Exel gets a triple surprise in its first attempt

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 14 June, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 14 June, 2005, 12:00am

WHEN MANAGEMENT at Exel Hong Kong decided to enter the CRE Awards last year, they had little hope of winning - no company of its type had ever done so.


The integrated logistics and freight management services firm did so primarily to benchmark the quality of its customer service and to promote a team-building spirit among its staff.


So it was a surprise when the first-time participant took not one but three awards: Global Support Services of the Year, Outsourcing Team of the Year, and People Development Programme of the Year.


'Initially, we were not very confident of our ability to win as we were competing against major finance and telecommunications companies, which have well-established customer service set-ups,' said deputy general manager of operations at Exel Hong Kong, Edward Hui.


'We were the first in the air freight and logistics industry to win an award. The nature of our trade is still very much focused on operations rather than customer service,' he said.


The exercise has benefited the company in a number of ways. 'Through this competition, we could share our best practices with world-class organisations,' Mr Hui said. 'This has reinforced our service excellence and commitment to quality.'


Exel offers integrated logistics and freight management services covering the complete supply chain, from design and consulting through to freight forwarding, warehousing, distribution services, comprehensive management information and e-commerce support.


Established in 1968, the firm employs 111,000 people in more than 135 countries worldwide, including about 1,000 staff in Hong Kong.


Key to the company's success was a decision taken in 2003 to set up a department to handle customer needs.


More than $1 million was spent on a new telephone system, renovations, and staff training. A team of 60 was assigned to the new department; half of them were existing employees who were redeployed, and half were new hires.


'It was a major investment for a company like ours,' Mr Hui said. 'Customer service used to be handled by different departments within the company, depending on what your problem was. So customers might have to call different numbers and talk to different people, depending on their problem. It was very operations-focused.'


A dedicated unit to handle customer care, sometimes referred to as 'complaints', was set up last year.


'To deal with complaints, you need people who are well-trained and patient,' Mr Hui said.


The company has also established dedicated teams to handle major customers.


'We have representatives at the customer's site, and take care of everything from factory output to end-customers in different parts of the world.'


How does Mr Hui define customer service?


'Good customer service means using a proactive approach to understand customer requirements, exceeding expectations by building up a win-win partnership, and using customer-focused strategies,' he


said.


Exel seeks to cultivate strategic partnerships by working closely with customers to create cost-effective solutions that add value to their businesses and to achieve win-win business results.


A programme to develop human resources includes classroom training in problem-solving, English and Putonghua.


Customised career development is offered by the company. Other initiatives include a staff retention scheme and service enhancement workshops.


Employees are encouraged to take part in activities related to corporate social responsibility.


Mr Hui said Hong Kong has made significant strides in customer service in recent years. This would be key to helping the city maintain its competitive edge against rivals in the region.


'I cannot say Hong Kong is No1 in customer service, but I believe it is continuously striving to maintain a leading position in the customer service field,' he said.


'We understand that service excellence is Hong Kong's core competitive advantage in being recognised as centre of business and finance in the region.


'The Hong Kong government is massively promoting the importance of service excellence across differ industries, and we strongly believe we will not settle for less,' Mr Hui said.