Taking The Post Office to The Customer
We’ve all been there. Standing in line at the post office, waiting to pick up a package or purchase stamps. You only planned to step away from the office briefly, yet a transaction that should take less than a minute consumes most of your lunch break. There must be a better way. Well, if you ask Nick Manolis, there certainly is.
Nick is the CEO of Escher Group, a company that helps postal operators and couriers around the world transform their point of service operations to better meet the needs of the modern customer. CEP-Research recently had the opportunity to catch up with the newly-appointed head of Escher to discuss a wide range of topics, including his new role, the company and his vision, the transformation taking place at postal operators and couriers, and how Nick and the Escher team are eliminating post office queues for their clients - some of the biggest posts on the planet.
And according to Manolis, reducing lines is just the tip of the iceberg. In our interview below, he outlines the extent of innovation taking place at many forward-thinking posts.
CEP-Research: Nick, you became CEO of Escher Group in June 2018 after several leadership roles in the commerce and technology sectors. What were your first impressions of the postal industry, its potential, and the challenges that it faces?
Nick Manolis: Joining Escher was probably one of the easiest decisions I have ever made. Sure, there was a process of weighing the risks and opportunities, and undertaking my own due diligence. In the end, I saw a clear win-win scenario that would benefit Escher, our partners, postal operators and couriers, and their own customers. My first impression of both Escher and the postal industry was one of incredible opportunity. While on one hand, postal operators face declining letter mail volumes, an increase in parcels and packages, budget constraints, legacy systems, high fixed-costs, and increased competition. But on the other hand, you’ve got this company, Escher, that has over 25 years of experience providing postal operators and couriers with purpose-built applications that improve the customer experience.
Right now, we’re at a juncture in the industry, where postal operators need to digitally transform, given the current environment. Some forward-thinking posts are boldly tackling their challenges, working closely with us, leveraging our customer engagement platform. We’ve helped 35 postal operators around the globe to leverage their existing IT infrastructure, to grow their revenue, change their cost model, and improve customer satisfaction levels.
CEP-Research: Escher has new owners, and a new management and advisory team. What is the background to these changes? How do you see the company’s current position and what will be your vision going forward?
Nick Manolis: Escher was a publicly-traded company, but we’ve taken it private to focus more time and effort on our customers’ needs. Our financial partners, Hanover Investors, are committed to the postal market and they've supported us by funding a strategy that's 100% focused on the postal market. We've welcomed a new executive team so we could see the business differently as well as bring a broad set of commercial expertise. Two experienced postal industry executives also joined as advisors – Kevin Gilliland, the former CEO of Retail within Post Office Ltd, and Pieter Kunz, former member of the executive board of PostNL. We brought a different team in to reaffirm and establish our commitment to customers as a strategic partner. With these changes, Escher is very well positioned to carry out our vision of being the purpose-built customer engagement platform for all postal operators and couriers.
CEP-Research: Escher is best-known for customer point-of-service software solutions for the postal industry, especially retail counter solutions. What will be the focus of the company’s products and services in future?
Nick Manolis: Escher is far more than a provider of counter point-of-service solutions but it’s true that we’ve built a solid reputation in the industry. Traditionally, the counter has been a way for posts to engage with customers. But today, posts must go beyond business as usual and shift to a modern customer engagement strategy that puts the customer first if they want to thrive in today’s digitally disrupted world. With our purpose-built customer engagement platform, posts can complement their counter service by adding kiosk and mobile channels, as well as accommodate a range of offerings such as parcel, letter, retail, and in some countries, financial and government services. Our platform also enables posts to offer full service, guided, and self-service modes of engagement as well as serve customers at the branch office, kiosk, pick-up/drop off points, doorstep, third party locations, and more.
CEP-Research: Technology often involves significant financial investments for the postal and courier industry. How can Escher help postal operators to generate new revenue streams, reduce costs and improve their customer experience?
Nick Manolis: For the past 25 years, we’ve enabled postal operators around the globe to better engage with their customers. So, we have a strong viewpoint about what it takes for success in today's era of digitally-driven customer expectations.
Posts have a tremendous opportunity to improve the customer experience. Big retail and other top consumer-focused brands show us great examples of how these companies stay relevant and engage with today’s digital-first customers, and they expect a similar great experience from their post office. A business model built on the customer visiting the post office will no longer work. So, how can the post office come to the customer? Escher helps posts embrace this new approach that puts the customer first, expanding and deepening points of engagement across all channels with a new level of speed and responsiveness. The Escher customer engagement platform is the backbone technology that makes all this possible.
This customer-first strategy also sets the stage for cost reduction. With Escher, posts can transition from a fixed to a variable cost structure, and optimize costs at every point of engagement, greatly reducing financial risk. Maintaining a retail network of post-owned offices is a significant fixed cost that makes scaling for growth limiting. The cost of servicing a customer online or from a self-service kiosk is much lower than in person at the counter. And to be nearer to your customers, it’s certainly more cost-effective for a post to expand their retail network by incorporating third-party agencies or franchises, than it is to build additional post-owned brick-and mortar locations. With Escher, this type of expansion is possible. Finally, Escher drives top line growth by making it easy for posts to create new revenue streams and intelligent cross-sell/upsell guidance to increase the value of every transaction.
I can provide so many more great examples of how posts can reduce costs, grow revenue, and provide an outstanding customer experience. But to be more concise, Escher empowers posts to profitably engage customers anywhere, anytime.
CEP-Research: Nick, those are some fascinating insights and comments. Many thanks for sharing your views with us.