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Translating Relationships to Business
Jaya Smitha Menon
Thursday, March 3, 2011
Business is built on relationships
When I was the President of FedEx in Canada, there was an interesting opportunity to be on the reality TV with Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, which was called the big switcher role, where we have switch roles with a frontline employee for a week live on TV. It was a very interesting experience because today I personally do not get to do many frontline jobs from customer service to drive a truck. But I had to do all these, live on TV. That experience taught me a lot. At the end of the day, customer experience is all about people interacting with people, not business interacting with business. I found out very quickly that the FedEx courier service job is not just delivering the package. It is about building relationship. These frontline employees interact with customer and the magic they create around those customers is very important for our success and I would never ever forget that.

Marketing in the new economy
Every company has to seriously figure out what are the best ways to communicate with their stakeholders in this new age. Over the last few years we have started to move more of our share of media from what is called the traditional media to modern media. This does not mean that there is no role for the traditional media; balance between the two is the key and how we find this balance is the point. We just launched our sponsorship of the ATP tennis tournament globally, so obviously there is a lot of visibility in the event at the same time we invest a lot of time in the online space. We have a very strong fan network online and we have a created a FedEx reliability index on the ATP site that a lot of people track. There are many similar examples of how the full spectrum of media can be used.

Thoughts on brand building
Let us talk from FedEx perspective. A brand like ours has a lot of commonality across the globe. We should do a lot of work to make sure that the people are aware of the brand, they experience the brand and they are loyal to the brand. Now, how we communicate a lot of these things, how we manifest ourselves in advertising and promotions is obviously culturally dependent. But the core that we stand for whether it is, absolute reliability, outstanding customer support and the range of solutions that we provide, is common all across the globe. We spend a lot of time making sure that the core brand values remain very similar no matter where we operate in the world. Then we adapt that with specific communication strategies to the particular market.

The culture of Innovation in organizations is inevitable
The culture of innovation is spread throughout the company. I do not believe that innovative ideas are belonged to anyone personally. I listen very carefully to what the market and the customers have to say and when the ideas get worded then it’s easy to get process executed to perfection. We can get any initiative done better than anybody else. But the first step is to validate the idea and make sure that there is a good chance of success and make sure that this particular idea is going to work in the industry, and then go forward for the execution plan.

We are very proud of our culture of innovation. That is something which has differentiated the company from competition. In the early days of internet, we were the first interactive application on the web to track packages. Thus we have a long history of technological innovation. We have now introduced a new device to track high value sensitive products for our life science customers with sensor based technology, which we call SenseAware.

Customer psyche- East vs West
People say customers in the western world are different from those in the east. However what strikes me more is what is actually common than what is different. So it does not matter whether you are in the east or the west. You have to deliver what your commitment is. That is very fundamental. Once you get the foundation straight, then all the nuances get adapted to different customer bases. Those are all minor details compared to the core which is fundamentally same across the globe. It is no longer a question of what price the company is going to charge me for taking this product from here to there. It is the value or to the supply chain, how much inventory holding cost that I can take out of our customer’s supply chain. So the fundamental question of pricing is more mulled towards what is the value that the broader range of our portfolio can offer.

Managing international customer experience
When we are approaching emerging markets, we have to find out the right business model to serve those markets by offering broader solutions. From a customer experience perspective, we have to approach it very scientifically. We have to try and understand what the drivers of customer loyalty are across the globe and then balance it out with what is important in a particular market. So it is the combination of the huge global priority and the local priority that ultimately translate to customer experience. But the heart of all this is what we call the purple promise. The purple promise is that we want to make every FedEx experience outstanding and that the common sense that unites us across the globe.

Thoughts on management and leadership
One of the things that I believe in and is very much celebrated within the FedEx culture is servant leadership, with the senior leader is at the bottom of the pyramid. Hence, we exist to remove barriers so that those in the front line are able to better serve our customers. This is the philosophy with which we lead. We set clear expectations and recognize the right behavior when those things are achieved.
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