Global Markets Increases the Percentage of Companies Whose Export Objectives are Met by 11% and Clients Assisted by 50%

What’s the Issue?

The Global Markets (GM) unit of the Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration (ITA) assists enterprises in exporting goods and services from the United States to international markets.  From FY2011-2013, GM was not making significant progress on two of its performance goals.  The percentage of GM clients who met their export objectives averaged approximately 67 percent.  Over the same time period, the number of GM clients assisted averaged approximately 19,071 clients annually.  The organization recognized the need to improve customer outcomes while increasing the number of customers served.    

What was the intervention?

Prior to 2013, GM’s primary performance measure had been the “Export Successes.”[1]  GM worked with a third party in 2013 to review its existing performance and program evaluation.  The organization found that it could improve the validity of its data by having a third party survey the clients GM was assisting, in line with industry standards.   GM also learned that the requirements to report every transaction was causing a significant burden to GM client-facing staff as well as GM clients.  GM decided to move to a different performance management system based on industry best practices, which included tracking engagements with clients and using survey research to measure performance and impact.


In addition, GM had a customer relationship management (CRM) system that did not adequately support its employees’ ability to manage their client engagements.  In 2014, GM, in partnership with ITA, acquired a new CRM system, which greatly increased employees’ ability to record and manage client interactions.


How was performance management useful?

To ensure the change to the new framework was successful, GM proposed that meeting client objectives be used for the primary outcome-oriented question in the survey data (How well did we meet your objectives?) replace “Export Successes” as the ITA Agency Priority Goal for the Trade and Investment Pillar of the Department of Commerce’s Strategic Plan.  Revising the priority goal ensured that there was a management focus on the improvement of our quality of service to clients and a performance measure in place to track our progress. GM held continuous APG reviews during senior leadership team meetings and circulated weekly APG performance measure updates and provided customer services training to all GM employees. GM also made improvements to business processes for fee-based services. 


Having this performance measure in place was critical in incentivizing employees to increase the focus on clients’ needs and objectives.  In addition, managers learned how to use survey feedback data and information to identify best practices and talk about areas in need of improvement rather than managing to a number where there was little to no control over the outcome (i.e. 40 Export Successes).

What was the impact?

From FY2013 to FY2016, GM increased the number of clients whose objectives had been met from 67 percent to 78 percent.  To benchmark the significance of this increase, GM consulted with survey research experts who confirmed that a 2-4 percentage point increase over a 2-year period was a reasonable goal.  GM nearly doubled this goal.  GM also assisted 28,692 U.S. clients in FY2016, an increase of nearly 50 percent from its FY2011-2013 average of 19,071.  Rather than track every individual transaction, GM was able to get rigorous evidence on the impact of GM assistance through the new ITA annual survey.  As a result, respondents to the first annual client survey reported that, on average, with GM assistance, they were able to achieve an impressive 20 percent annual increase in revenue and 7.2 percent increase in employment in FY2015.

[1] Successful export transactions, which U.S. exporters achieved with GM assistance.