Using data to help meet community needs

Customer experience is becoming increasingly competitive, with organisations setting new standards that are fast becoming baseline expectations. Australia Post General Manager, Data Science Silvio Giorgio and Head of eCommerce Data Analytics, Rose Yip, share how Australia Post’s rich data capability can help you find new ways to meet (and exceed) those expectations.

Key points

  • In an increasingly competitive landscape, organisations can use data to continually improve customer experience
  • Australia Post’s data capability can help organisations make informed decisions, prove hypotheses, and challenge existing business assumptions
  • Using machine learning to analyse complex data at scale, Australia Post is able to help businesses improve the accuracy of forecasting.

We’ve become accustomed to relying on data to inform our decisions and help make life easier. We depend on weather forecasts to make plans, and navigation tools to estimate travel time. And as organisations realise the value of the vast amount of data intelligence at their disposal, they’re setting new standards for customer experience.

Silvio Giorgio, Australia Post’s General Manager, Data Science, describes this as “operating in the margins” – the micro-decisions that add up to richer and more convenient interactions.

“The new standards we set become the new experience,” he explains. “As consumers, we are no longer delighted by the things we weren’t even expecting just six months ago.”

These ever-increasing expectations are putting pressure on organisations across all sectors – because growth now comes down to the experiences they create.1

Empowering your organisation with data capabilities is just the beginning. It’s what you do with all that data that really matters.
“We’re here to do magic with data,” says Silvio, describing the role of his data science team. “To help Australia Post realise the potential of data intelligence, and to get people excited by it. To show how it can generate value in business outcomes – for us, and for our customers.”

Sharing data to dispel misconceptions

Looking for patterns in delivery experience data is one example. Silvio’s team noticed a link between first-time delivery, signature on delivery requirements, and delivery Net Promotor Scores (NPS) – and started testing a hypothesis.

“Our retailers associated parcel signatures with a feeling of security,” explains Silvio. “But our data actually showed signatures were the biggest obstacle to first-time delivery.”

After analysing 55 retailers who had moved off signature on delivery, his team also analysed the impact on carding, NPS and lost parcels. “Carding rates dropped, NPS rose two points – and there was a negligible 0.001% rise in missing parcels,” says Silvio. “We needed that data to overcome the assumption signatures made deliveries safer.”

Australia Post shares this analysis in its inaugural Delivery Experience report, The Delivery Experience: Getting it right. Why it matters. And how data can help. The report can help businesses make more informed decisions in terms of uplifting their customer experience.

Rose Yip, Australia Post’s Head of eCommerce Data Analytics, is also seeing businesses increasingly lean on data to make decisions to stay competitive. “The retail leaders are already using it to anticipate audience wants and needs. But making sense of it all and presenting it back to stakeholders in a way they understand – that is what will turn it into action.”

Australia Post also analyses its retail network data – such as the impact of bank branch closures on the 2,500+ Post Offices in regional and rural communities that offer Bank@Post.2

“We can help our banking customers make more informed decisions by showing their customers still value that physical interaction, or still have a need for cash,” says Silvio.

For example, there were 26.8 million banking and Post Billpay transactions in regional, rural and remote Post Offices in the 2019 financial year. And in regional areas without a bank branch, Bank@Post withdrawals grew 74% between FY19 and FY20.3

“We also process millions of passport applications and can see seasonal and geographic patterns of demand for that service,” says Silvio. “This helps us better plan the infrastructure and resources our Post Offices need.”

Using machine learning to improve accuracy

The next frontier is likely to be Artificial Intelligence. Australia Post already uses machine learning to calculate optimal routes and get accurate delivery timeframes – within a 15-minute window4 – as well as helping plan for peak parcel volumes.

“The machine prediction was incredibly accurate – within 1% – for our biggest week in the Christmas peak,” explains Silvio. That was the week after Black Friday, when online purchases grew 42% year on year – the biggest week in Australian eCommerce history.5

“Using data and machine learning to inform our peak planning, we could overcome the natural biases of individual experiences.

Machine learning can form aggregated patterns based on every experience, and process all that information much faster and at scale,” he says.

Getting comfortable with using more data

With the explosive potential of personalised data to help improve customer experience, it’s still important to be aware of personal privacy boundaries.

“That line keeps moving, and there are still some data uses people may feel uncomfortable with,” explains Silvio. For example, consumers may accept they need to share location data with Google to use Maps effectively – but Silvio suspects there would still be resistance in sharing sensitive information more broadly.

“We look at consumer sentiment to assess this,” he explains. “Does the community value or permit the use of this data for this specific purpose? And if the answer is yes, would they want us to operate in that space?”

In a 2020 global study from Accenture, 84% of respondents said they would be open to sharing identifiable information with a government department if it meant a more personalised service experience. And more than 40% would be happy for government agencies to share this data between each other to improve services.6

Rose suggests a very simple, established service can help both business and government organisations serve Australians more effectively.

“We’ve been doing address validation for decades,” she says. “When a business or organisation wants to deliver a letter or a pamphlet, that address is verified by us in our database. It’s something organisations can easily implement that can have a huge impact on minimising errors and improving customer experiences.”
With more organisations using rich data to make decisions that help deliver better customer experiences – Rose points to a talent shortage of data scientists and engineers as proof of this growing demand. “I don’t think we’ll go back from here,” she says.

That’s where working with the right partners can help make a difference. Leveraging Australia Post’s broad and deep data sets, alon