How Parcelhub shifted gears to keep pace with changing retail trends

If you consider changing retail trends a sport, you can be sure Parcelhub’s got a ringside view as an important member of the support staff.

The UK-based company provides delivery management solutions and is part of the Whistl Group, which handles nearly four billion items annually on behalf of more than 2,000 retailers, brands and wholesalers. But as Covid restrictions enveloped businesses across the country, Parcelhub began noticing distinct changes in the retail sector.

“We were doing Christmas volumes in March, April, which is incredible,” James Hayes, Director of Business Development at Parcelhub, told Freshworks. “However, the mix of shipments has massively shifted. For example, fashion retail is down, whereas household items are up. This is causing issues in the supply chain and delivery networks as capacities are stretched more than ever.”

Parcelhub also saw wholesalers and manufacturers “move to a direct-to-consumer model” with their regular revenue streams drying up. More people began shopping online, mainly for essentials, translating to surging volumes for Parcelhub even as it sent its employees to work from their homes.

To be sure, retail sales growth in the UK bounced back in June fuelled by online spending, food sales, and electrical, hardware, and furniture purchases. Several other segments including clothing stores and high street chains, however, were still feeling the effects of the pandemic.

Apart from the hurried sectoral changes, Parcelhub had to also contend with lockdown restrictions that threatened to affect its operations. But it didn’t take too long for the company to flip the situation into a positive.

As Parcelhub closed its UK offices in March, it enabled a large core team to work remotely taking advantage of all the technology at its hands, including Freshdesk. The result: even as order volume increased by 250% in May 2020 and the number of daily tickets doubled to about 200 per customer support agent, all 60 now working from home, Parcelhub was able to ensure zero loss in service.

“In fact, we have seen even better levels of customer service, and productivity is up,” said James, “which is great because the number of queries has skyrocketed in the unprecedented times we find ourselves in.”

Freshdesk is Freshworks’ flagship helpdesk product. Parcelhub, a Freshworks integration partner the past three years, has been offering the cloud-based tool to its own customers as a part of its product suite. This allows Parcelhub to respond directly to queries such as “where is my order” raised by its customers’ customers.

This “integration gives customers full visibility into the support team’s activities from within their Freshdesk account,” said Simon Wright, Marketing Manager at Parcelhub. “Most importantly, Freshdesk allows retailers to manage customer service queries from a wide range of sales channels through a single platform, which helps deliver a consistent and cohesive experience.”

The helpdesk tool came in handy for Parcelhub amid the pandemic restrictions by allowing it to adapt quickly, and prioritize and categorize tickets to achieve all its customers’ service level agreements.

Freshdesk “has been particularly valuable during the current pandemic as it has allowed us to alleviate some of the stress on the retailers by handling their inbound customer queries,” said James, adding that Freshdesk Omnichannel helped Parcelhub increase productivity by 30% in the period up to May 2020.

No surprise there. A recent Forrester Consulting study has found that Freshdesk Omnichannel provides a three-year return on investment (RoI) of 462% for midmarket customers.

“Parcelhub has shown that you don’t need to be in the office to ensure you are delivering the same level of customer experience as you would in normal times,” said Simon Johnson, UK Managing Director at Freshworks. “It’s great to see that Freshdesk has helped Parcelhub to continuously deliver on its SLAs and provide that next level customer support that its clients rely on to maintain their own reputations.”

James has one final nugget of wisdom for businesses looking to quickly adapt to changing customer and industry dynamics—on the need to embrace technology. “Modern technology is going to be more prevalent within e-commerce. Chatbots, machine learning and artificial intelligence are all going to play a huge part,” he said. “Proactive and predictive technology is going to be more relevant as we move forward in the e-commerce world.”

With the pandemic forcing businesses of all sorts and sizes to move online, that’s an inevitable truth everyone’s only happy to embrace.

[With inputs from Miguel Allende]