More than just a courier, Hermes UK scooped an award at the UK IT Industry Awards which recognised the firm’s transformational efforts to go above and beyond during the pandemic.

The pandemic changed many industries over night, none more so than the parcel delivery business. Suddenly, with millions of shoppers, families and workers staying home, couriers became a critical lifeline and an indispensable part of the national effort to survive COVID-19. Here, Hermes UK explains how it embraced technology, a clear sense of social purpose and defined business objectives to achieve success in the UK IT Industry Awards 2021.

Tell us about your organisation

Hermes is the biggest dedicated consumer parcel delivery company in the UK. We offer seven-day delivery options for anyone who wants to send a parcel, whether it’s to homes or workplaces, via courier collection or our network of ParcelShops and Lockers. We also work with many of the UK’s top retailers including John Lewis, ASOS, M&S, Next and Tesco.

Tell us about your awards entry. What problems were you looking to solve; what were your KPIs?

When the pandemic hit, parcel volumes soared to unprecedented levels as more people understandably turned to home delivery. The business had to adapt almost overnight to meet this demand and the constantly changing needs of all our customers and clients.

So, rather than focus on a single product, it made more sense to develop and launch a range of innovative tools and services. Highlights over the last 12-18 months include some key successes.

 Firstly, MyPlaces. This is a key feature on our website and award-winning app that’s essentially designed to reduce the customer’s need to contact us. It’s all about setting personal delivery preferences with the ultimate aim of improving first-time delivery success. There are currently over 1.1million MyPlaces users and the first-time delivery success for them has increased by 5%.

Next, Hermes Play. This feature lets users send a personal video with their parcel for the recipient to watch via augmented reality. When it first launched in 2020 it was about connecting customers to their loved ones during the pandemic. But then we evolved it for retail clients to use from a brand awareness point of view, and to target their own customers with bespoke commercial content. As well as making the experience of sending and receiving a parcel that little bit more special, it also lets retailers generate more revenue while we generate greater parcel volume.

We also integrated  What3words. We were the first UK carrier to partner with unique addressing service What3words. The problem was couriers not being able to find certain addresses - rural properties, for example, or blocks of flats with more than one entrance. Or there could be technical issues, such as data lag or differing data generated by multiple retailers. So w3w supports couriers by helping them pinpoint tricky locations to within just a few metres. As a result, it’s more efficient as time is shaved off each delivery. As with most of our products, retailers can integrate w3w into their own checkout process. 

Finally, there was ‘What’s in the box.’ As more and more parcels are delivered, it’s only natural to see an increase in returns, an area that can catch some businesses out. As well as increasing Hermes’ returns volume share, we wanted to streamline the whole returns procedure, not only for customers but retailers too. Now retailers know exactly what is coming back, which means they can put products back up for resale faster; issue refunds more quickly; manage stock levels; and instantly analyse why certain things are being returned.

What’s feedback been like?

We’ve had consistently strong feedback from customers and retailers. In terms of the former, our app has been in the Top 10 lifestyle app chart since launch and has a 4.5-star rating on both the iOS and Android app stores. Also, following major investment in our customer services team, our CSAT score hit 90% in 2021, based on more than 1.2million reviews.

For you

Be part of something bigger, join the Chartered Institute for IT.

Meanwhile, after a busy and successful peak period in 2020 (peak is the time between Black Friday and Christmas), the Hut Group called Hermes ‘a strong partner in the challenging logistics parcel world’, while H&M hailed the ‘speed of service to our customers - taking increased capacity and adding additional transport’.

More recently, online fashion retailer Joe Browns praised our enhanced returns service, saying, ‘This is another step forward from Hermes in helping to make our customer journey simpler… The more information we can collect in an electronic format, the more efficient we become. What’s in the box gives both us and our customers exactly what they need.’

Talk to use about the value you have delivered

The products developed and launched by my team have played a big part in the business’ overall growth and success. Our proposition has supported customers and retailers every step of the way through difficult times and allowed us to adapt to fast-changing market trends. The top line is that we successfully delivered 650million parcels in 2020-21, our biggest year on record.

What’s your position on a business’ place in society and on sustainability?

One of our core business principles is ‘Do the right thing’ - and that’s never been more important than during the last year and a half! We were deemed an essential service by the government at the start of the pandemic, and - via the MyPlaces feature - we were the first carrier to offer contact-free delivery options. The expansion of MyPlaces and the introduction of What3words have benefited all our customers as we strive to make sure they get their parcel, the way they want to receive it.

On a wider level, we’re hugely focused on our ESG strategy - that’s environment, social and governance. This is shaping every single area of the business, particularly our alternative fuel and electric vehicle fleet, as we move towards our net zero carbon emissions target, which we aim to hit by 2035. From a product perspective, one recent example is digital calling cards. Where possible, a courier will notify a customer about an attempted delivery by email, and this reduced the number of printed paper slips by 66.2 million in 2020.

What motivated you to enter for an award? What do you feel are the benefits?

It’s a great morale booster for the whole team to see how their products have impacted on the business and wider industry, and also on customers, clients and couriers.

Awards recognition, whether you win or not, is also great for recruitment and brand awareness, as it lets people learn about different areas of the business. It shows we’re thought leaders within the industry, too.

What did being a finalist / winning mean to you?

It’s just amazing for my whole team. It’s a team effort - and I’m super proud of everyone! It’s a massive result for all their hard work.

Did you attend the awards? If so, how did you find it?

Yes - it was brilliant! There was a real buzz. It was the first awards ceremony we attended since lockdown ended. Everyone was interacting and networking, and it was so exciting to catch up with so many people in person. 

What are you working on for next year? Will your project evolve, or are you moving onto something new?

Our overall proposition is both evolving and expanding with new products. There’s a big investment in product transformation, as well as a real focus on products around our out-of-home estate, which is a key focus for us right now.

But we want to keep evolving the products we’ve got, so we can continue to follow our customers and their unique needs in uncertain times. Our in-built operational flexibility and ability to pivot quickly were crucial to our successes over the last 18 months - and have also put us in a strong position for whatever comes next.