Today’s consumer food products companies are facing complex challenges, as they strive to generate cost savings while simultaneously supporting key growth strategies and an ever-higher bar for customer service bar. In 1996, a Fortune 200 consumer food products manufacturer and marketer was looking to meet the early pressures of this highly diverse segment. As part of a need to transition from in-house customer care to a growth strategy leaning on outsourcing expertise, this company chose HGS to help support escalating customer service needs. After successfully managing this program in the US for several years, HGS won the UK and Ireland consumer care business for this client in 2010. HGS has proven to be an unlimited partner, bringing crucial support at key moments of recall pressure and also delivering innovation and brand specialty expertise. HGS has continued to gain this client partner’s trust, as evidenced by the company’s granting of services expansion to HGS, into areas such as social media and specialty brand support.
As a customer care provider for one of this company’s many, varied brands, the client understood HGS’s potential to deliver real outcomes to differentiate and define brand experience. Ultimately, HGS has partnered with this client to meet customer expectations, support client growth, and achieve efficiencies.
1. Product Recall
How We Do It
Over the past few years, HGS has supported this client with more than five major recalls. In May 2016, this client voluntarily announced a very significant nationwide recall impacting their flour
products. After hearing allegations of E.coli 0121 illness and quickly investigating with health officials, the client initiated a voluntary recall of their flour for certain dates. At the time, no E. coli 0121 had been found in any flour products or in the flour manufacturing facility and the company had not been contacted directly by any consumer reporting confirmed illnesses related to these products. HGS was notified of the event just days before the public announcement and worked quickly to scale up to support the huge influx of calls and emails that would follow, including immediately increasing staffing on Tuesday after the holiday weekend and expanding hours and days of operation.
HGS ramped an additional 50 CSRs in our Peoria and El Paso centers. Two hours after opening, there were more than 600 contacts per a dedicated toll free number that had been created just for this event. Over the next week, HGS employees responded to over 14,000 consumers sharing with empathy sincere apologies, and resolving and recovering consumers who may have purchased these products.
During the month of June, this client announced two additional much smaller recalls that HGS was able to handle. More products/code dates have been added to the recall. We are currently ramping back up to 25 additional CSRs.
Additionally, in July 2016, this client won an award for their handling of a cereal recall. Our client contact specifically praised our ramp within one hour of the event. These recall cross-functional efforts required immediate collaboration among Client Advocacy, Operations, workforce management, and IT resulting in successfully mitigating risk for this client and taking care of thousands of consumers. The client’s team expressed their appreciation for the urgency and expertise in the scale up efforts and professional contact handling.
2. Brand Champions
How We Do It
The client has increasingly diverted more customer care inquiry volumes to HGS. Notably, when this partnership started, the client still handled three major organic lines in the US—their specialty brands—which they have now transitioned to HGS.
HGS has ensured that several team members are trained as “brand specialists,” across several brands. “By focusing on product knowledge and escalation points within the team, we achieve customer delight and a CSAT score that represents our focus on excellence,” Wills said. The customer care team, and brand specialists, in particular, provide anecdotal feedback to the client that contributes to product development. “Our team members are true brand ambassadors for the client,” Wills said. “This has been a real strength—this focus on creating pockets of service excellence.”
As a result of HGS success with the account and increasing partnership trust, in December 2014, the client closed the internal US call center handling the brands and transitioned the work to HGS.
In November 2016, the client requested a dedicated HGS team to handle a premier brand, instead of those calls going to the general inquiry pool. “We came up with a solution to have our e-mail CSRs handle these calls, since volumes were low on this channel,” said Kelly Kempf, HGS Manager, Client Advocacy. “This has worked out really well, with this brand team making a trip to Peoria to give specialized training to the CSRs. It went so well that we are in the process of scoping out how we can do something similar for all the brands.”
3. Scale to Support Client
How We Do It
Over the course of the partnership, HGS has scaled in line with the client’s growth initiatives and product line expansions. HGS serves as a showcase of customer care excellence for the client, with capabilities that bridge six different languages.
In 2012-13, HGS expanded the support team to handle European activity for France, Germany, Spain, Portugal, and Benelux . “We have increased staff by 133% and increased support from 150 to 500 calls and emails a month,” said Mike Wills, HGS Strategic Account Director. “Our consolidated coverage from a single site in London provides cost containment for the client from a delivery point of view.”
4. Social Media
How We Do It
In 2016, HGS introduced our DigiSOCIAL solution to manage social media activity across client brands. Previously, this activity was managed internally or with the client’s public relations agency. But HGS is able to provide this service out of the UK, also coordinating efforts with the HGS USA team, which provides services for this same client partner in the United States. The two teams are aligned for virtual team coverage, across time zones. The team manages Facebook and Twitter client-branded pages, monitors content, and provides brand engagement, such as compliant response. “There is interaction between the US and UK HGS Social Media Team members, with weekly calls and communication,” Wills said. “There is also training and best practice coordination, which optimizes service for the client.”
For Total Actions, including Tags, Resolves, and Replies, HGS has employed DigiSOCIAL to manage significant volume increases of up to 173%. DigiSOCIAL provides amazing CX through self-service with a responsive, seamless experience and asynchronous support, so customers can engage naturally, at their own convenience. HGS agents can draw on product expertise combined with customer care skills to accommodate different brand expectations. “Our agents are skilled at providing service across time zones that ideally represents the tone and culture of this client,” Wills said.
At the present, there is a global push, with potential plans to expand into the Asia and Australian market, to support the increasing and varied product lines. With HGS’s US and UK services provision, and other successes across promotional activities, languages provided, and recruiting, the possibilities are endless for this thriving partnership.