Barber is clear on the importance of Digital Customer Relationship Management programmes. She notes research which shows that 68% of customers say they have made a decision on buying before they meet a person.
“The role of marketing is to really focus on consistent communications and how the digital and physical customer journey interacts. You really have to think about channels and be omnichannel in a way that is open architecture,” she explains.
Barber has a firm grounding in the art of communications. After completing a degree in communications, she joined Sun Life where she trained as an accountant. A chance meeting with the CMO led her to apply for a communications role. When she found out five weeks later she was pregnant he supported her to take on the role. “This was 23 years ago, and things were very different then, but he made it very easy for me to return to work and I was lucky that AXA has an onsite creche,” she says.
After progressing within AXA, she joined GE Capital, before leaving to join in house marketing specialist Williams Lea Tag. “I’ve always loved language. The challenge is how do you apply that language on a one-to-one basis in a dynamic publishing model?” she asks.
Bringing your whole self to work
The segue into the impact of the crisis on diversity and inclusion is neatly, albeit noisily, delivered via my seven-year-old son who makes an impromptu appearance on our Zoom interview to procure my mobile phone. Barber doesn’t skip a beat, explaining: “Imagine if your son turned up a meeting in the office, it most probably wouldn't happen. The bonus of remote working is that it has really enabled us to properly get to know people as people.”
She shares how the leadership of DHL’s Chief Information Officer set the tone of the business: “He started every meeting with asking people how they were and really listening.” When the company lost its first employee to COVID, the company’s CEO Frank Appel immediately communicated with the entire organisation. This focus on people has been key to the company’s resilience in the crisis.
“It really is about how we care about our people, and I truly believe that. I don’t think I ever want to leave DHL and it's the response to COVID that makes me say that it has really solidified our culture,” she says. While she shares she is naturally cynical, the company really has delivered on its values. As she explains: “I trust the people who lead me to make the right decision and despite being cynical naturally, I really believe they are focused on doing the right thing.”
It's a focus that has not only led to an increase in operating profits but record net promoter scores amongst customers. Yet the achievement wasn’t simply down to just pushing harder or running faster. Barber points to the “operational excellence” of DHL, the fact the company had a COVID taskforce up and running so quickly and the continued focus on business continuity and planning for risk as key to its ability to thrive amidst the crisis.
For Barber, the legacy of the crisis lies both in the strength, commitment and loyalty of her team and also the disruption to hierarchy. As we come out the other side of the crisis it is clear she is focused on keeping hold of this silver lining. She explains: “I could live without some of the urgency, but the innovation and the sprints that we have achieved I want to hang on to. COVID has stripped away at bureaucracy and allowed us to really push the boundaries.”