5 Important Leadership Lessons for Women

By Kathy Follett-Lloyd, Vice President, Human Resources, HGS Canada

Businesswoman Addressing Meeting Around Boardroom Table

Gender equality in senior leadership roles is a hotly debated topic in the workplace.  Even though Canada is considered a leader in the promotion and protection of gender equality, studies show that on average women make 26% less than their male counterparts and corporate boards are on average 84% male and only 16% female. If you’re an aspiring female leader, you may find yourself experiencing barriers to first being invited to the table and secondly being heard at the table.

As a female executive in the Human Resources field, I found myself reflecting on what aspects of my career, personal life and personal attributes contributed to my success.  Not only am I at the boardroom table but I have a voice that is respected and sought after.

  1. Gain family commitment: The personal commitment of family members is essential to career success for any female leader. When chores and parental responsibilities are shared equally, both parties have equal opportunity to achieve greater career success. Many years ago my husband and I weighed the pros and cons of relocating for my career opportunity with HGS Canada. My husband decided to leave his secure job of 19 years to support my need to enhance my career. He continues to proudly own many of the household tasks that most often fall to women, balancing our family responsibilities and equality to match career aspirations.
  2. Dump any sense of entitlement: The phrase “No one owes you anything!” are words of wisdom from my mom. Always do your best, take advantage of short-term opportunities to learn and gain experience and focus on your personal brand. Just like a company’s brand, we each have a personal brand to grow and protect. If you don’t know how you are perceived today, be humble and ask for input from your family, your manager, your peers and most importantly, those who report to you.
  3. Speak their language: To impact operations you must understand operations, their mission, objectives, costs, contracts and what is used to measure operational success. Business leaders measure return on investment and want to know how much a change to the business will cost on a monthly, quarterly and annual basis. As an example; Human Resource professionals instinctively know why employee programs affect such things as retention but we don’t always know how to translate the impact into dollars or revenue.  The most important piece of information to know is the revenue per hour each employee generates.  Once you know this, you will be able to translate each person retained into ROI.
  4. Master your craft: Credibility, trust and respect are earned through interactions with others in the workplace. Along with practice, practice, practice, adopt a life-long learning approach to your field so your knowledge is current. Seek opportunities to attend professional learning and proactively book conferences, courses and annual learning events in your calendar. Don’t just attend the event. Make it a practice to enhance your workplace with at least one new process or best practice learned.
  5. Teach don’t tell: Senior leaders are intelligent, successful people and have earned the autonomy necessary to move their business unit forward.  The key to being heard is in your ability to influence with or without authority. Influential leaders recommend best practices and clearly demonstrate the pros and cons to the choices a senior leader or senior executive team could make. Influential leaders educate others on the factors that contribute to their recommendation.

The path to equality is still being forged.  Progress is slow; some experts say it has plateaued. In the book Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg shares her insight, her victories and her passion to make a difference in gender equality. After reading Lean In, I was inspired by Ms. Sandberg to share a little bit about myself. Speak up when you have equality but speak louder when you don’t.

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Removing Dissatisfiers from the Customer Journey

By John Hooper, SVP Client Relations and Business Development, HGS Canada

Over the last couple of years there have been a plethora of new buzzwords around servicing the customer – omni-channel, multi-channel, data and voice analytics to name a few – and there are literally hundreds of solutions in the marketplace designed to assist companies in meeting these new service requirements.

Don't let dissatisfiers ruin your service strategy

Don’t let dissatisfiers ruin your service strategy

So how can companies navigate through this to ensure they are on the right path in providing a relevant customer experience to the newly connected consumers of today? As these new ideas and concepts evolve around the digitally connected consumer, sometimes we forget the most basic of things when trying to figure out what solutions, systems, and procedures to implement to provide a better customer experience.

Regardless of what technology comes along or what solutions are available, the basic essence of customer service is the same: What is the experience of customers when they try to reach you or buy something from you? Do you make it easy or difficult for your customers to do business with you?

From “Attractive” to “Must-be”

There are a variety of customer satisfaction models that can be used to help answer these questions but one of the most popular is the Kano model. Developed in the 1980s by Professor Noriaki Kano, this model classifies customer preferences into categories, the first three of which apply directly to dissatisfiers:

Must-be Quality: Must-be qualities are often taken for granted to the point where customers don’t talk about them until something goes wrong. For example, when customers call a company’s 1-800 number, they expect the phone call to be answered.

One-dimensional Quality: These are attributes that are spoken about and ones that companies typically address in their service level requirements. For example, if a customer phones a contact center and is told the hold time is 3 minutes, but ends up waiting for 20 minutes, dissatisfaction occurs.

Attractive Quality: These attributes provide satisfaction when achieved fully, but do not cause dissatisfaction when not fulfilled. These are attributes that are not normally expected. An example of an unexpected way to delight customers might be a company pushing out a coupon or incentive in response to a customer’s tweet or Facebook post.

One strategy in eliminating disatisfiers is to work toward applying “Attractive” qualities to “Must-be” and “One Dimensional” qualities.

In the “One-dimensional” example above, call back technology that eliminates the hold time altogether and saves mobile phone users from exhausting their allotted monthly minutes, could remove the dissatisfier and provide an “Attractive” quality.

In the “Must-be” example above, an attractive quality could be a contextual online knowledge base that answers customer questions so that they don’t even have to pick up the phone to resolve their issue.

The thing to remember is that over time, Attractive qualities become Must-be qualities. A decade ago, the ability to order products online from major retailers would have been considered an Attractive quality, but now it is a Must-be.

Examine All Touchpoints to Eliminate Dissatisfiers

Whichever strategy or model you apply, it is important to view all touch points from the consumer’s perspective. Hire a consultant, a partner, or do it yourself but test your current customer touch points be it by phone, web site, email, chat, video, text, etc. What is the experience like when using these channels? Does it take one or two clicks to get to a desired section of your web site or does it take four or five clicks? How many buttons do customers need to press on your IVR to get service? How long are your customers on hold? How responsive are you with non-voice channels such as emails or chats?

Additional information can come from many other sources as well , including speech and text analytics, CRM data, customer surveys, online reviews, or social media monitoring.

The outcome of this exercise will identify what you do well and the things that you need to work on (dissatisfiers) to improve the customer experience. Once you identify these dissatisfiers, only then can you understand whether the focus of your improvement efforts should be people, processes, and/or technology.

Using objective sources of information will also help you prioritize the dissatisfiers that affect the most customers or those that affect the highest-value customers.

Once you reverse engineer your solution and eliminate these dissatisfires you will see immediate improvement in customer satisfaction, increased sales, increased loyalty and reduced costs.

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Making it Easy to Do Business the Way Customers Prefer

Interview with John Hooper, SVP Business Development and Client Relations, HGS

This article first appeared in the Fall edition of On Board magazine and is reproduced here with permission.

Man Working with Computer Customer Service

  1. What trends are you seeing in the world of customer service?

Interacting with our customers we see two major shifts in providing a great customer experience. First, consumers want to easily interact with a company in the method they choose, be that phone, chat, email, mobile app, etc.

Secondly, many consumers want to self-serve to complete their transactions. Think about the last time you booked an airline ticket or placed an order for a product. Chances are you completed those transactions online. What we see anecdotally is also borne out in the research. Self-service platforms are gaining in popularity because they allow consumers to take control of solving their own problem. According to the January 2014, McKinsey Quarterly, 75% of surveyed consumers said they would prefer to use online support if it were reliable and provided accurate and complete information.

  1. Don’t customers want to talk to “a real person”?

The self-service trend doesn’t mean the end of voice service. There will always be unusual, non-routine transactions that will require speaking to a knowledgeable person who can guide consumers through the process and help them accomplish their goals quickly with minimal effort. According to a recent survey by Execs in the Know, 82% of consumers ranked “Getting my issues resolved quickly” as the top element of a great online experience. The main question is, how do companies ensure their service representatives have the level of knowledge necessary to resolve questions quickly, especially in businesses like technology and telecommunications where products and services are often complex? One solution involves having comprehensive and highly intelligent knowledge bases with robust search functionality. More importantly, these knowledge bases need to be integrated with multiple channels such as click-to-chat, CRM and email and the ability to update content must occur automatically in real-time.

  1. Is there a right way to approach the digital revolution in customer service?

What we often see is companies implementing digital customer service solutions in a piece-meal fashion rather than holistically, which creates its own challenges. In the example of knowledge bases that I talked about earlier, a business can have the best knowledge base technology and content, but if it’s not widely accessible across the enterprise, leveraged for self-service use by consumers, available in the languages consumers require, integrated with a click-to-chat option and integrated with CRM and analytics technologies, the complete customer experience will fall short.

If a company is serious about digital transformation as a means to achieving a customer-centric culture, it is helpful to have a third party act as the change agent. Working together, we can identify an end state of what is required and from there we can reverse engineer the proper solution to ensure a scalable, effective digital solution. If done properly, transformation doesn’t have to be expensive; rather it can save costs and improve revenue from sales. Using an experienced partner that understands how to combine the proper technologies, processes and people can go a long way toward ensuring the success of a digital transformation initiative that meets consumers’ needs consistently and effectively.


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How a Volcano Led to Customer Service Innovation

By James MacMillan, VP Business Development, HGS Canada

I recently met a woman whose job with a non-profit organization requires her to travel the globe, often to some very remote areas. When we started to discuss which airlines she flies, she firmly stated, “I only fly KLM.” I asked her why, expecting to hear about reliable, on-time flights, helpful flight attendants, more leg room, great food; all the usual things we think of when evaluating airline service.  I was intrigued when she replied, “It’s because I book all of my travel through Facebook or Twitter.”

Social Network Homepage On A Monitor Screen.

She then described an experience of trying book a rather complicated trip for her family to fly from Nigeria to Canada. She could have booked the trip online but she and her family had a limited budget and some different stop over requirements made it difficult and costly to simply pick one way trips from a menu of flights.  After spending an hour on the phone with her usual airline, which is difficult and expensive in Nigeria, she visited the KLM website. She clicked “Contact Us” and was presented with the option of using Facebook or Twitter, which were both available 24/7. The website displayed the average wait times for both channels. After choosing Facebook, she began a dialog with a reservation agent who presented different options and prices. The agent was able to put together a package for her that fit her timing, travel constraints, and her budget without her ever having to pick up a phone. She now only flies KLM, even if it’s a bit more expensive than a competing airline.

How KLM Turned a Problem Into a Customer Service Opportunity

When the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull erupted in 2010, the resulting ash cloud created the biggest disruption to European air traffic since World War II. Stranded travelers flocked to social media platforms looking for answers and support. KLM Royal Dutch Airlines fully embraced the challenge. Using Twitter and Facebook, the company responded in real-time, re-directing customers to other travel options.

Today, KLM continues to make social media the center of its customer service efforts, introducing the first social media-driven flight schedule and achieving their goal of a one-hour response time and a one-day resolution time. An innovative approach to seat selection is powered through KLM’s “Meet and Seat.” This service allows passengers to link their Facebook or LinkedIn profile to their seat assignment. Passengers can then pick a seat according to their interests and those of other people on the plane.

When customers tweet or direct a Facebook post to KLM, it’s connected to the company’s CRM, ticketing database, and customer complaints database. Such seamless systems integration is necessary to achieve quick response times.

Differentiated Customer Service Is a Business Imperative

The common buzzword for this king of customer service is “omnichannel.” It sounds a bit futuristic although in today’s world of digital access and social media, simply being able to provide your customers with the support they need, 24/7, in the channel that is best for them, is not a “nice to have” nor is it futuristic. It’s a business imperative if your business is going to grow or even survive.  The technology to enable this is available now, it’s cost effective, and can easily fit within a business case for any sized company.

And as KLM discovered, developing new ways to provide innovative, speedy and proactive customer care is a necessary investment in driving additional revenue and brand loyalty.

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6 Steps to Achieving a Customer-Centric Service Culture

By Chris Lord, SVP, Global Growth Strategy and Marketing, HGS

This article originally appeared in Professional Outsourcing Magazine and is reproduced here with permission.

The digital environment has dramatically changed the way customers expect and demand to engage with brands. It is a change or die situation for businesses that need to transform quickly to integrate online and offline activities to serve customers 24×7 service in their channels of choice. At the same time, businesses need to balance their own needs for revenue uplift and cost containment within this new digital model. While there is no one-size fits all formula for customer-centric, multichannel, digital transformation, there are some fundamental elements every business should consider before developing a holistic customer experience solution.

Excellent Customer Service Support

  1. Consider the customer journey. Recently, my wife tried to order a product online from a major retailer but encountered a snag on the ecommerce website. Like most of us, she was doing her shopping after work, however, when she phoned the customer service line, she received a message that the center was only open between 9 am and 5 pm. Clearly, this company’s contact center hours did not mirror typical retail hours or take into account that many people prefer to shop in the evenings. Disappointed with the lack of support in helping her complete her purchase, she abandoned her online shopping cart and purchased the product from a competitor instead. Understanding the behavior and preferences of your typical customer through research, analytics, and focus groups is a crucial first step to achieving customer-centricity.
  2.  Take a proactive approach to customer service. In the example above, if a proactive chat window appeared the minute my wife’s purchase transaction failed on the retailer’s website her issue could have been resolved without her having to pick up the phone. A service like this is worth the financial investment when you consider the potential for shopping cart abandonment and lost revenue.
  3.  Implement self-service options whenever possible. According to the January 2014 McKinsey Quarterly, 75% of surveyed consumers said they would prefer to use online support if it were reliable and provided accurate and complete information. Self-service platforms are gaining in popularity because they allow customers to take control of solving their own problem. Control and self discovery are powerful psychological motivators. For example, if you have a problem installing a kitchen appliance and you’re able to find the answer to your question online either through an online community, instructional how to video, or by reading documentation provided online, you’ll feel much better about having solved the problem yourself rather than having another person walk you through the solution.
  4.  Consider customer-centricity even before the first contact with the customer. Organizationally, the move toward customer centricity starts way before the customer even has a problem. Customer centricity is about building ease of use and reliability into products in the first place (think Apple). At the same time, no product is perfect and product failures actually provide a great opportunity to create loyal customers – if the problem is quickly and easily resolved. A study by Benchmark Portal and Purdue University showed a 78% repurchase probability if a customer purchased a product and had no problems. Interestingly, the study showed an 89% repurchase probability if the product had problems but the customer had a positive customer experience. Customer-centricity should also be built into marketing strategy. Rather than blasting a single customer list with offers that may or may not be relevant, perform detailed behavioral analytics to segment lists to ensure that customers receive offers that are finely targeted, relevant, timely and offer real value to the customer.
  5.  Use an integrated knowledge-base. By nature, contact centers have high attrition rates and brain drain is often a very real barrier to providing exceptional customer experiences, especially in industries like technology and telecommunications where products and services are often complex. One solution involves having comprehensive and highly intelligent knowledge-bases with robust search functionality both internally for contact center staff and externally for customer self-service. Equally important, these knowledge-bases need to be integrated with multiple channels such as click-to-chat, CRM and email and the ability to update content must occur automatically in real-time.
  6. Create an adaptable social media solution. While there’s no debate that social media is here to stay, the social platforms that we use to communicate with our peers and with the brands that we use will change and evolve. As the most popular social platforms seek new ways to generate revenue, less commercialized, niche social platforms will rise in popularity. The traditional cycle of business evolution from start-up to growth to maturity to decline will rapidly accelerate from what we have seen historically. This means businesses looking to implement social CRM solutions need to ensure that their solution can accommodate not only the popular platforms of today, but those platforms that are not yet mainstream and those that have not yet been conceived. Further, the best practices companies use to service customers through social channels will also be forced to change. The current typical practice is to move the online customer complaint to the phone channel, which negates the advantage social channels have of being a one-to-many platform and takes the interaction back to the traditional one-to-one platform. Moving backwards is not the goal. To realize the inherent cost savings associated with minimizing phone interactions, ensure customers are being served in their medium of choice and have an interaction that benefits many people. Finding better ways to serve customers within the channel should be the goal.

By using technology such as proactive chat and website usability monitoring and analysis, companies can learn to anticipate problems that customers may be having before they abandon their shopping cart or move off the website to check a competitor’s site. Giving customers the tools to solve their own problems quickly and providing the support of customer service representatives who are fully empowered to solve problems with the right information to resolve the problem on one contact rather than transferring the call to multiple people begins the road to customer-centric transformation.

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5 Insights to Help Improve the Customer Experience

By Joanne Morrison, Director of Marketing, HGS Canada


From customer journey mapping, analytics, communities, and content marketing to mobile strategies, usability, and self-service, the Digital Customer Experience Strategies Summit in New York City September 24 and 25 was a valuable forum for education and networking. In speaking with conference attendees, it was clear just about everyone had developed their own shortlist of favourite insights and kernels of inspiration but the following five takeaways were those that resonated most for me.

  1. Focus on helping, not selling. Scott Linabarger, Cleveland Clinic’s Senior Director, Multi-Channel Content Marketing dazzled the audience with a content marketing strategy that’s making the Cleveland Clinic the go-to source for just about everyone’s health questions while dramatically raising brand awareness. To support content marketing efforts, Linabarger recommended Chartbeat to monitor the time and attention your digital content is garnering on the web. He also recommended Atomic Reach to optimize content and identify opportunities for improvements by scoring your content on a number of predictive success factors.
  2. Complexity is easy, simplicity is hard. If you’re meeting customer expectations it’s because you’re removing complexity. Great customer service is about making transactions quick and easy for consumers. According to Siegel+Gale’s 3rd annual Global Brand Simplicity Index, released in October 2012, 80% of consumers are more likely to recommend a brand that offers a simpler experience.
  3. Art conveys the impression of a premium brand. Glen Drummond, Chief Innovation Officer at Quarry emphasized that digital customer experience strategy should not be exclusively utilitarian. Aesthetics in the design of digital platforms is also part of the experience and can support personalizing the impersonal, while humanizing the technical.
  4. Complaining customers equal free labour. As part of our “Compliments and Complaints” solutions at HGS, we often educate our clients about the inherent opportunities provided by negative consumer feedback. Renee Racine-Kinnear, Director, Digital Customer Experience at Indigo.ca takes the idea a step further by advocating for treating customers as co-creators in the success of your brand. Indigo.ca’s Ideagora allows customers to provide ideas that very frequently turn into real solutions resulting in a brand that evolves along with its customers. Re-framing the way brands view complaints, taking them from annoying interruptions to valuable, free-of-charge critique, is a progressive and positive way to view the relationship between brand and consumer.
  5. Consumers overwhelmingly prefer to self-serve. HGS’s own Chris Lord, Senior Vice President, Global Growth Strategy and Marketing, highlighted a thought-provoking statistic. 90% of consumers always check a company’s website before emailing or calling. This behaviour pattern has profound implications for the future balance of voice versus self-service. It also tells us that the trend toward self-service is as much about improving the customer experience and meeting customers in their channel of choice as it is about cost reduction.

What are your favourite customer experience insights? Please share them in the comments!


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5 Guiding Principles for Successful Networking

By Kathy Follett-Lloyd, VP Human Resources, HGS Canada

Adding value to every interaction will help you realize the power of a strong network

Cultivating productive relationships in business will not only set you apart as a leader, it will also contribute to your personal brand as a business professional.  No matter which business discipline you manage, genuine connections enrich your effectiveness and contribute to your personal growth and marketability.

Connecting with other business professionals is not always an easy task and it can be much harder for some than it is for others. The folks we want to connect with are busy and often times cautious until they trust our intentions.  We fear rejection and sometimes don’t have enough self-esteem to power through our fears or have the courage to initiate a conversation. To overcome the barriers to successful networking, use these five guiding principles to shine in any networking situation:

  1. Authenticity: Forging a long-term relationship requires preparation and knowing when to share your agenda, if you have one.  If you are attempting to connect with a specific individual, do your homework.  Be knowledgeable about what the person is most known for and be prepared to ask meaningful and thought provoking questions when you finally have the opportunity to meet. If you do have an agenda, focus on the relationship first or you are more likely to have a short-term relationship. Long-term relationships are strengthened by the friendship that develops over time and friendship is earned through authentic acts of kindness. Most importantly be yourself at all times!
  2. Respect: A positive demeanor is essential when trying to earn the respect of a colleague. A positive demeanor; or lack thereof, will dictate how you are perceived and will become the foundation of your personal brand. Demonstrate respect through action when possible as action will qualify your words of respect. Be on time for appointments and planned telephone conversations.  Be efficient and respectful of the value of a person’s time.  Communicate with sincerity. When you eliminate combative communication and converse with an openness that demonstrates the other person’s needs are more important than your needs, you are sure to earn the respect of your new acquaintance.  A connection who trusts in your sincerity will seek you out for future conversation and interaction.
  3. Value: A reciprocal relationship will stand the test of time when both parties offer value to the other. Research may provide you with knowledge of your colleague’s greatest need and meaningful conversation will also serve to strengthen your understanding of how you can provide value.  Maybe you know someone they want to network with and can be the catalyst to making that connection for them.
  4. Trust: New connections are often cautious and judgmental until a relationship is more established. Looking people in the eye is a sign of confidence and honesty. Discover what you have in common and use it to nurture your connection. Ask a common acquaintance who is well respected to invite you both to lunch to initiate an introduction. Once a connection is made and a commitment is given, even one as simple as the sharing of a recipe, meet that commitment! An empty promise is sure to impact the trust a new acquaintance will have in your abilities.
  5. Practice: The best way to eliminate fear or uncertainty is to practice your craft early and often.  Look for opportunities to network everywhere.  A casual conversation at a local charity event, a chance meeting at the local theatre or a thought provoking conversation at a professional association meeting are opportunities to practice your craft. Always be prepared to make a powerful connection with someone who will positively impact your life personally and/or professionally. Plan networking events pro-actively as your calendar will fill up quickly with day- to-day business needs. If you don’t take a pro-active approach to planning your networking activities, you may miss opportunities. Lastly, consider selecting a mentor.  Most likely you have a colleague who is fearless at networking events and makes connections with ease. The greatest compliment you can pay that colleague is to ask them for their help and guidance. Their wisdom is priceless!

With the proliferation of social media platforms and ease of electronic communication options, it is easier than ever to stay connected. Although there are more ways to connect and the speed of these mediums is immediate, setting yourself apart requires a more personal approach to networking. Making sincere and authentic attempts to connect in person, adding value to every interaction and committing to personal acts of kindness will help you realize the power of a strong network.

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