The assessment made it clear that there were considerable opportunities to improve results if the communication department could shift its focus from distributing news and information to improving business results. This is the trend in communication management today. Don’t just focus on delivering activity. Focus on improving business results that are greater than the cost to produce them. That’s value-added.
When we were contacted initially by the communication department to conduct the communication survey, growing US exports was the single most important business challenge that FedEx was facing.
Under the leadership of Dave Bronczek, president and COO of FedEx , the company decided to conduct a pilot export improvement process in Los Angeles. We began there by creating and facilitating a 15-member multi-functional project team that identified five communication barriers to growing export sales.
- Many customers didn’t know FedEx was in the export business
- Employees lacked information and training needed to help sell exports
- Employees didn’t understand their stake in increasing US exports
- Incentives discouraged selling exports
- There was a need to improve communication between the sales and operations functions
Based on further analysis and input, the employee team set an export improvement target of seven percent.
The team created a specific plan to improve the following areas:
- Employee confidence through a better understanding of the export business and their role in it.
- Simple and easily understood job aids and immediate access to highly trained export specialists to help employees ask for new export business.
- A revised incentive plan with prompt rewards to give customer-contact employees a personal stake in US exports.
- Improved communication and interaction among different employee groups, especially marketing, sales, customer service and operations.
- Better communication to customers to increase awareness that FedEx was in the export business.
Over a period of 90 days, FedEx realized the following gains:
- Export volume increased 16 percent, more than double the seven percent goal.
- Export revenue increased 23 percent.
- The return on investment was 1,447 percent.
- 2,400 leads were generated; 1,475 were qualified leads.
- Voluntary cross-divisional meetings and other communication improved significantly.
The process was replicated in five other FedEx locations—Seattle, Denver, Chicago, New York and Miami with the following results:
- Revenues increased by $6.1 million.
- The ROI was 1,660 percent.
After only a few months FedEx took the process globally.
This is another example of communication practitioners extricating themselves from the activity rut where they see themselves as non-value adding producers of newsletters, town hall meetings, social media and other formal channels that rarely create significant business results and value.
It’s entirely doable if the communication pros would step up and integrate themselves with the business and if the business leaders started insisting that their communication departments deliver value rather than expense.