In the Driver's Seat: A Canadian Automobile Association Takes Control of E-Mail Overload by Creating Consolidated Daily E-Newsletters That Keep Sales Staff Up to Date

Article excerpt

With more than 770,000 members, the British Columbia Automobile Association (BCAA), an affiliate of both the Canadian Automobile Association and the American Automobile Association, is the largest member-services organization in the Canadian province. BCAA fulfills its mission to provide security and peace of mind to members through three interrelated business lines: the nonprofit BCAA Club and the for-profit BCAA Travel Agency and BCAA Insurance Agency.

Operating in an increasingly competitive marketplace, BCAA is pursuing an aggressive growth strategy. In 2004, BCAA posted its first operating profit in more than 10 years. In 2005, it aimed to generate higher sales revenue and post an even higher year-end profit. But first, BCAA's sales division of 550 employees (55 percent of the total workforce) needed more efficient access to information that they could use to cross-sell and up-sell products and services.

A survey conducted in August 2004 showed that rather than a streamlined and functional information distribution system, salespeople were confronted by too much e-mail. While it was convenient to use e-mail to distribute information from the BCAA support departments in the head office in Burnaby to the 24 sales centers around the province, employees felt burdened by the number of e-mails they received. The e-mails were too long, the subject titles were inadequate, and it was difficult to determine what was just FYI and what required action. Employees were forced to rely on unsearchable attachments for crucial updates, and it was time-consuming to retrieve information after its initial distribution. Employees also felt that the organization's intranet was not being used enough.

In October 2004, focus groups held with the assistant sales managers reinforced the survey results. Sales managers were also concerned about the proliferation of sometimes contradictory information that undermined their own credibility. Before this project, BCAA's sales division received numerous e-mails produced and distributed independently by four key product and support departments based at the head office:

* Insurance services

* Membership services

* Sales development (distributing management-only news)

* Travel services

These departments restricted distribution to Tuesdays and Thursdays whenever possible. However, they didn't limit the number of e-mails they sent, so employees received an overwhelming flood of e-mails twice a week.

Objectives

By improving electronic communication between the support departments and sales staff, BCAA hoped to equip the sales managers and agents with the information they needed to be more productive and grow revenue. The communication team set out to create a new e-communication process. They wanted to achieve the following objectives by the end of July 2005:

* Increase information access/readership

* Increase the timeliness of communication

* Provide information in a format that was easier to read

* Keep audiences better informed about BCAA'S products and policies

* Simplify the retrieval of information after its initial distribution

Solution and implementation

The project team fulfilled its mandate with the launch of four e-newsletters:

* Sales management (for managers only)

* Insurance

* Membership

* Travel

The e-newsletters are delivered daily to sales managers and agents at 6:30 a.m. They are distributed via two e-mails, and use a new standard for subject lines that ensures that recipients are alerted to action items. Each uses the same templates, formats and publishing rules (for example, articles should be no longer than 250 words), which makes reading them easier and more intuitive.

The e-newsletter articles use links to the intranet to refer readers to more in-depth information. …