Monday, August 17, 2009

Customers 1st 2009 Podcasts: A Conversation with Tom Nightingale

As we get gear up for the 2009 NACCM: Customers 1st Event this year, we're going to be interviewing and getting to know the speakers and sponsors who will bring their perspectives on customer service to you. We recently sat down with Tom Nightingale, the vice president, communications and chief marketing officer for Con-way Inc. He will be presenting in the Organizational & Operational Excellence track on Thursday, November 5. Download the NACCM:Customers 1st Brochure to find out more about the program this year.

Subscribe Free
Add to my Page

Hello and welcome to the NACCM: Customers 1st podcast, I’m Jenny Pereira and today I have the pleasure of speaking with Tom Nightingale. Tom Nightingale is vice president, communications and chief marketing officer for Con-way Inc. In this position, Mr. Nightingale is responsible for the oversight of the global branding of Con-way and its business units as well as enterprise sales management. He and his team are responsible for strategic marketing, public relations, advertising, digital media, communications and market research for all of Con-way's subsidiaries: Con-way Freight, Con-way Truckload, Menlo Worldwide Logistics, and Road Systems Inc.

Tom will be a speaker at this year’s NACCM: Customers 1st Conference this November 2-5 at the Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak in Phoenix, Arizona.

And with that said, I would like to welcome Tom.

Tell me about your role at Conway.
Tom: Sure absolutely. The role as you would expect, as CMO it’s easy to point to the branding. But I think in reality, it’s much broader and deeper than that. And at the end of the day, what my role comes down to is to ensure that we do there things as a company exceptionally well. Those three things are first, to reduce the cost to acquire and retain customers, second to attract and retain the best and brightest employees, and third to position the company for growth. In the end, a great brand is a critical enabler of those three things, but in and of itself, a great brand isn’t the goal. The goal is to do those three things and do them exceptionally well. A brand just happens to be one of the best ways we can do those things but it is just one of the big ways we can do it. Despite the fact that’s one of the areas people point to frequently in my role.

What is Conway’s main differentiator?

Tom: Well really, Jenny, what Con-Way is known for, is really two things in the industry. First is a very high service level in the proposition in the marketplace. Regardless of which part of our portfolio you look at, you or any customer would find that we provide that we provide exceptionally high service levels at each part of the business unit. And really each of the three business units big business unites as well as the manufacturing subsidiary is focused on high levels of service.

And the second thing, and it’s really directly related to the first item, is the fact that our people and our value system we have in place, supports that enterprise commercial value proposition. So really, our people live out or values everyday and those are the enablers to help them delivery that high service value. For example, our core values integrality, commitment, and excellence really come out in every single action that our people take. And as a high service business, really a service business in general, that allows us to deliver on the brand promise of high service set of return,

Tell us about your “living the brand” environment.
Tom: Absolutely. As I mention before as a service company, we don’t make iPods. I wish we did, but we don’t. It’s critical for us that each of our employees manifests and lives out our brand in the marketplace every day. They are our brand. At almost 28,000 employees, we touch lots and lots of customers every day whether it’s a direct extension of our brand or as an extension of our customer’s brand. If we want that brand to be real, it starts and stops at our values. Our employees are drawn to our values and those values become one of the critical pillars for making us the destination employer in our industry. Those who don’t align with our values probably don’t stick around with us for too long. We were fortunate a few years ago, we made a significant acquisition and we acquired a really phenomenal brand line, in the process of the acquisition. So in going through the due diligence process of that acquisition, it became one of the things that I really was salivating over, and because it really helped tie together our employer brand as well as our customer value proposition in the market place and that brand line which we’ve adopted corporately is “Never settle for less.” We felt that “Never settle for less” unified the concept of high service to our customers and our very clear and unambiguous value system that our employees live the value every day. It really helps them underpin how they live the brand out in the marketplace.

How do you keep your people motivated to live to brand every day?
Tom: It comes down to two big things: communication and consistent reinforcement. I think there are a lot of companies that do a great job of creating initial communication when they roll out their values. But then they let it fall off pretty quickly. Kind of flavor of the day, it’s interesting, you hang the posters up, the CEO gets into it, and then you move on. At Conway, we have a legacy. And that legacy existed long before I ever got to the company. I’m a fortunate CMO to have inherited that. We’ve consistently communicated and reinforced those values. We recommit to them annually by signing a constitution. Which is kind of a fun exercise, we have a specific week each year, everyone within each of the business units and operating locations puts their John Hancock on something we call the Constitution. And that constitution underscores our values, we weave them consistently into our executive communications. We publish a book every couple of years with stories about our employees living out those values (of) living out our brand in the marketplace. And lastly, what we’ve done, and I can’t claim responsibility for it, the recipient of it, we’ve created a peer to peer recognition system that enables our employees to recognize each others action as we live out that brand everyday in the marketplace. It’s really catching people doing things right. We do that and we give them the tools to recognize if things are going right. It’s really done a phenomenal job of reinforcing our values and intern getting our employees motivated to live out the brand every single day.

To end on a positive note. While the recession has brought on much negativity, there’s a lot of new ideas and lessons with how businesses operate and communicate with their customers. What do you think will be some of the best positives changes that will come from this recent downturn?
Tom: It’s interesting; I think some of the best positive changes to come out of this is going back to basics. You know in our industry, branding starts with employment branding. That’s why my team is responsible for recruitment marketing. We want people to be attracted to our employment value proposition, who will intern live it out. And we continue that theme because my team is also responsible for the internal communication within the company. That reinforce in providing consistent messages to employees after they’ve been hired. Our entire branch system is wrapped in from cradle to grave, right on through retirement communications, as well, throughout my organization. And that becomes the bedrock, the foundation of what we do. And then from there, we obviously do commercial marketing. That’s what most people think of when they think of marketing. But in our business, because it is in the service industry, and very high service business, that commercial marketing presence is always underpinned by this employee marketing, and how we brand ourselves to our employees, and in turn how our employees extend that brand into the marketplace. And we again try to enable that through good solid professional consistent communication from pre-employment to postemployment right on through retirement. It’s worked out very nicely for us, it’s what we’ve become known for in the industry is that the service level and the commitment that our employees show every single day in the marketplace.

We’d like to thank Tom Nightingale for speaking with us and a very special thank you to our listeners. Be sure to follow us on Twitter at

See you in November!

1 comment:

Justin Davis said...

I work for Con-way.... great article, thanks.

Justin Davis
Freight Quote