At InfoMart, customers do not get the one-size-fits-all treatment for their background screenings that larger competitors may provide ? they get personalized service to make sure all their needs are addressed.
Customers know that price is not the most important factor in choosing a pre-employment screening provider. They can be confident that they get the highest degree of experience along with the best service, technology and price from one company.
President and Chair Tammy Cohen knows that in the challenging business world it may be difficult to land new customers, but it is far easier to keep existing ones by being responsive to their needs.
Several systems are in place to help provide world-class customer service. Phone lines are open extended weekday hours, from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. There are multiple connection methods, such as phone, e-mail, fax or online chat. Online ordering is easy, with flexible information request and delivery options. Applicant profiles are customized to fit clients’ needs. Clients receive free training on services and systems for the duration of their account. The company stands behind its services with a 100 percent satisfaction guarantee.
To achieve a philosophy of “Do it right the first time,” the company seeks thoughtful, entrepreneurial employees who strive for excellence in all that they do. InfoMart’s best customer service representatives are cultivated from within its processing departments. Employees that have first-hand experience and knowledge conducting background checks fit in well; if it is necessary to hire from the outside, candidates are chosen based on their excellent customer service skills and knowledge of the industry.
All of InfoMart’s departments are staffed with professionals that have specifically relevant experience. This ranges from human resources and criminal justice to drug screening and loss prevention, and it helps guarantee that clients get the proper attention, expertise and service that experience brings.
How to reach: InfoMart, (770) 984-2727 or www.infomart-usa.com
When plans were being made for “The Phantom of the Opera” grand opening at The Venetian in Las Vegas, an exclusive piece of merchandise was needed to celebrate the event and promote the brand. The Icebox, which had a previous relationship with Alternative Apparel, a leading lifestyle apparel brand, was called upon to deliver the goods.
A challenge arose when the artist designed a T-shirt with an all-over print that wrapped around the sleeves and shoulders. A solution was reached to print on cut pieces of fabric which were then shipped to a special printer and reassembled. A worldwide committee approved the process. A final touch was a coating of crystalline, which further complicated the sewing process. The result was a beautiful garment unparalleled by traditional screen printers.
That’s an example of the customer service offered by The Icebox under the leadership of CEO Jordy Gamson ? and a validation that companies can trust the quality of the products The Icebox provides.
But a company doesn’t have to have a Las Vegas presence to do business with The Icebox. Each customer relationship is valued and receives a “cool” experience regardless of size. Every customer receives a completely consultative experience to matching products based on actual needs.
It’s also not just enough to deliver “cool stuff.” If The Icebox delivers “cool” products but a bad experience, it’s considered a failure. Likewise, if a “cool” experience was delivered but with bad products, it’s a flop, as well.
All account representatives are empowered to discuss possible resolutions when something goes wrong, and they offer customers the option of having it fixed/replaced or an alternation solution.
Over the company’s 10 years it has had an excellent employee retention ratio and often attracts new candidates through clients and a reputation for being a “cool” place.
How to reach: The Icebox, (404) 522-2665 or www.iceboxonline.com
In August, I accepted a new position at Comcast serving as the vice president of customer service in Atlanta. I’ve worked for the company for 29 years, and I am very proud of the exciting products and unparalleled choices our customers have in Atlanta with our state-of-the-art video, high-speed Internet, phone and online services. We push the boundaries of innovation and creativity because we want to exceed our customers’ expectations.
One thing that has always been consistent through my years with Comcast is that our customers demand value and extraordinary customer service. This is even more important in today’s economy.
As a result, customer satisfaction has become part of every Comcast employee’s job. Every day more than 50,000 employees at Comcast work to deliver fast, reliable and respectful service to our 24 million customers.
Our customers have high expectations of us, and that’s why we have even higher expectations of ourselves. We believe that we positively influence customer satisfaction by staying focused on providing a superior experience to all of our customers.
We are working every day to improve our customers’ experiences with Comcast. Sometimes, things go wrong, but our customers know that we will work to resolve the issue as quickly and as professionally as possible through the “Comcast Guarantee.”
Our guarantee lets our customers know what they can and should expect from us. It validates that we have put the policies and procedures in place and empowered our employees to make our customers our No. 1 priority.
We make the following guarantees:
- We will give you a 30-day, money-back guarantee on our video, voice or high-speed services.
- We will always be on time within your appointment window or we’ll credit you $20 or give you a free premium channel for three months.
- We will resolve routine issues in one visit or we’ll credit you $20 or give you a free premium channel for three months.
- We will treat you and your home with courtesy and respect.
- We’re here for you, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to answer questions at your convenience.
- We will offer easy-to-understand packages and provide you with a clear bill.
- We will continually offer the best and most video choices.
Every Comcast employee is dedicated to meeting the commitments above and to exceeding expectations. We are working very hard to serve our customers better and listen carefully to feedback, and I am confident that we will continue to me
et their needs. Congratulations to the 2011 World Class Customer Service Award honorees.
Verba Brown is vice president of customer service for Comcast Atlanta. Reach her at email@example.com.
Are you comfortable with owning a problem that you played no part in creating? If your answer is no, you’d have a tough time fitting in at TLC Laser Eye Centers — Atlanta.
The idea is that if a customer is incurring a problem with the company, it doesn’t matter whose fault it is that the problem exists. It only matters that someone owns the problems and does everything they can to solve it so that the customer can get what they need.
This no-blame culture is part of the overall philosophy of customer satisfaction that guides the entire company, including Andrea York’s leadership of the Atlanta center.
Employees are taught that you don’t wait for guests to greet you, you greet them. You don’t point, you show. You don’t talk to other people or answer your phone when you’re helping a customer, you give all your attention to that customer. And you don’t make excuses about what you can’t do or how you can’t help customers. You work hard to find a way to get that customer what they need.
New employees at TLC will find an entire manual full of clear standards about how they are expected to conduct themselves in the company.
The consistent drive to service customers has helped TLC earn raves from those customers to the tune of a 96 percent referral rate to new potential patients to try the company.
But it’s not just the people who make a great impression on patients. The center in Atlanta comes complete with a relaxation lounge for patients and friends and family of patients, free Wi-Fi connections and a front desk with access to local restaurant menus for those who aren’t familiar with the area.
It’s a package of service that has opened many eyes in the Atlanta region.
How to reach: TLC Laser Eye Centers — Atlanta, (678) 392-4214 or www.lasik.com
Larry and his family experienced car problems during their long trip home for Christmas. They pulled into a Petro Stopping Center, and though Petro doesn’t offer repair services for cars, an employee identified the broken part and called to have a replacement delivered.
The family soon returned from a nearby restaurant to find the part not only delivered but already installed by the Petro employee. Charged only for the belt, Petro staff wished Larry a merry Christmas and told him to continue on home.
“Wow, we were shocked to know that there are still great people that will go out of their way to help someone in need,” Larry wrote in a letter of thanks to the company.
Recognizing that TA Operating LLC does not offer unique products or services, CEO Tom O’Brien aims to sell excellent customer service as its differentiating commodity.
The company, which operates TravelCenters of America as well as Petro Stopping Center, has created employee development and incentive programs to facilitate ongoing customer experience training and implementation.
Two specific programs that the company invested considerable time and resources in and that encourage world-class customer service are the “Q-Force” and “Daymaker” programs. The “Q-Force” program was implemented among truck services with a superhero theme based around the mascot Captain Q-Force. The program emphasizes the importance of rescuing customers in trouble, often truckers who have broken down, and turning their bad experience into a good customer experience. The “Daymaker” program was createdfor employees among the company’s restaurants. Employees who make a customer’s day through excellent service are nominated each month and their stories evaluated. A winner is chosen and recognized at a semi-annual national conference.
TA Operating LLC employees are encouraged to go above and beyond to assist customers, differentiating the company through excellent service.
How to reach: TA Operating LLC, (330) 769-4881 or www.tatravelcenters.com
Wanda had been experiencing problems with her home’s plumbing for more than a decade. She had numerous pipe leaks and water heater issues, and she even had her entire plumbing redone in an attempt to fix her water woes. But it wasn’t until hiring Sundial Plumbing Services that her home’s plumbing problems were truly resolved.
“Mitzi, it took your team of techs less than 48 hours (to) solve a problem I’ve been dealing with for 15 years,” Wanda wrote in a letter of gratitude to President Mitzi Smith Moore.
Moore’s company is devoted to providing customer responsiveness, value and quality services and products. Sundial’s quality performance and high level of customer satisfaction have attracted a loyal following. In fact, repeat customer referrals make up a majority of Sundial Plumbing’s client source list.
The company caters to the needs of its customers in many ways. Open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Sundial Plumbing makes its highly trained staff available to customers as needed. Work scope and pricing is submitted in writing for customer approval prior to the start of a project, and an intensive, task-specific checklist is completed by an installing technician on site upon completion. The service manager then reviews these checklists, and a separate field quality assurance inspector visits the jobsite for a quality review. Findings are reported to managers for monitoring of industrywide best practices and results are incorporated as needed into the company’s training curriculum.
To further empower customers and provide world-class service, Sundial Plumbing ensures all service calls are followed up upon and results documented and reviewed. Employees are rewarded for positive feedback, while negative feedback is flagged to be resolved within an hour.
Through high quality of service, Sundial Plumbing provides its customers with plumbing solutions and peace of mind.
How to reach: Sundial Plumbing Services, (770) 427-1998 or www.mywebplumber.com
Customer solutions at Staffmark are a lot like snowflakes: You’re not very likely to see any two solutions that look alike. That’s because programs are built around individual customer needs and developed specifically to deal with whatever that customer is looking for.
As a big player in the staffing industry, that individualized touch is something that has helped Staffmark stand out from its competition under the leadership of President and CEO Lesa Francis.
Surveys are conducted on a regular basis to assess how current programs are faring and identify potential areas where improvements can be made. The results are broken down on many levels to ensure that trends can be spotted and either encouraged or changed to help Staffmark stay ahead.
Communication is underscored at every level. Whether it’s an on-site manager visiting a customer location or through the employee evaluation process, dialogue is maintained so that everyone is up to speed with what is going on in the company.
The company also takes a longer view. Staffmark conducted an internal project that reviewed the habits of employees within its most successful branches with the highest customer retention. From that study, the Passionate Performers Profile was created. It is defined as “exceptional ideas only become reality through the actions of those individuals passionate about bringing them to life.”
The idea is to build great employees in the organization who can share their energy and enthusiasm with others and make the company that much better at what it does. It also serves as a way to reward employees who meet the ideas of this profile and live those values in the way they conduct themselves at work. That fits right in with the idea of “exceptional people and exemplary results” that the company and its employees live by.
How to reach: Staffmark, (770) 955-0112 or www.staffmark.com
“Portability” became part of the federal estate tax law in 2010, and it is a welcome addition to the tools which estate planners have.
Historically in estate planning, a husband and wife would each have a revocable trust and would then divide their assets between themselves as equally as possible. In this manner, no matter which spouse pre-deceased the other, the maximum estate tax savings would be assured, says Jim Roseman, Vice President and Business Development Officer of FirstMerit Wealth Management Services.
All too often the assets could not be readily divided, as they included shares in a professional corporation or interests in a retirement plan, and if the spouse with fewer assets pre-deceased the other, estate tax savings could not be fully realized.
Portability treats a husband and wife as a unit, so if one estate does not fully use the estate tax exemption, the unused balance is available for the estate of the surviving spouse. With the current tax exemption of $5 million per tax payer, portability assures that the full $10 million would be available over both estates.
There are some cautions. The current law is only effective until December 31, 2012. Unless Congress extends the law, portability will cease. It also still makes sense for each spouse to have a revocable trust and to attempt a division of assets. This way each spouse has considerable control over where their assets go, and a properly drawn trust will protect property from state estate taxes, a surviving spouse’s creditors, a second spouse etc. In addition, if the surviving spouse remarries, the unused exemption is forfeited.
In order to properly obtain portability, it will be necessary for both estates to file a federal estate tax return, even if the size of one estate would not normal require a filing. This filing serves to record the amount of the unused exemption still available.
Consideration is also being given to what might be appropriate in pre-nuptial agreements regarding the use of portability.
It is, therefore, very important for your advisors and potential executors, and trustees to understand what your estate plan is intended to accomplish and written authorizations and/or direction regarding portability and what needs to be done to accomplish it.
FirstMerit’s Wealth Management professionals would be pleased to discuss portability and your estate plan with you and work with your legal and tax advisors to accomplish your goals.
The contents of this article are meant for information purposes only and should not be relied upon as legal advice. The facts and circumstances unique to each situation may affect the legal and financial analysis as applicable to that situation. The opinions and information contained in this message have been derived from sources believed to be accurate and reliable, but FirstMerit Bank N.A. makes no representation as to their timeliness or completeness. This message does not constitute individual investment, legal, or tax advice. All opinions are reflective of judgments made on the original date of publication.
Jim Roseman is the Vice President and Business Development Officer of FirstMerit Wealth Management Services.
Urgent care centers have been part of the health care landscape since the 1970s but only in the past decade have they begun to experience a dramatic surge in popularity.
Many reasons are behind the growth in popularity, but two stand out. First, urgent care centers deliver many services that cannot be provided in a primary care physician’s office. Second, people appreciate the fact they have access to these services outside of normal business hours and without having to make an appointment.
“Urgent care centers are not ideal for every medical situation,” says Dr. Stephen Perkins, vice president of Medical Affairs at UPMC Health Plan. “But there are times when urgent care centers have advantages that make sense for health care consumers.”
Smart Business spoke with Perkins about urgent care centers and how health care consumers can use them to their advantage.
Are there services that urgent care centers provide that may not be available in a primary care physician’s office?
Yes. These include such things as care for minor fractures and certain diagnostic tests, such as chest X-rays. Other non-emergency conditions that can be treated at an urgent care center include a twisted or sprained ankle, cuts, lacerations, general wound care, animal bites and minor skin rashes. Earaches, back pain and sore throats can also be treated at urgent care centers.
If you can go to urgent care centers, why would you need to have a primary care physician?
In terms of health care, it is always preferable to have a personal physician. It is best if that physician is someone who practices in a primary care specialty and who has a holistic approach to a patient’s medical care and needs.
Use of urgent care centers is not an alternative to having a personal physician. Urgent care centers are intended to be places where patients can get needed medical services when their personal physician is not available or unable to provide the specific service.
Because urgent care centers are more convenient than hospital emergency rooms for many clinical conditions, and because the services they provide are of high quality at a lower out-of-pocket cost, they are a smart choice in many instances.
What factors could influence making use of an urgent care center?
If you determine that an urgent care makes sense, you might appreciate some of the advantages, such as the fact that most insurance companies have lists of urgent care centers where their members can receive care as a covered benefit. In addition, going to an urgent care center rather than to an emergency room for acute non-emergency care is less expensive and frees up emergency rooms for more life-threatening cases.
Can an urgent care center sometimes be a better choice than a personal physician?
Because there is no need for an appointment and urgent care centers often have more flexible hours — including nights and weekends — than most physician offices, they often make sense. However, many physicians now offer extended office hours, so it is best to find out what hours you may be seen by your physician before making any health care choices.
Urgent care centers are also often convenient for people who are traveling or are some distance from home when an emergency arises.
By using urgent care centers, patients avoid the long lines they would encounter at emergency rooms. Urgent care centers also tend to have more locations, which makes them more convenient for many.
Some urgent care centers are affiliated with existing health care delivery systems. These centers may also have an affiliation with your primary care physician and, therefore, make it easier for your primary care physician to get a report of any action taken or medication prescribed. Ideally, an urgent care center should be an extension of your primary care physician’s office.
Are all urgent care centers the same?
Urgent care centers should not be confused with convenient care clinics, many of which are located in retail pharmacies, do not have a physician on staff and generally provide lower-level health care services, such as administering flu shots. It is important to understand that being treated by a doctor who knows you is always the preferable choice for those who want the highest level of care. Receiving treatment from your doctor — or, when necessary, following your doctor’s advice to go to an urgent care center or emergency room— is often your best option.
When is it not a good idea to use an urgent care center?
Urgent care centers are not ideal for all situations. Emergencies that are potentially life-threatening are best treated in an emergency room. These would include a heart attack or severe chest pain, a major injury or burn, poisoning, severe bleeding, passing out, being unable to catch your breath, being unable to move limbs or a loss of feeling in them, or a head or spine injury.
Urgent care centers work best when used as a complement to primary care, providing service when a timely visit to a physician’s office is not available, or after regular office hours when the only other alternative would be an emergency room visit.
Dr. STEPHEN PERKINS is vice president, Medical Affairs at UPMC Health Plan. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (412) 454-7682.
The preflight check list prepares all kinds of flights, from gliders to spaceships, for a successful mission. The completion of this checklist is a complex work involving numerous specialized resources and accurate inputs. “If you truly understand that your Web presence is strategic to your business, then preparing it for a successful site launch and ongoing performance requires the completion of a similar pre-launch exercise,” advises Kevin Hourigan, President and CEO of Web design, Web development and Internet marketing agency, Bayshore Solutions. “Strategically addressing these points up front, can often make the difference between a businesses’ online return on investment reaching the stars, or blowing up on the launchpad.”
Smart Business spoke with Kevin about the mission critical points to cover in order to have a best performing business website.
What is the formula for a successful website?
The mission of a website is to reach its target audience(s), resonate with them and catalyze them to take the action that you desire (usually converting to a lead or customer). Prerequisite to all of this is knowing your target audience, how to connect with them and how to communicate with them in order to motivate the desired response. When this complete, then you are ready to get started designing and building your website.
Building a website combines a variety of technical specialties. Often the ideal approach for one specialty, say programming code-efficiency, is a less than ideal tact for another, like allowances for visitor experience or customization for best SEO. There is a very real synergy and sweet-spot among aesthetics, functionality, programming complexity, interface and usability that every website needs to attune to so it is primed for maximum success. This balance is unique to each business’s combination of target audience, product or service, and business model.
As you are designing, developing and preparing to deploy your website, putting it through what I call the ”Easy” checklist will help ensure that the correct and comprehensive preparations are taken for its successful business launch. But be warned! As with most things that look 'easy, there is a lot of disciplined hard work that brings together the final polished result; in this case a fine-tuned, high performance business website.
What is the 'Easy' Checklist?
The essence of the 'Easy' checklist is to be able to affirmatively answer that your website is clean, efficient and easy to interact with at all check-points. Is it…
- Easy to Navigate: Is the navigation clear and consistent? Can your visitor find any piece of information they want in the least amount of clicks?
- Easy to Experience: Are you using language, visual content and design aesthetics that resonate with and motivate your visitors? In less than 5 seconds will they understand: who you are, how you can help them, and how they can take the next step or contact you? Do you have a mobile website customized for your mobile audience and their specific needs? Don’t waste your great, compelling content by making it not ‘easy’ to experience!
- Easy for Search Engines to Read: Have you properly researched and identified your keywords? Are your correct meta data and search engine verification tags in place to promote them? Do you have HTML and XML Sitemaps, and are they linked in your site’s footer? Also, use Flash sparingly because search engines don’t read or interact well with it. When you do use it, make sure you incorporate underlying content that is search-engine friendly.
- Easy to Transition: When launching a site that replaces an old one, are all your 301 redirects accurate and deployed to prevent visitors from finding themselves in a black hole instead of the page they thought they were hyperlinking to?
- Easy to Monitor & Review: Do you have analytics correctly attached to your site and all tracking and goals set up appropriately to help you make ongoing improvements and web marketing decisions?
- Easy to Edit: Do you have a good Content Management System (CMS) administrative interface to your website? Do you know how to effectively use your CMS so non-programmers (i.e.: you and/or your marketing staff) can instantly make the edits and updates needed to keep your website current?)
- Easy to Convert: Are your calls to action clear and bold enough to take your visitor on your desired directed path (to becoming a lead or customer)? Are the forms you require them to complete made as easy as possible by only asking what you really need to know to convert the visitor or process their request? When forms are barriers, are they only set up where absolutely necessary? When they are lead or purchase gateways, can the visitor find them in one (or even zero) clicks?
- Easy to Integrate: Is your website integrated with your client relationship management (CRM) system, email manager, and internal business process workflow and communications. Doing so will facilitate ongoing relationships, nurturing and service levels to your clients and prospects that are smooth, accurate and complete.
- Easy to Find: Do you have your SEO website basics in place, and more importantly, do you have a search marketing strategy and ongoing plan to keep and build your website’s best performance?
- Easy to Connect and Engage with: Is your website cohesively aligned and connected to your social media properties, local search profiles and other online presences? Again, do you have an ongoing strategy to maintain and make the most of this marketing channel?
As new pre- and even post-launch items arise in your web presence, a great way to address them is by analyzing them in this light and then doing the needed work to make them “Easy.” When these check points are addressed such that the interaction with your site is ‘easy’, your website has a strategic “Go for Launch” for a successful mission of bringing you leads, sales and measurable results.
For a snapshot of Bayshore Solutions Web marketing methodology, click to: www.BayshoreSolutions.com/method.
Kevin Hourigan is the president and CEO of Bayshore Solutions. Reach him at (877) 535-4578 or www.BayshoreSolutions.com.