DHL switching to a customer-centric database model: NCDM

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ORLANDO, FL - DHL is switching from a product-centric database model to a customer-centric one.

This was a key takeaway from Susanne Albert, senior manager of database marketing at Plantation, FL-based DHL Express, who spoke on the 2006 National Center for Database Marketing panel, "Strategy & Tactics for a Successful Shift to Customer Centricity."

"Back in 2003, DHL was relatively new in the U.S. and we really had no choice but to utilize mass marketing for our brand transformation when we acquired Airbone Express," Ms. Albert said.

"[But] today, we are implementing some very strong customer marketing programs, whereby we are segmenting not only by channels, but by customer behavior," she said. "We still have a long way to go in the U.S. in terms of identifying our customer segments and understanding the kind of clusters required for customer-centricity."

In terms of segmenting customers, Ms. Albert said DHL looks at the shipping behaviors of its customers.

"We need to understand very clearly if a customer that is using our international services may have a propensity to want to use our domestic services," Ms. Albert said.

"Today, we are in a product-centric environment, where we do our marketing dependent on individual products," she said. "My vision for next year is that we migrate to a more generic, broader-based domestic and international focus where we can [leverage our customers' behavior] to identify cross-sell and upsell opportunities."

There are some barriers to this shift, however.

"I certainly do not believe the organization is intentionally putting up barriers, but the barriers still exist nonetheless," Ms. Albert said.

"Some of the challenges we face are in staffing and finding individuals who really get it in terms of database marketing, [who understand] what kind of analytics need to occur in order to identify those segments that allow us to talk to our customers based on their needs and their desires," she said.

Another organizational barrier involves having to sell the customer-centricity initiative up the food chain.

How does she overcome these barriers?

"It's very important to have proof points on why it is important to spend the resources on this type of initiative," Ms. Albert said.

She claimed senior leadership at her company was supportive of the initiative.

A challenge, though, is that "we are driving the train while we are laying the tracks," Ms. Albert said. "You have to lay the tracks to drive the train, but you have to move the train forward at the same time."

Change, therefore, must be incremental.

"It's very important to do test and control, pilot small opportunities alongside keeping your major strategies in place," Ms. Albert said. "When you have small successes, evangelize them, broadcast them. Get executive-level presentations together that in one glance, the benefit is readily [understandable to senior management]."

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