Tuesday, 26 May 2009 20:00

Sheer performance

Bob Shearer wants to make sure his company leaves you with a good taste in your mouth.

And he wants to make sure that that feeling goes beyond enjoying the kettle-cooked potato chips that are the mainstay of success at Shearer’s Foods Inc.

Shearer, the CEO, is just one of more than 700 people who work at the company, which is based in Brewster, Ohio, and like all the others, he understands that taking care of customers’ concerns is rule No. 1.

In some areas, it’s the little differences — when you call Shearer’s, you don’t get a receptionist; instead you get the company’s director of first impressions. You also don’t get a hello, you get a bright and helpful outlook, ‘It’s a perfect day at Shearer’s,’ and you’ll hear, ‘How may we enhance your snack-food experience?’

That can-do attitude comes from three simple mindsets ingrained deeply in the company. First, employees at Shearer’s must learn that while they may not understand every customer request, they must respect that it’s important to that customer. Second, being an employee at Shearer’s means you work for the customer, meaning you work at his or her convenience. Finally, everyone understands that Shearer’s success comes from happy customers, so that has to stay the top priority.

As the company has grown, adding more than 300 employees during a boom that started in 2003, keeping up that legacy isn’t easy, but Shearer’s has found a way to pass it from one generation of people to the next. The company has what it’s dubbed the culture club, a group of seasoned professionals who develop activities and programs for new associates to help share the company’s values. The members of the culture club all have at least 15 years with the company, meaning they know the system.

How to reach: Shearer’s Foods Inc., (330) 767-3426 or www.shearers.com

Published in Akron/Canton
Tuesday, 26 May 2009 20:00

Teaching the details

No parent enjoys having to pass responsibility for their children to others, but Bob and Susan Wickman have found a place in Le Chaperon Rouge that has taken away their fear.

“We love to hear all the positive remarks from teachers, as well as our kids; that keeps us up to speed about what happened during the day,” the Wickmans wrote in a letter to the school. “We feel good because we know that their school is a place they look forward to going every day and this feedback indicates to us that they have a positive attitude about learning.”

The chain of eight private schools provide day care services for infants beginning at 6 weeks of age and elementary education for students in kindergarten through fifth grade. In addition to the basics, students spend time learning drama, foreign languages, music and can take classes in gymnastics, ballet, karate and dance.

The key to its exemplary service is the attention to detail, says Stella Moga, the school’s founder, president and CEO.

“Le Chaperon Rouge trains each staff member not just in how to do their jobs but also how to offer great customer service to our children and their parents,” Moga says. “We make sure all teachers are well-trained long before their first day on the job. And we strive to continue that training after they are hired.”

Moga has developed a program to train teachers using her own handpicked instructors. This allows site directors and classroom instructors to handle any problems that arise at their respective locations on their own without delay.

“Any issue that comes up is brought to my attention, and I follow up with the parents to ensure they are satisfied with the solution with which they are presented,” Moga says.

How to reach: Le Chaperon Rouge, (440) 934-2716 or www.lechaperonrouge.com

Published in Akron/Canton
Tuesday, 26 May 2009 20:00

The diamond difference

Four workdays before last Christmas, Heinen’s received a phone call from a customer whose 10-year-old, handicapped son loved grocery shopping there so much he asked Santa for a Heinen’s uniform.

The warehouse didn’t carry children’s sizes and the shirt manufacturer was closed for the holiday. But a call to the supplier’s representative generated a volunteer embroiderer. And by Christmas Eve, Heinen’s delivered the shirt, a cap and an honorary name badge to the boy’s mom.

Heinen’s commitment to such personalized service has spanned three generations — most recently, twins Tom and Jeff Heinen. That history is represented by three green diamonds on the store’s logo.

Those shapes are repeated on associates’ nametags, where they stand for the trio of roles that customers expect: retail professional, sales merchant and businessperson. When employees meet the Diamond Standards for each category, they display their achievement with a raised emblem affixed to each diamond.

But informal training continues daily, as managers monitor and develop employees on the job. One store, for example, came up with a game to encourage cashiers to ask all customers if they found everything they wanted. They competed to see how many additional sales were generated when baggers tracked down items remaining on shoppers’ lists.

The company also uses a labor program to identify the appropriate staffing required at each store throughout the day. Expecting employees to interact with customers, the program builds in time for service.

Customers receive incentives just by shopping at Heinen’s or by joining Tasteful Rewards, the preferred customer program. They receive discounts and free items based on their level of spending and frequency of visits. Heinen’s keeps the rewards relevant by offering everyday items, such as milk and flowers.

How to reach: Heinen’s, (216) 475-2300 or www.heinens.com

Published in Akron/Canton
Saturday, 26 May 2007 20:00

Old-fashioned service

Pharmacies today tend to focus on the quantity of business generated and get stuck in the whirlwind of speedy service, forgetting what really matters to their customers. Ritzman Pharmacies Inc., on the other hand, puts quality first, focusing on what its customers truly desire — excellent customer service.

The smaller size of Ritzman makes competing with commercial chain pharmacies more difficult. However, under the direction of CEO Eric Graf, it’s found a way to stand out by going above and beyond what people expect from their pharmacy. At Ritzman, reaching customers on a personal level is standard procedure.

Hot coffee and friendly personnel await each customer who walks through the doors. Complimentary prescription delivery is provided for those who can’t make it to the store. And Graf has opened the store in the middle of the night to get someone their medication.

A refill reminder program lets customers know when their prescriptions are running low. And, Ritzman’s Med-Dose Services helps customers with multiple prescriptions keep track of dosages and times.

Each fall, Graf makes flu shots available to Ritzman customers. Customers have come to rely on this service, which Ritzman provides at its own expense.

Beyond these services, Ritzman is involved in the community. The pharmacy has sponsored local Little League teams and participates in charities and fundraisers. Associates at some locations go out of their way to deliver poinsettias to home-bound customers and cookie trays to the families of customers who have died.

The associates and staff at Ritzman maintain a personal relationship with their customers regardless of competition. Valuing quality over quantity, the pharmacy has successfully formed a customer base rooted in the complete satisfaction of each customer.

HOW TO REACH: Ritzman Pharmacies Inc., (330) 335-2318 or www.ritzmanrx.co

Published in Akron/Canton
Saturday, 26 May 2007 20:00

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Cleveland Clinic Health SystemWhat is your organization’s philosophyof customer service?

“Patients First.” Cleveland Clinic exists toprovide the best possible outcomes forevery patient. The culture of ClevelandClinic is focused entirely on clinical success, boundless compassion and care forthe special needs of the sick and their families. A culture that embraces “PatientsFirst” promotes an environment of healingby focusing on the emotional and physicalwell-being of patients and the staff whocare for them, directly and indirectly. Italso affirms the importance of excelling inresearch and education for the advancement of medicine and improved patientcare.

A culture centered on “Patients First”acknowledges that the technical aspects ofwhat we do are not enough. It takes the

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Executive Caterers at LanderhavenHow have you created a culture of customer service in your organization?

Executive Caterers at Landerhavenremains a family-owned business built onecustomer at a time. With 46 years of commitment, passion and consistency with anunparalleled mix of training, supervisionand attention to detail, our company workshard to retain that passion in all of ouremployees.

We attract and retain those people byoffering good benefits, orientation, customer service training and flexible hours,with an opportunity to advance within theorganization. Reach Executive Caterers atLanderhaven at (440) 449-0700 orwww.executivecaterers.com.

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who embody your organization’s belief ofcustomer service?

We are proud to have employees whohave been with us for many years. Thismakes our clients feel comfortable as theyget to know us and we get to know them.When we hire new employees, we recruitnot only from inside the retail world butoutside as well. Having excellent customerservice skills no matter what industry apotential candidate is in is more importantthan recruiting someone with similar retailexperience who may not have the samecustomer service philosophies.

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Hughie’s Audio-VisualWhat is your organization’s philosophyof customer service?

At Hughie’s Audio-Visual, we have notforgotten that our customers are the reason that we have been successful for morethan 50 years. Because of that, we have the“do whatever it takes” philosophy whenresponding to our customers’ needs andrequests. Reach Hughie’s Audio-Visual at(216) 361-4600 or www.hughies.com.

Published in Akron/Canton
Saturday, 26 May 2007 20:00

Beyond a bed

In the hotel industry, the product tends to be less important than the service provided.

Marriott Cleveland East works hard to comply with companywide standards and then goes beyond. Guests can expect a friendly and helpful staff whose main focus is to make the customer’s stay as comfortable as possible.

Frequent visitors enjoy the Marriott Reward loyalty program. However, in evaluating its repeat customers, General Manager Todd Raburn found a number of visitors who were missing the cutoff by small margins, so he and his team developed Silver Focus for these customers.

Raburn says the Marriott’s “At Your Service” culture runs throughout the organization, and his employees put their hearts into every detail. Their diligent service has helped the location’s customer service rating rank above nearly 350 other North American Marriott locations.

But, Raburn says, mistakes happen. His team believes it is more important to look at how the hotel rectifies the errors than the errors themselves. And Marriott Cleveland East accomplishes this well.

At Marriott hotels, employees are told to LEARN when a problem arises. The staff is instructed to Listen, Empathize, Apologize, React and Notify in the event of an error. This system has proven successful through customer feedback, and the Cleveland East location’s staff has become the secret to its success.

When an industry’s product is relatively standard across the board, it must find an alternate way to prove its worth. The Marriott Cleveland East does this with its admirable customer service.

HOW TO REACH: Marriott Cleveland East, (216) 378-9191 or www.marriott.com

Published in Akron/Canton
Saturday, 26 May 2007 20:00

Serving client needs

The key to world-class customer service is having reliable and enthusiastic employees who help to promote the company. At Great Lakes Integrated, employees treat every project as if it were their own.

The company, headed by Chairman, President and CEO Jim Schultz, began in 1931 in the printing industry and has grown to offer comprehensive marketing communications services with print and electronic solutions.

When it comes to its service offerings, GLI takes a strategic sourcing approach. By orchestrating every communication project from start to finish, GLI is able to build a strong partnership with its clients to eliminate redundancies and overhead, minimize inventory, reduce print preparation and production lead time, and increase margins by maximizing the effectiveness of each purchasing dollar.

Serving clients is the priority at GLI, and its management team wants employees to come up with out-of-the-box thinking to improve customer service. This ongoing message is communicated to employees through GLI’s intensive training and development program.

Employees are also encouraged to share ideas through plant meetings, company newsletters, intranet communications, employee surveys, roundtable department forums and lunch-and-learn sessions. GLI management says these open communications help employees take ownership of decisions that strengthen the company.

Success at GLI is defined by lasting relationships with clients. The company has grown with its clients, and as their needs change, the company modifies its services to accommodate them and grow with them. Its oldest client has been doing business with GLI for 65 years.

Schultz says customer service is not just about what a company can give to a client; it is a culture that is developed and molded from the CEO to every employee, beginning as a mindset and ending with solutions.

HOW TO REACH: Great Lakes Integrated, www.glintegrated.com or (216) 651-1500

Published in Akron/Canton
Saturday, 26 May 2007 20:00

Pearly whites

When new patients enter the Rocky River office of The Dr. Richard E. Betor Cosmetic Dental Group, they know this is not the typical dental experience.

The office’s living room-style waiting room is comfortably equipped with an air purifier, flat-screen TV and the finest magazines. Most clients spend little time there, however, because the Betor team prides itself in seeing patients within five minutes of their scheduled appointment times.

As both a general and cosmetic dentist, Betor’s practice offers general and cosmetic dentistry, porcelain veneers, laser whitening, laser dentistry, implant dentistry and migraine prevention. Busy patients appreciate this one-stop dental service.

Patient referrals are the result of exceptional customer service, and Betor provides incentives for patients through a client referral program. After a referred patient is seen for his or her exam, the original patient receives either a $50 account credit or a $50 retail gift certificate.

The practice sends flowers, cards or a gift card to aesthetic dentistry patients, and the doctor personally calls each patient after a major procedure. Each client receives a bag that contains lip balm, toothpaste, toothbrush, floss and informational brochures, and his youngest patients receive special gifts and sunglasses they can wear during their cleanings.

Betor’s clinical and nonclinical staff travel to New York City and Chicago yearly for customer service training, cross-training and continuing education seminars. When vendors do on-site seminars at the office, all employees are required to attend; if they understand each other’s jobs, patients benefit from a knowledgeable staff.

The office staff benefits from a four-day workweek, office hours that miss rush hour traffic, early Friday dismissal and profit-sharing.

HOW TO REACH: The Dr. Richard E. Betor Cosmetic Dental Group, (440) 333-3766 or www.drbetor.com

Published in Akron/Canton
Saturday, 26 May 2007 20:00

Relationship enhancers

Imagine your job is to sell products, many of which are expensive and nonreturnable, to customers who may have never used the products before or who may even be embarrassed entering your store.

It’s a challenge that Jennifer Downey, president of Cleveland-based Ambiance Inc., takes very seriously in her upscale lingerie and romantic gift boutiques. She and her management team understand that customers who come to “The Store for Lovers” need to feel comfortable, and it takes a special salesperson — trained in the art of conversation — to provide an atmosphere of trust and discretion.

In the move from trainee to romance consultant, employees must complete an extensive four- to six-week training program, which culminates in a 22-page exam. Ambiance’s Think Like a Customer program also teaches consultants how to understand their customers and respect the reasons they shop at the store.

Employees also must learn and excel in the company’s 13 mandatory service standards before they are allowed to ring up a sale. Among them: having a “show-time attitude” when they are on the sales floor, keeping busy when they are not working with a customer, greeting customers to encourage conversation and create a relationship of trust and finding out what special occasion brought them into the store.

To avoid customer service defects, Ambiance’s secret shopper service ensures that the company’s 13 service standards are being followed. Stores with perfect reports are rewarded, and maintaining good shop reports is required for each store’s performance.

Downey also appreciates customer feedback. And if a customer has been inconvenienced or treated unjustly, management will exceed the customer’s expectations to regain their trust.

HOW TO REACH: Ambiance Inc., (440) 234-6996 or www.ambiance.com

Published in Akron/Canton
Saturday, 26 May 2007 20:00

Perfect night out

If you’ve ever eaten at The Melting Pot and were surprised when your server knew key details about you and the reason you were dining there, it’s not mind-reading wizardry. Rather, it’s all part of owner/operator Seth Bromberg’s carefully detailed plan to ensure every customer at his Legacy Village location has the perfect night out and best possible experience at his restaurant.

Bromberg says that by reading the guest on the phone, his staff is able to ascertain important, such as:

  • If the guest is celebrating a birthday, the celebrant’s name and age.

  • If it’s an anniversary, the couple’s names and how many years they’re celebrating.

  • For a promotion, the celebrant’s new job or title.

Then, using specialized reservation system technology combined with detailed training, Bromberg’s staff creates an atmosphere that personalizes the guests’ dining experience down to the last detail.

To ensure it goes smoothly, every table gets at least one manager’s a night twice during a meal. If the staff doesn’t deliver as promised, Bromberg’s team makes up for it by providing complimentary desserts, drinks and dinners, as well as gift certificates, to make sure the experience ends well. The Melting Pot’s hospitality specialist also calls every guest the next day to ask about the previous night’s experience.

At the heart of The Melting Pot’s customer-service-oriented culture is the restaurant’s “Perfect Night Out Guest Experience” guide book, a 100-plus page manual that every employee trains with.

The manual details everything from reservations and seating to table greeting, meal presentation, payment/check presentation and the evening’s final exchange. Nothing, Bromberg says, is left to chance.

HOW TO REACH: The Melting Pot, (216) 381-2700 or www.meltingpot.com/lyndhurst

Published in Akron/Canton