen load factors. African carriers’ freight tonne kilometers (FTKs) grew by 12.2% in December and 6.7% for the year as a whole. Globally, the air cargo business is growing again after several years of stagnation with demand growth up 4.5% compared to 2013 measured by freight FTKs.