What’s in a name?

In December 2021 the Times published its findings from a major investigation into Hermes, the delivery company. It reported that the firm routinely mishandled parcels, failed to complete next-day orders and told its staff to lie to customers. There was a huge public outcry with unhappy customers flocking to social media to report their own poor experiences. Hermes employees quickly defended themselves blaming unfair working practices and overwhelming workloads. But how did the brand respond?

In March the firm announced a major re-brand from ‘Hermes’, a name associated with Greek mythology as being, ‘messenger of the gods’ to ‘Evri’ which apparently represents, “different people, different parcels, different places, different communities” which “interact with the brand and its messengers.” As a result, Evri represents a phonetic spelling of “every.” 

In addition, the design agency used something called ‘Variable Font Intelligence’ which means there are 194,481 possible variations of typeface that the firm can use allowing each van to have its own bespoke branding. Who knew? Those readers who have worked with us know that a primary goal of our approach is to achieve a consistently positive customer experience because consistency produces predictability which, in turn, creates assurance. Not bad attributes for a delivery company we would have thought and yet Evri is making a virtue of being inconsistent.

In fairness, Evri also said it was also investing in better employment practices as well as a major advertising campaign based on their ethos of being a ‘human and community-driven parcel delivery business’. So, did it work?

Roll forward one year exactly and in December 2022 Citizen’s Advice conducted a survey of delivery company customers and found that Evri was last in the ranking for the second year running. The Daily Mail reported that the firm was causing “Christmas Misery” through late or mishandled deliveries and poor service. One courier was caught on camera hurling parcels 20 feet from the road to the customer’s front door twice in less than two hours. Another major news item reported, “A mountain of parcels found dumped in woodland”. It seems that the expensive rebranding and advertising campaign made zero positive difference to the customer experience.

So, what can we learn from all of this? Simply put, if you want to change your fortunes then you need to change your behaviour, not your brand. Hermes would have been better advised keeping its old name and instead investing the significant sums it spent with its design agency and repainting its vans in improving the customer experience. We define a great customer experience as being ‘Consistent, Intentional, Differentiated and Valuable to target customers.’ That requires a real understanding about what customers expect, and investment in the processes and practices that will deliver this. It means communication and training for your employees in what you stand for as a brand and what this means for their behaviour. It means rewarding them accordingly and ensuring rigorous attention to the touchpoints that matter most to ensure you are delivering consistently.

If Hermes really wanted to rebrand then it would have been much better to have fixed the customer experience first and then changed the brand afterwards so that the name ‘Evri’ had positive associations. As it is, from a reputational perspective, the firm finds itself in the same disastrous situation as 12 months ago.  A delivery company that spends a year on a journey and ends up in exactly the same place? I can think of a name for that.

Shaun Smith, Founder, Smith+Co

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