Using Data to Keep Drivers Safe

Cindy Hillaby balances analytics with service at CAA to enable safer drivers on Ontario’s streets

Throughout her career in human resources, Cindy Hillaby has always taken pride in identifying the right talent to build a company’s performance and growth. “My raison d’être is to make a positive difference and to look for how to continue to improve,” she says. “I always wanted to work for a company that had integrity for what it did and why it did it.”

That ethos is what drew Hillaby to join the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA), which she says was a diamond in the rough when she arrived in 2001. She joined the nonprofit as vice president of human resources for the CAA South Central Ontario office after working for companies in the financial service industry. CAA’s leadership and passion for taking care of its members had impressed her, so she made the switch.

Nine years later, Hillaby was promoted to vice president of membership and automotive services. Now, her day-to-day work centers on ensuring that the Ontario region’s two million members are protected through 1.2 million service events, which are both big and small and range from vehicle breakdowns to battery replacements to automobile lockouts.

Most recently, Hillaby and her team have invested in using business analytics to provide CAA members with the best and safest service in the industry. “Our CEO has played a critical role in fostering and challenging our thinking for our continual improvement,” she says. “We have spent the past year laying this foundation and look forward to continual efficiency and improvement.”

Making Travel Safer

CAA is committed to social responsibility through the programs it provides and sponsors. For example, the CAA School Safety Program trains more than twenty thousand student volunteers each year to provide school bus boarding and crosswalk safety assistance.

Other programs include the Great Waterfront Trail Adventure, which provides free roadside assistance to cyclists on bike tours along Ontario’s Great Lakes, and Hope Air, a charity that arranges free airfare travel to connect financially disadvantaged Canadians with healthcare.

Some of the most monumental work involves analyzing data to build predictive analytic capability, which ensures that the right types of service vehicles are in the right locations at the right times. “We collect data on every call,” she says. “We’re able to get real-time information about where calls are coming from and when, so we can see a pattern if it develops and then forecast what we can expect in the future. We’ve been able to transform that data through business intelligence tools so that we have visual aids to see where calls are occurring to get to our members safely and quickly and continually improve our performance.”

Beyond data, Hillaby also envisions a future where mobile technology plays an integral part in taking care of CAA members on the road. One of her early accomplishments involved introducing mobile devices in contracted service vehicles to streamline dispatching and service delivery. Since then, building on the rapid developments in digital and mobile, CAA has worked to use new tools to improve its services.

The evolution of smartphones has allowed members to stay connected with CAA, and in turn, it has enabled the CAA to track members’ coordinates, which led to the organization developing its Service Tracker app. Members can track their service vehicle with a visual application that shows the vehicle’s location in real time and provides users with an estimated wait time. They can download the CAA app in iTunes or Google Play, and CAA’s call receivers also e-mail a link to that visual after a call has been placed.

Outside of ensuring immediate service, Hillaby says CAA is also extremely focused on advocating for the safety of its members and drivers. Her team was influential in encouraging the Ontario government to pass the Slow Down and Move Over legislation, which alerts motorists to reduce speed and pull over to the side of the road when they see the amber lights of a tow truck. “When there’s a service event, it’s not just our members’ lives that are at risk; it’s also the service providers,” Hillaby says. “We want to make sure that they have a safe place to work.”

The organization is also involved in other safety programming, such as the CAA School Safety Patrol program and its own safety curriculum for service drivers, which includes a comprehensive set of training requirements to ensure that providers are aware of protocols.

Knowing that her work is helping people in real and necessary ways has been incredibly satisfying for Hillaby. “When I came here, it was amazing how people were so committed to protecting the members,” she says. “Having a vehicle break down can be one of the most terrifying situations. People know that we can be trusted to come to their rescue.”

From her prior positions in human resources to the role she has today, Hillaby is glad that she’s been able to help build her organization.“I take pride in the number of calls from members that say, ‘Thank you for helping us,’” she says.