Impact of Social Media on a Bottom Line

Everyday increasing numbers of organizations are investing in social media. Over the next 5 years social media budgets are expected to more than double. According to Forbes over 66% of marketers claim that social media indirectly impacts their business performance but only 9% claim that it can be directly linked to revenue. So that begs the question, does social media actually affect a company’s bottom line?

Posted: 4/14/2016 10:50:11 AM by Paula Lanza | with 0 comments

The infographic above illustrates the growing use of social media and how what’s being said online has a direct link to a purchasing decision. Not only is providing great customer experiences important – to ensure what’s being said about your organization is positive - but as consumer use of social media for brand comments and complaints continues to increase, effective customer service, including dealing with difficult service situations will become essential to success.  It is therefore crucial for organizations to build their culture around providing exceptional service in order to benefit their bottom line.

For more information on best practice strategies and tools to create, implement, and sustain a culture of service excellence at your organization visit

Paula is OTEC’s Marketing, Communications and Technology Project Manager. Paula enjoys travelling and learning about different cultures, primarily through their food. 


What makes an effective leader?

What makes an effective leader? As an organization focused on leadership development, this is a question that we, at OTEC, are often asked. This is usually followed by, what programs do you have that can teach me to become an effective leader? When it comes to leadership these questions are not as straightforward as you may think.


Posted: 3/17/2016 2:36:27 PM by Paula Lanza | with 0 comments

Effective leadership is not black and white and it is not always the same. In order to determine if your leadership style is effective and what skills you may need to develop, begin by asking yourself the following questions:

  1. Are you a leader of a project, team, organization…? Knowing who/what you are attempting to lead will greatly shape your style and methods.
  2. Do you understand your project, team, organization…? Their objectives and perspectives will provide you with valuable insight to base any decisions around.
  3. Are your stakeholders involved and engaged? You’ve heard the expression Rome wasn’t built in a day? Effective leadership requires buy-in from everyone involved. So involve stakeholders in the decision making process and empower them to succeed.

Recommended programs and workshops to develop leadership skills vary by individual. To account for this OTEC has developed the innovative LX, Leadership Xelerator. Through LX we offer the Leadership Excellence Series with workshops designed to specifically address skill development for leaders ranging from beginners to experienced professionals.

For more information about OTEC’s new LX series please visit


Paula is OTEC’s Marketing, Communications and Technology Project Manager. Paula enjoys travelling and learning about different cultures, primarily through their food. 


The Power of Workplace Training

OTEC has always been a strong advocate of effective in-house trainers. In-house trainers are proven to:

  • Increase employee participation;
  • Improve theory retention;
  • Support efforts in creating a ‘consistent culture’ within an organization

Posted: 1/19/2016 10:46:21 AM by Paula Lanza | with 0 comments

Our popular Designated Trainer Program is dedicated solely to preparing trainers with a solid understanding of adult learning basics and tips for developing a learner-centric environment in order to effectively deliver Service Excellence training to their teams’. Recognizing the importance of having strong, effective and knowledgeable in-house trainers, participants in our Designated Trainer Program grew from mainly hospitality and tourism to a plethora of industries. In response to the growing interest of our clients to develop the skills of their in-house and on-the-job trainers, our team of specialists have developed a more holistic training program.  

OTEC is pleased to announce the launch of our new “Training and Facilitation Excellence Program”. This new program is designed specifically for clients looking to develop professional workplace training skills including program facilitation and on-the-job training. Not only do participants walk away with the knowledge and skills to create and lead a classroom of adult learners in educational programs ranging from corporate training to workplace skills training, but they hone their skills by presenting content from their own organization.

What is the benefit for businesses?

  • Enhanced workplace coaching
  • Improved employee performance
  • Greater consistency
  • Increased employee satisfaction

Not convinced the program is right for your organization? Contact OTEC’s team of experts today for a consultation or visit


Paula is OTEC’s Marketing, Communications and Technology Project Manager. Paula enjoys travelling and learning about different cultures, primarily through their food. 


Creating Opportunities through Community Connections – the People, the Jobs, and everything in between

There are many societal problems that the Canadian population struggles to overcome - employment, financial stability, education, inequality… Individuals are largely looking to the government to effect the change needed to combat these issues, however, what is often ignored, is the power of initiating change from the community level. By building relationships and skills, empowering individuals and groups, and using this wealth of knowledge and experience, change will happen within the community.

Posted: 11/12/2015 2:00:56 PM by Paula Lanza | with 0 comments

While working at OTEC, I have had the chance to attend advisory committee meetings, program graduations, and plan for next steps with a number of OTEC’s community development project partners. These opportunities always reinforce the successes and immense impacts that these projects have at both the individual and community level. This is because community-based development projects can have a large impact ranging from individuals, to organizations, to entire community networks and can result in creation of new opportunities.

Over the past few years I have had the opportunity to work in partnership with several Aboriginal groups including the Métis Nation of Ontario on a project that provided Aboriginal people looking for a career in tourism and hospitality with industry-specific skills training. The impact of this project is straight-forward; it provides participants with additional marketable skills and experience to become active members of the workforce and helps to overcome the high rates of unemployment throughout Ontario. For one program graduate, Justin, the training not only provided him with great skills but enabled him to work with facilitators to determine his true career passion; not working in housekeeping (which he was originally pursuing), but as an Event Coordinator working with performing arts and music. What is not obvious is the impact this project has had throughout the community. 
I’d like to use Justin’s experience to provide a hands-on example of what I mean when I refer to “Creating Opportunities through Community Connections – the People, the Jobs, and everything in between”.
Justin participated in the 22-week Navigating Employment Pathways (NEP) program in Midland after handing out over 200 resumes and only receiving 1 interview. He was disappointed in his job search and was having difficulty moving past the discouragement of this effort. Upon applying to the NEP program, Justin chose Housekeeping as his occupation of choice. After some conversations, personality tests, and job shadowing, it was determined that Justin’s ideal career path was as an Event Coordinator in the performing Arts. He was connected with community stakeholders and gained employment with the Midland Cultural Centre. Using his passion for the arts, and his own personal network of artists, he proposed an innovative event to the Midland Cultural Centre. The event was selected and was very successful, bringing economic benefits to the city and raising awareness of the arts, as well as providing exposure to many budding artists, within the community. In his active work placement Justin also had the opportunity to expand his network with a variety of artists and community members, and continues to help with the planning and delivery of local special events.

Justin’s participation in the NEP program went above and beyond attending the training and gaining the skills, certifications and confidence to be an effective member of the workforce. His experience with the program initiated a grassroots campaign connecting a variety of dispersed components and creating new opportunities including partnerships, agreements, and associations for individuals, organizations and networks within the community.

It is important to recognize that change does not have to come from the top, but begins at the ground level. Regardless of where it begins, change requires collective action to generate solutions to common problems. OTEC is proud of the work it accomplishes through its valued partnerships across the province and we are even prouder of the community connections that we facilitate through our pre-employment training projects. To learn more about OTEC’s work with the community, click here.

Kim is OTEC’s Manager of Consulting and Partnership Projects. She is responsible for developing and managing workforce training and consulting projects across Ontario. In her spare time Kim enjoys spending time with friends and family, exploring Toronto’s culinary scene, relaxing up North and cheering for the Buffalo Bills in support of her Buffalonian husband.

Tourism Ambassadors Are The Foundation Of Destination Success

Many years ago (and I mean many, many years ago) I was hired for an interesting and exciting summer job at Queen’s Park in Toronto. I learned all about this great Province, what there is to see, activities to do, where to stay, events to attend, what natural attractions draw visitors from far and wide, and what sets Ontario apart from other destinations in this world.

Posted: 10/15/2015 2:57:48 PM by Paula Lanza | with 0 comments

This knowledge was essential as my Travel Counsellor role with the Ontario Ministry of Tourism was to help visitors plan their perfect vacation in Ontario and to ensure they made it their destination of choice over all the other options they have for their holiday.

Seems like a daunting task, but I was provided with the training, site inspections, familiarization trips, and the resources to ensure that I had the knowledge and competency to confidently match the visitors needs with what our Province offers. It was wonderful knowing that I could make a difference in a family’s vacation experience, or an international visitors’ first experience in Canada. After all, I was, and still am proud of my country and all it has to offer and I wanted visitors to have the experience of a lifetime!

Interestingly, this first job in the tourism industry formed the foundation of my career and instilled in me the importance of the visitor experience in a destination’s success. While not everyone can be a Travel Counsellor, most can be Tourism Ambassadors, whether they work in the industry, are a volunteer, or even a resident. I have learned that the interactions a visitor has in a destination, whether at a restaurant, attraction, hotel, gas station, store, airport, or event, can leave a lasting impression and determine whether they have a truly memorable experience.

Tourism Ambassadors are the champions and the “brand personality” of a destination. Unfortunately, too many destinations spend large budgets to develop and promote a brand, and to draw visitors to that destination, only to have the visitor experience fail due to the lack of product knowledge and service skills by those who the visitor engages with during their stay.

At OTEC, we have been fortunate to work with innovative destinations that understand the power of people in their brand marketing. Their success comes from the thousands of individuals and businesses who have become Tourism Ambassadors for their region. Visitors notice the difference.

We would now like more destinations to receive rave reviews and exceed visitor expectations so we are excited to launch OTEC’s new online Tourism Excellence Ambassador program.  After all, we all need more tourism champions in this world. For more information on OTEC's new online Tourism Excellence Ambassador program click here.

Victoria Behune is OTEC’s President & CEO and a lifelong Tourism Ambassador.


Become a Tourism Ambassador and Create Memorable Experiences

Soon, the City of Toronto and the many towns across Ontario will welcome tens of thousands of athletes, sports enthusiasts, tourists and the families and friends of athletes all taking part, in some way, in the 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games.

Posted: 5/14/2015 1:45:20 PM by Paula Lanza | with 0 comments

Even if you don’t like sports, or only watch them on TV every four years for the Olympics, never before will such a close–to-home event touch the lives of so many Torontonians and Ontarians for the months of July and August 2015.

7,600 top athletes from the Americas and Caribbean
5,300 square km of competition space
16 municipalities
30 venues

Because of this, everyone in the GTA and surrounding areas will have the opportunity to become a Tourism Ambassador for the Pan Am/Parapan Am Games.  OTEC understands the importance of Tourism Ambassadors and has helped develop many Ambassadors in multiple destinations.  Part of being an ambassador means that you are a proud promoter, supporter and advocate of whatever your cause is.  Join the ranks of Taylor Swift and Jackie Chan.  What does that famous pop star and action-superstar have in common?  Both are official Tourism Ambassadors. For Taylor and Jackie, their cause is destination endorsement. How?

  • Both are lending their faces, or their superstar statuses, to endorse their city and country of choice.
  • Both want you to know that these destinations are superstar-worthy even though you don`t have to be a superstar to live there.  You can just visit.  Or stay for an extended period of time and get to know the person, place or thing that makes it so special.

Can you match these Tourism Ambassadors to their place?

Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield                    Ireland
Singer Taylor Swift                                             New York
Actor Jackie Chan                                              Indonesia
Icon Godzilla                                                       Tokyo
Designer Jimmy Choo                                        Malaysia
Cartoon Hello Kitty                                             Japan

Now, simply liking a place and telling a lot of people, doesn't necessarily qualify you as a Tourism Ambassador.  More and more destinations are embracing formal Tourism Ambassador Certification training programs (like the one OTEC delivers) for their front-line service providers.  These types of Tourism Ambassador Programs aim to enhance tourist experiences and improve tourism businesses and hospitality services. The program prepares Ambassadors with regional knowledge and ensures they have the know-how to provide memorable service experiences.
OTEC's 60-minute online Tourism Excellence Ambassador training program provides a good foundation to these service providers and prepares them with regional tourism knowledge, customer service training and a competency quiz at the end of the 3 modules.  Check out The Tourism Partnership of Niagara website and click on `Become a Niagara Ambassador`, for a sample of a program developed by OTEC.  
If you’re not yet lucky enough to work for a destination that makes Ambassador Training available, tell them how and where to find it (click on OTEC Tourism Ambassador).  You’ll soon be in good company along with Taylor Swift and Hello Kitty.  So, when you’re watching the Pan Am/Parapan Am Games this summer, remember, by delivering a positive experience to a tourist, you can create a lasting impression.


Boyana is OTEC’s Manager of Client Relationships.  She manages various corporate marketing projects and provides support to new business development opportunities.  Boyana's  passion is to make things happen and to effect change. A staunch coffee-holic, Boyana loves spending time with friends and family. Words not in her vocabulary:  diet and yoga


The Canada-Ontario Job Grant –tried, tested and approved.

OTEC has seen a steady increase in the number of clients not only interested in the Canada Ontario Job Grant (COJG) program but getting their applications approved in only a few weeks.  This is great news for the small and medium-sized business owners, whose time is time is taken up running their operation, and have no time to train. 

Most companies agree that training is a critical component of maintaining a healthy workforce, but equally important is ensuring sustainability to compete in a marketplace facing volatility and other financial pressures.  


Posted: 4/16/2015 1:14:33 PM by Paula Lanza | with 0 comments

In a recent survey of over 800 businesses across Canada, 56% stated that they face immediate labour and/or skills shortages. 50% of respondents also noted that their workforce training budget will increase in the next three years.

In 2014, the Canadian federal and provincial governments partnered to tackle this issue through government funded support. The Canada Ontario Job Grant was created to subsidize workforce development training focused on skills development and/or career advancement, covering up to 2/3 of eligible third party training costs.

The six-year Canada Ontario Job Grant program provides up to 66% of eligible training costs in grant funding to a maximum of $10,000 per trainee.  This is a scalable program that businesses can apply for throughout the year for any employees interested in training to support career advancement and skills development.   Eligible trainers include third party training programs within Canada provided by a product vendor (such as OTEC), university, public college, registered private career college, or school board.

While there has never been a better time to apply for COJG funding, OTEC has found that there is still a misunderstanding by many clients.

Here are some examples:

Myth #1:
My company is too small.  Programs like this only benefit large companies.
The size of the company is not a criteria for eligibility.  Rather, the company (large or small) must follow the application process and apply on behalf of the trainees.  Trainees can’t apply directly for funding.    

Myth #2:
I don’t have the time to apply and it’s probably very confusing.
Given the financial benefit for the organization’s training needs, the application is most definitely worth it and less confusing than you might think.  Application turnaround time is approximately 1 month and sometimes less!
Myth #3:
I doubt my application would even get approved.
The experience OTEC has with clients is that the process is very straight-forward.  OTEC puts the employer in touch with the employment services provider (ESP) in their area and the ESP works directly with the employer to complete and submit the application.  The benefit of this application process is that it is simple, easy and (relatively) quick.
Our advice to any company:  Don't Wait! 
OTEC can assist you in realizing your training and business goals. For more information on the Canada-Ontario Job Grant visit

Boyana is OTEC’s Manager of Client Relationships.  She manages various corporate marketing projects and provides support to new business development opportunities.  Boyana's  passion is to make things happen and to effect change. A staunch coffee-holic, Boyana loves spending time with friends and family. Words not in her vocabulary:  diet and yoga


Benefiting from International Interactions

Canada is growing as an international travel destination. Last summer Canada welcomed the highest number of international overnight visitors since 2000 for the month of June, and the number of visitors is only expected to rise as we approach the 2015 Pan Am/Para Pan Am games to be hosted throughout the GTA. For the service industry this is a HUGE bonus, however, with increased international visitors comes the challenge of cultural differences and adaptation.

Posted: 3/12/2015 11:30:18 AM by Paula Lanza | with 0 comments

The greatest challenge associated with overcoming cultural barriers is first understanding what they are. Culture is made up of the norms, values and ways of life of a particular society. Cultures vary along a number of dimensions, and the greater the difference between these dimensions, the greater the risk of miscommunication.  Is your business prepared for an increase in international visitors?

For example, let’s say you run a tour organization and have a tour arranged for group of 8 people. You have a tour guide out with the group and midway through the tour your guide phones you distraught and tells you the following:

“Throughout the tour a few of the guests have been standing abnormally close to her, invading her personal space. She’s tried adding distance but they move closer at times even touching and pushing her slightly. At the same time she complains that while she is presenting to the group, certain people continue to talk extremely loudly, preventing other guests from hearing her. She’s tried announcing a few times that it is important to be respectful during presentations and she even paused at times to indicate those speaking should stop, but they don’t! Now they are at the rest stop and only 60% have returned at the designated time even though she explicitly told the group there would be a short bathroom break after which they would be moving to the next destination.”

What are the issues? What do you do?

With the anticipated increase in the number of international visitors coming to Ontario, it is important that organizations, and teams, be prepared to effectively engage and provide customer service to a diverse range of guests.

How to cater to the international visitor market?

Create an Action Plan
  1. Plan – gain knowledge about the potential client demographic (cultural norms, values and ways of life)
  2. Train – provide in-depth, engaging training to all team members on how to effectively provide service to new customers
  3. Implement – roll out changes and analyze impact
Check out OTEC’s diverse range of training solutions for more information related to preparing your business for international visitors and how to provide customer service for diverse customers. 


Paula is OTEC’s Coordinator of Marketing and Communications. She works closely with OTEC’s President and CEO, Victoria Behune, on marketing and branding projects and to promote OTEC’s programs and services. Paula enjoys travelling and learning about different cultures, primarily through their food. 


Community Development through Capacity Building

Our philosophy is simple, give people the tools they need to excel on their own, celebrate their success, and think long term. This has been the key to OTEC’s success in working with community partners across the province.

Posted: 2/11/2015 10:22:55 AM by Paula Lanza | with 0 comments

It is one thing to be able to provide a service to a client and achieve the desired outcome, but it’s another, perhaps more sustainable approach, to build capacity among clients and partners to be able to deliver the service on their own. In the training world, this can be as simple as a Train-the-Trainer model. In OTEC’s world, this is our philosophical approach to community development and what we strive for in every relationship we have with community partners.

Like any situation where there is a transfer of information, it’s critical to have a process to follow, to avoid ending up with a breakdown in communication. Like the broken telephone game, if information is just verbally passed on from one person to another, and to another, and then another, there is a strong likelihood that the end message will not be the same as the original message. OTEC operates with many different processes; however in OTEC’s new Community Development section of our recently revamped website you’ll find the image above. This is the overarching framework that guides our community development projects which starts with a level of involvement from OTEC and over time, this involvement decreases as the community partners’ involvement increases as they build capacity.

The circular model outlines the consulting, instructional design, training delivery and evaluation process of a project from start to finish.


  1. At the beginning of every project OTEC’s team analyzes the partners’ goals and objectives through a needs assessment.
  2. From here, the training intervention is designed, ranging from single day workshops, to a full-time, 5 days a week, 10 week in-class training program.
  3. Program delivery is supported by OTEC through our Train-the-Trainer model and OTEC often coaches our partners’ teams as they launch and deliver the new program.
  4. The final stage, Evaluation & Dissemination of Best Practices, is a unique advantage. Through feedback from our partners, their clients and stakeholders, we adjust any touch point throughout the project that shows room for improvement and help to identify the ROI impacts of these improvements over time.

As an organization with partners all across the province and counterparts in most of the provinces and territories, OTEC leverages the collective expertise of this network to continuously improve and share successes and lessons learned.  Subsequently, with each delivery cycle, the resources attracted and community engagement expands as the successes and impacts are disseminated to the communities as a whole.

It’s taken decades of pre-employment projects to fine tune our model and to transform into a well-oiled machine, however at the end of the day, it goes back to our philosophy and what we love to do, give people the tools they need to excel on their own, celebrate their success, and think long term.  Check out some of our Community Development Project Partners and the great work that they are doing at:

Kim is OTEC’s Manager of Consulting Projects and Partnerships. She is responsible for developing and managing workforce training and consulting projects across Ontario. In her spare time Kim enjoys spending time with friends and family, exploring Toronto’s culinary scene, relaxing up North and cheering for the Buffalo Bills in support of her Buffalonian fiance.


Integrated Branding

Everyone has brands they associate with or favour in a buying decision. Think about the various coffee shops in your area. Where do you go? What ideas or personas do you associate with your coffee shop of choice? If you were to meet a family member, close friend, first date or potential employer for coffee, would you go to the same place?

Posted: 1/15/2015 2:01:17 PM by Paula Lanza | with 0 comments

Say you are in a meeting surrounded by strangers and you see one person drinking Tim Hortons cup, another Starbucks and someone with their own personal travel mug. What are your initial perceptions of these individuals? Do they differ based on their coffee choice?

If you answered yes then you have been effectively reached by the company’s marketing and branding.
Your brand image creates expectations. It defines your very core; who you are, how you operate, and how you're different from your competitors. It is a promise. One that must remain consistent and be kept. 

When done correctly branding:

  • Delivers the message clearly
  • Confirms your credibility
  • Connects your target prospects emotionally
  • Motivates the buyer
  • Concretes User Loyalty

For the Business to Consumer Services industry branding is key. It is why customers come to you instead of your competition, and how you can ensure repeat visitors. Think about your own organization, destination, product or service. How would you describe its personality? Would everyone you talk to describe it the same? If not, then you need to think about how you are building your brand.
So how can you build your brand?

  1. Identify your brand promise and tagline – what you stand for, how you want to be perceived by the public
  2. Identify all customer touchpoints and be consistent – how and where your customers will interact with your brand and design a customer experience to ensure the same message is being consistently delivered across all channels
  3. Adopt a people-centric approach – company culture and the people within should embody and further promote your brand identity, branding does not stop at the product itself
  4. Leverage ideas from other people and channels – get help and feedback from others. Professionals are experts in their area for a reason
  5. Be patient – like all things building a brand takes time. It is a process but has great benefits when done correctly

OTEC has worked with some of the leading corporate brands in a variety of sectors over the years. One consistent theme amongst these leaders is that, regardless of their success and reputation, they are continually investing in their brand in new ways.  Some of the ways OTEC supports these clients and partners is through customer service mapping, consulting and strategy development, to help understand and plan all potential customer touch points. OTEC also develops customized, branded training programs that enhance these experiences and support the brand culture.

For example . . .

Direction Ontario – OTEC worked with Direction to create their Bienvenue en Ontario brand and branded microsite and training program, Engaging the Francophone Visitor, to assist front line staff and tourism marketers to attract and service Francophone travelers.

Tourism Partnership of Niagara (TPN) – Working with TPN, OTEC developed a tourism ambassador program, The Niagara Ambassador Program, to build service pride and passion for the destination by teaching front-line service providers how to take guests’ experiences to the next level.

International Language Institute of Canada (ILAC) – OTEC worked with ILAC to develop tailored training to embody and reinforce their strong, internationally renowned brand within their organization.

As you can see, even the most established brands in the market are constantly evaluating and investing in the channels through which they express themselves to their clients. Reinforcing your brand through branded training programs ensures your brand is part of your culture and all client interactions. 

Paula Lanza is OTEC's Coordinator of Marketing and Communications. In her role at OTEC Paula works on marketing and branding activities; including website and social media updates, professional communications, and promotional material to support the business development and brand goals of the organization. Paula enjoys learning about different cultures, traveling and trying new and delicious foods. 

Is Computer Use Really an Essential Skill?

Think about yourself, how often do you interact with technology daily? If you think about our society, how it runs, and how we communicate, it’s largely based around information technology (computers). Do you have a smartphone? You may be surprised to learn that according to a 2013 study of the mobile market in Canada by Ipsos Reid, 47% of Canadians now report using a smartphone.  Since smartphones perform many computer functions, this means that over half our population uses some form of a computer, making computer literacy an essential skill.

Posted: 11/13/2014 10:12:21 AM by Paula Lanza | with 0 comments

The Government of Canada has actually identified the nine essential skills that are used in nearly every job and throughout daily life. These skills include reading, writing, document use, numeracy, computer use, thinking, oral communication, working with others and continuous learning. Are you surprised that computer use is now an essential skill?  Technology is definitely changing the workplace. Although almost 1 in 2 Canadians use computer functions by means of a smartphone, there are still some employees who are not that comfortable with using computers whether at home or at work.

Today, many hospitality organizations spend hundreds of dollars on IT solutions that they expect their employees can use to work more efficiently.   From Housekeeping software for inventory management, to department store electronic cash registers, to handheld Point of Sale (POS) devices in restaurants, computer applications and devices in the workplace are here to stay. They are overall good for business and provide customers with faster service and decrease the possibility of human error. Think about the last time you went to a restaurant to have a meal. Would you have been surprised if the server told you they didn’t have the handheld payment device for you to use to pay for your check with your credit card at the table?

Employees who do not use workplace based technology should be a concern for managers.  If employees are not properly trained on using the technology or worse yet, lack the skill to use it, inefficiencies and negative effects on customer service could occur.

A study by the Social Research and Demonstration Corporation (SRDC) and its partners found that firms earned a 23% rate of return on literacy and essential skills training investment. The findings also indicate that workplace Literacy and Essential Skills training have large positive impacts on workers’ skills, job performance, and a range of economic and social outcomes for employees. With Computer Use now an essential skill, employees who are trained on all nine essential skills can prove to be beneficial.  Employees who are comfortable using technology are typically also comfortable utilizing other essential skills required to be successful using technology, such as reading text, document use or thinking.  

To attain a highly skilled workforce, employers can invest in essential skills training to keep employees on pace with ever changing workplace based technology and assist employees to feel more confident with using this technology. Learn more about OTEC Essential Skills training and how it can benefit you today.

Close to Half of Canadians Now Own a Smartphone . Retrieved from


Upskill: A Credible Test of Workplace Literacy and Essential Skills Training. Summary Report. August 2014


Ava-Dawn is OTEC’s Training Program Facilitator, responsible for assessing and delivering OTEC Essential Skills training and liaising with OTEC trainers and coordinating public and contract training program logistics provincially. She enjoys arts and crafts, baking and spending time with her growing family.


No time to coach employees?

In a fast-paced work environment, time-crunched leaders often feel they don’t have the time to proactively coach employees. Most often coaching effort is focussed on a small group of employees; those struggling employees with extremely low performance.

A number of years ago, I read a Harvard Business Review article called Let’s Hear It for the B Players.  Even though quite a lot of time has passed, the name of the article and some of the ideas I put into action after reading Let’s Hear It for the B Players have remained with me for over a decade!
Like many leaders, I found that most of my time and energy was spent hiring and retaining high performing, superstar employees (A players) or coaching low performing employees (C players).  However, research shows, and I’ve experienced this time and time again throughout my career, that the majority of employees, (70-80% of employees for most organizations) are capable, solid performers (B players). 

Posted: 10/15/2014 3:02:08 PM by Paula Lanza | with 0 comments

Taking the time to build a culture of coaching across all employee groups, not just low performing employees, can have a tremendous impact on employee satisfaction, productivity and creativity, which in turn impacts overall business results:
·         22% increase in profits
·         32% increase in employee retention
·         34% decrease in customer complaints
·         39% increase in customer satisfaction*
*Manchester Group Study

Ways to Coach
There are two types of coaching methods, informal and formal coaching. 

Informal Coaching

Formal Coaching

·         less planned
·         less stressful
·         takes less time 
With informal coaching, leaders capitalize on opportunities to reward, encourage and improve employee skills during the course of normal, day-to-day business operations.  

Formal coaching is a planned and scheduled session that takes place away from the employee’s usual work setting (e.g. meeting room, office, offsite) and utilizes formal coaching tools and processes. 


To be an effective leader one must utilize both coaching methods for long term overall performance improvement. Regardless of the method used, coaching is most effective when the feedback is constructive, consistent and focussed on increasing awareness and performance improvement.
So, instead of waiting for the traditional annual performance review, or focusing on coaching only when there is a concern about poor performance, or performance is at its peak; remember the power of focusing on the middle – the B team.  This is the employee group where coaching can have the greatest impact on overall business results.  It will be worth your time and effort.

Learn more about becoming an effective coach.

Wendy is OTEC’s Vice President, Client Services. She leads training and consulting projects on behalf of OTEC, including needs assessments, service strategy, program development, and standards and recognition programs. Outside Wendy enjoys reading and traveling, and can usually be found spending time with her family at their cottage or a social event. 


Service Recovery Under the Spotlight

This past month I spent some time down at TIFF taking in some great movies and food with family and friends. The whole scene was buzzing; streets packed with people dressed to the nines, waiting in queues to see sought after films or overflowing the surrounding restaurants and bars... and it got me thinking about customer service. More specifically, service recovery. Big festivals  literally put the businesses involved under the spotlight. After months of planning it’s finally crunch time for the hosts, but also for restaurants, attractions, and everyone else working the event. It could be really easy to let things slide, but your guests and customers have likely been looking forward to this and they are going to have really high expectations. 

An example of superior Service Recovery at TIFF
Private Reception at Bell Lightbox Theatre Sept 15th, 2014 for those affected by ticket inventory glitch. 

Posted: 9/22/2014 9:39:44 AM by Paula Lanza | with 0 comments

Even my own TIFF experience didn’t get off to a stellar start this year.  After years of taking in the festival’s most obscure (some people say “bold”) films, I finally managed to score tickets for four of us to one of the big world premieres with all of the associated red carpet buzz. As one does when they get their hands on hot TIFF tickets, I was just finishing telling some friends about how “I am kind of a big deal” when I got an email saying that a computer glitch had resulted in our film being oversold and we had no seats. Cue the outrage.

I called TIFF and after I had calmed down enough to actually listen to what the folks at customer service were offering me, I picked another big premier from a block of seats being held for us.

It was Nightcrawler by the way, with Jake Gyllenhaal. A good movie, but I’ll spare you a review

We had a great night out on the opening Friday of the festival, forgetting most of our frustrations over the mix up.
At the end of opening weekend, we got word that TIFF would be hosting a special event at the end of the festival for those of us affected by the computer glitch. This was a nice touch because we had already been looked after and ended up having a great time.

So last night, we were treated to a private cocktail reception at the Bell Lightbox Theatre and a screening of this year’s People’s Choice Award winner, The Imitation Game, with Benedict Cumberbatch.. .
a great film, by the way, that will probably see a lot of Oscar nominations.

TIFF’s Artistic Director, Cameron Bailey even said a few words before the show.

This is an example of pros in action. The Toronto International Film Festival attracts some 30,000 visitors to Toronto with an estimated $189 Million in economic impact. It is noticeably bigger and higher profile with every passing year, but despite the hype, the scale, and the demand for tickets, TIFF is still taking the time to invest in customer and patron loyalty. Going above and beyond for customers and guests with real consistency can be tough in the real world. Inevitably, any business will at some point find themselves short staffed, under resourced or dealing with circumstances beyond their control. These are the times when the pros really show up. It is in these moments of truth that we can turn a challenging situation, and a ticked-off customer, into an ambassador. 

To learn more about how you can develop your skills and become a Service pro like TIFF visit our training solutions page.

Adam Morrison is OTEC's Director of Project Development. In his role at OTEC Adam works closely with a variety of sectors in workforce development and capacity building. In his spare time he enjoys exploring local festivals, renovating his home or relaxing by the lake. 

The Perils of Service Inconsistency

As President and CEO I am proud of the customer-centric team we have developed at OTEC and wanted to share the following blog by Paula, OTEC’s Marketing and Communications Coordinator.

Earlier today I was eating lunch with my colleagues, discussing our weekends. As we were chatting, my one colleague brought up this horrendous story about going to the gas station and receiving THE WORST customer service complete with vulgar language and irrational harassment. Feeding off this topic the rest of us launched into our own customer service stories including the good, the bad and the ugly.

Posted: 4/1/2014 1:35:43 PM by Global Administrator | with 0 comments

Why can’t service be consistent?!

I’ve gone to certain places for years and had wonderful experiences and then, all of a sudden, terrible ones. Or there are times when you never know what you are going to get; a smile, a scowl or worse.

Isn’t the goal in the service industry to retain and increase customers by creating an outstanding experience?

I did some research and according to the “experts”, inconsistent service is worse than consistently bad service. And we all know consistently bad service is not great, so why on earth do either of these issues persist? Some of the justifications companies provide for lack of consistent customer service include:

  •          Different trainers – due to geographical distances and availability, organizations employ a variety of people to train their employees resulting in inconsistent training.
  •          Different trainee learning styles – some trainees are visual, some kinetic or audio oriented and the training provided does not accommodate this.
  •          Changing environment – both internal (management) and external (environment) have a huge impact.

These are all legitimate and understandable things, however, as a member of the training industry, I know of one solution that effectively responds to each issue – good quality Service Excellence Web Based Learning! Trainees can learn from the same person, or system, incorporating a variety of learning styles in a standard format. I honestly don’t understand why companies who face these issues don’t take logical action. Especially when these types of tools are so accessible with leading providers frequently promoted by industry associations. I think these things are important to note because everyone endures poor or inconsistent customer service on a regular basis – and it’s frustrating! I encourage any readers to check out what your firm is doing, and if nothing, or nothing effective, suggest doing something about it. Taking action benefits everyone. Retain customers and increase their loyalty with consistent service excellence! … at least you’ll gain my loyalty that way -Paula Lanza And by the way, OTEC has just launched an engaging, interactive eLearning course called Service Excellence Dynamics. It does the job that those companies can’t do so I encourage you to check it out! -Victoria Behune

A Manager's Missed Moment Of Truth

blog3pic In my last blog I explained how a front line professional was able to recover my business with excellent service. Now, I know that front line professionals do not have the power to always make things right, but when senior management turns a blind eye to a situation and then provides terrible customer service in front of their team, then we know we have a problem captain!

Posted: 3/20/2014 10:18:58 AM by Global Administrator | with 0 comments


During my stay at GTA hotel, it was the General Manager, who in fact, demonstrated an unforgivable lack of customer service skills.

This is the sequence of events during a family event where various family members booked overnight accommodation. Several family members experienced loud music outside their rooms well into the late hours of the night. Despite trying several times to communicate with staff, they had challenges getting the music turned down, and off. On top of that I also experienced a terrible breakfast in the lobby the next morning. When we all registered our complaints the next morning to the front desk clerk the hotel General Manager walked by us a few times. Without stopping.  The front desk staff indicated the Manager was busy, but when he walked by for the third time, we approached him about the concerns.

He indicated he was too busy to speak to us, since he was in a meeting with an important customer. It turns out it was a building contractor. Not only did he not take a moment to resolve the situation, but he walked away!

My family member later contacted him in writing. Again, he made a list of excuses about the brand, his busyness and the fact that if we don’t like what the new brand represents, we can go elsewhere.

This situation should never have escalated as it did. This senior manager did not lead by example and did not recognize the opportunity to turn a poor customer service situation into a positive one by valuing the customer in front of him and following up properly. Regardless of the brand standards, customer feedback is imperative if a “new” brand is to survive. If businesses don’t take feedback to heart, they will soon learn what the market will bear. I too sent a personal message to the General Manager about my negative experience and I also completed a follow-up questionnaire. I never even got a response to my email by the General Manager, nor a response to my comments in the follow up survey.  I am still dumbfounded to this day and as a senior executive in the hospitality industry, the fact he didn’t follow up to me, makes me wonder how others fare.

This service situation was made worse by a manager who obviously lacked the basics of customer service, service recovery, or coaching skills to ensure they lead a customer centric business. Not only do they not mentor and coach their teams, but they don’t walk the talk and dropped the ball when it counted. It is unfortunate that when they do their business plans and budgets they just might be missing their customers.

In order to foster a culture of service excellence, managers need to understand how to lead by example. OTEC’s Building a Culture of Service Excellence Management Program can provide you with the skills and tools to create a positive service vision and culture for business success. In order to maximize customer loyalty one must develop an organizational culture based on consistent service standards and strong leadership.

-Victoria Behune

An Experience with Front line Excellence

For years I have been a longstanding and loyal customer of a quality skin care line, sold at select Canadian department stores. So when it came to buying gifts, or personal pampering, naturally I gravitated towards a product I knew and trusted.

Posted: 3/11/2014 1:51:03 PM by Paula Lanza | with 0 comments

My unique experience with the product began when I purchased three certificates for facials and booked my first of the three appointments. Prior to the date of my first scheduled appointment, my appointment was cancelled by the service provider and rescheduled for a later date. Then a couple days before the rescheduled appointment, I was left a voice mail cancelling my rescheduled appointment and was informed someone would get back to me to re-reschedule.  I waited. No call came.

After weeks of trying, I finally connected with a Department Manager who assured me she would follow-up about another appointment. When that didn’t happen, I connected again and was assured she would contact me for an appointment and that the counter was closing in a couple of months. Of course I was anxious to get my first of three appointments done while the service was available. That was about 10 months ago! I have still had no communication, apology for the inconvenience, no attempt to make this right for me, and no attempt to book my three appointments for facials.

This not only happened to me but to a colleague who also had the misfortune to purchase similar gift certificates.  As customer service oriented professionals I was dismayed by what happened to us.

Out of frustration, and because I now knew the counter was closing with no one attempting to provide me with an alternative solution, I decided to drop in at  another location and see what they could do for me. The service provider there listened and promised to check into things on my behalf. Unfortunately, I don’t think she got any response or direction from management either, nor did anyone assist her in resolving my situation. Now this is where a customer-centric employee can save it for a company… fortunately, she believed me and provided me with the services I purchased, even though the records remained at another store. This pleasant and client-focused service clerk provided me with a complimentary facial to ensure I liked her, and then booked my three facials. She also gave me a gift for my inconvenience and for sticking with the brand and that department store. She did everything in her power to make me feel valued.  As someone with a VIP card, I was angered by the lack of communication by management and also the skin care company management. The fact they would just leave their customers hanging when they decided to close a counter at one of the stores, when clients have pre-paid for services, demonstrates a lack of policies, processes and leadership. If it wasn’t for this service professional who went above and beyond to correct the mistakes of her bosses, I would not be back, and I would not be continuing with that product.

Although the organization and management set the stage for an individual’s service experience, it is the front-line service provider who ultimately provides the excellent customer service. It is they who interact with the customer and they who have the ability to create memorable service experiences resulting in customer loyalty. To train and empower your front-line staff with the skills and tools to consistently provide similar unforgettable service experiences check-out OTEC’s Service Excellence Workshop.
- Victoria Behune

A Service Trilogy

Although February may be the shortest month of the year it is one of great importance to many in the service sector. With the holidays over and the decorations long put away (hopefully), most businesses are starting to think about business plans, budgets and capitalizing on the coming busy summer season.  Thoughts are also turning to the challenge of attracting and retaining new customers and growing revenues. Many are canny enough to understand that excellent customer service practices are essential to getting results, but many are still getting it wrong.

Posted: 2/28/2014 2:01:09 PM by Paula Lanza | with 0 comments

In a previous blog, I wrote about companies that developed processes, or empowered staff to provide excellent levels of service.  More recently, I have also encountered companies, who in the last few months have failed miserably. As such, we’ve decided to make our end of winter focus Service Excellence – how to provide it, how to ensure it’s engrained in your culture, and how to effectively overcome difficult service situations.

Stay tuned as I chronicle my journey through my service trilogy.

-Victoria Behune

More blogs from OTEC

Posted: 1/11/2014 2:12:07 PM by Paula Lanza | with 0 comments

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