Raising your profile as a company is about understanding your uniqueness, identify the needs of the people you are trying to reach, and finding the right ways to meet those needs. To its credit NamPost is doing just that, it is not surprising that they come out shining against all odds.
There are many different ways of doing that – NamPost Courier Services General Manager; Max Schafer explains how the department he has been heading for two years keeps afloat despite increasing competition.
Despite the negative economic conditions precipitated by both internal and external factors according to the 2012 annual report the Courier Service ranked in the significant revenue growth by 16% compare to the previous year while operating income increased by 50% from 2011. According to the annual report growth was achieved through a combination of innovation, unity and team collaboration.
Schafer says the success of Courier Services is attributed to the big footprint that NamPost has established, as well as the company mission as a business partner of the Government to connect people thus making it a courier of choice.
“We want to provide logistics solution to connect people throughout Namibia and that is our big strength,” he says.
Born and bred in Namibia, Schafer studied marketing and sales management with plans to become a sports marketer in the future, however he said there were not a lot of opportunities for that line of career. Interestingly, Schafer’s passion for sports paid off as has been the national high jump record holder since 1988.
Fuelled by his skills in marketing, Schafer ended up in the transporting industry, landing his first job at a furniture removal company in South Africa. He worked for the company for four years starting as a sales representative, and then become operations manager. Whilst working in the furniture removal business he obtained a qualification in road transportation & logistics.
He was then appointed as customer services manager at Afrox South Africa and later regaining his previous title as operations manager. Schafer was transferred to the Namibian branch of the company as a customer services manager for the Namibian Market and worked in the company for eight years.
“After restructuring within Afrox I ended up in transport management, to take the ownership of the full vehicle base of Afrox,” he adds.
In November 2012, Schafer became General Manager: Courier Services Department of the biggest domestic courier in Namibia.
Schafer says the company aimed at connecting families and businesses and hence the rich customers base across along a continuum from individual, SMEs, Government to large cooperate companies in Namibia.
“We have clients ranging from the farmers community, banking and mining industries, so each and every business sphere in Namibia is our customer,” he says.
Schafer says for them there is no special customer adding that NamPost provide individual services to all and sundry, however, he pointed out key relationships with the mining industry, banking institutions, Telecom Namibia and MTC are vital to the NamPost hence these relationships should be nourished .
According to Schafer, NamPost has grown its number of post office outlets to 136 for the reason to connect people especially in the north were people have long distance to travel to make use of their services. It is this large footprint which enables the courier company to have an untrammeled competitive advantage in the market.
He says NamPost is currently going through a change management programme aimed refreshing and emphasising the commitment that is expected from its employees. This programme will assess the workers whether they are loyal, committed and dedicated in serving their customers.
According to Schafer, keeping ahead of competition means to be relevant in the market while paying attention to the needs of the customers and also keeping up with global trends in the market.
“It is important to be accessible to the customers and also listen to the customer and be open to learn from customer on how to improve your products and services,” he advises.
He also started that NamPost is soon to start with a new survey where a group of customers will be targeted to get input as to how they experience the company’s services.
In an effort to keep up with technology, the company is looking at introducing new advance system to make its service as a reputable courier company much easier and user friendly.
“We want to embark in more electronic accessibility, thus we will seek means of being accessed by customer online.
Schafer highlighted that NamPost is busy upgrading systems to make sure that its network can handle the improvements that it’s bring to the group. Thus, all the new technologies will only be implemented with full force after the network and systems have been upgraded.
As it is in the nature of every successful company to face a series of challenges, Schafer says that of NamPost has been the upcoming courier companies that are often unreliable leaving the market high and dry in most instances.
“Smaller business on the street, looking for opportunities and seeing the courier industry as a quick entrance take a portion of the cake,” says Schafer.
According to Schafer, there are over 35 different courier companies in Windhoek alone, “everyone who buys a bakkie wants to start a courier service,” he says jokingly.
He says, these companies are not always sustainable which poses a risk to the customers since they do not have the network, infrastructure and business procedures in place to make sure that the parcel is secured and reaches its destination as promised.
Another problem that NamPost faces is collection which Schafer says is cause by the economic situation.
“I believe cash collection will be a challenge going forward, but it`s our job as a service provider to have an open relationship with the customers so that if they experience problems we can work out ways to accommodate each other,” he say.
Meanwhile, NamPost introduced an operation model allowing post offices to share in courier profit.
So how does this operating module work in different departments?
Schafer explain that the courier service has the wheels that transport the parcel to the market which has been established by the postal services. The courier services offers overnight delivery service and reaches over 60 destination countrywide covering over 4 million kilometres per annum. According to Schafer this makes it convenient for the postal services to allow the courier department to do the deliveries.
“We deliver to different post office and our network is ideal for what we distribute, so this is where the profit sharing model has risen, we use each other internally to save cost,” he elaborates.
Turning to leadership, Schafer says that the success of every leader is being in the forefront and leading by example, not hiding away from the real nuts and bolt of the business.
He adds that a leader must understand the business and interact with team members, making sure that each and every member of the team knows exactly what is expected from them.
With over 20 years of experience in logistics, Schafer says what excited him most is seeing that the work he does brings progress and that customer are left satisfied.
“The way we deal with our customers portrays a message that we care for them, and we want to conduct business in their best interest, and that’s why it is exiting,” concludes Schafer, who describes himself as an energetic, determined and passionate leader, the results speaks volumes on his behalf. PF