Tuesday, 26 May 2009 20:00

On demand

The next time someone from Cox Communications Inc. Cleveland shows up at your door, check to make sure it isn’t Anne Doris. Doris, general manager and vice president of the Cleveland region, puts regular ride-alongs with her technicians at the top of her to-do list because she likes to make sure the thoughts of customers are getting through to her office.

There are plenty of Internet and cable providers out there, and Doris knows that her customers can make a switch at any time. But why would they when Cox has made taking care of customers its No. 1 priority?

It’s understood at Cox that customer service leads to better retention of customers, so making service accountability a meaningful measure is a must. At Cox, quality of performance is a measurement for all customer-facing employees. For example, a field technician at Cox has to know how to install and repair, but he or she must also be an expert in delivering customer satisfaction. Not only is that technician measured for his or her technical acumen at the job but 40 percent of the performance evaluation is based on the quality of customer service.

Of course, Doris isn’t expected to track down all of the information on job performance herself. Cox issues regular surveys to customers to help get feedback and recently added a program that allows customers to e-mail the company with ideas on how to improve products and services.

So even if Doris isn’t the one ringing your doorbell next time, know that she and other leaders at the company have made an effort to live up to the company motto of becoming
“Your friend in the digital age.” And if you have an idea of how Cox can be a better friend, Doris will be happy to hear it.

How to reach: Cox Communications Inc. Cleveland, (216) 676-8300 or www.cox.com

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

Relaxed shopping

The “secret shopper” report said it all.

The shopper visited an Ambiance store, and had to explain the circumstances of her husband’s difficulties. Without missing a beat, the employee empathized with the shopper and made the shopper feel comfortable, especially with the shopper’s choice of lingerie.

But that’s all in a days work at “The Store for Lovers.”

President Jennifer Downey and her staff have to be ready to handle all different types of customers’ needs and desires, and they do this through their “romance consultants.” The Ambiance romance consultant needs to put everything aside, including price, and remember she is there to solve a specific problem. That solution means a better love life and a better relationship, which, for many people, is priceless. Not only do customers need to feel confident that they are getting value and quality, they need to be reassured that they are not judged harshly for their presence in an Ambiance store.

Ambiance trains and certifies romance consultants, a title that reflects their dedication and hard work to understand their customer’s wants, needs and desires. The training process lasts about four to six weeks and culminates in a 22-page exam. Passing the exam promotes the employee from trainee to romance consultant.

The extensive training results in repeat customers, which is exemplified in the Ambiance Great Lover’s Club. The GLC database includes more than 180,000 members.

Ambiance communicates with those valued customers in-store, via e-mail and through direct mail. They receive discount coupons for their birthdays and anniversaries and get advance notice of sales and promotions. The business even featured GLC members and their spouses in advertising campaigns.

Ambiance also offers GLC members “romantic getaways” at area hotels, which are Ambiance-branded experiences that give couples the opportunity to spend an evening solely focused on each other. <<

How to reach: Ambiance Inc., (866) 739-8477 or www.ambiance.com

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

Great lengths

Employees at The Ritz-Carlton, Cleveland stop at nothing to make sure you have a great experience during your stay, and it’s often in the little details.

For example, if you sleep on the right side of the bed, but the alarm clock is on the left side, when you return from your day of meetings, it will likely be moved to the right side for your convenience. Or if you frequently order a Diet Coke to drink, you may find that it’s already waiting for you when you arrive to dinner or return to your room. Or if you’re checking in with your family, a wagon of toys will be brought out for your children to enjoy.

But all of these little details rely on one main component: human beings. General Manager Joseph Mattioli strives to hire the best people, who will be intuitive and are service-oriented. Applicants go through a multistage interview process that allows the hotel team to get to know that person’s skills, personality and see how he or she would respond in hypothetical situations. Once hired, employees go through a two-day orientation process to absorb the company’s values, culture and history. And even once employees are up and running, continual training and development are provided to ensure that every employee is continuously improving so he or she can improve the customer’s experience.

And if something happens to go wrong for a guest, employees take the position that the customer’s perception is the reality, so whether they agree or not, it’s their responsibility to listen attentively to find out what didn’t meet the guest’s liking and how they can better improve the situation for the customer.

By doing all of these things, The Ritz-Carlton aims to create positive memories for its guests and to form lasting connections.

How to reach: The Ritz-Carlton, Cleveland, (216) 623-1300 or www.ritzcarlton.com

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

Full spectrum

Every company needs selling points — factors that give customers a reason to spend their money with you instead of your competitors.

At Spectrum Surgical Instruments Corp., that selling point is customer service. And what sets Spectrum’s customer service apart is an attention to detail.

Customer service at the surgical instrument supply and service company — headed by President and CEO Rick Schultz — begins at the initial customer interface: the phone. During business hours, all incoming calls are answered by a live representative, with an added company policy that the phone should ring no more than three times before being answered.

As a quality control measure, all calls are monitored, and between 10 and 12 calls per representative are reviewed and scored by management each week. Supervisors then present the reviews to the representatives, grading them on their attentiveness, use of the customer’s name and how they display gratitude for the customer’s business.

Spectrum provides multiple avenues for customer feedback, including feedback cards sent out with each order and a live chat on the company’s Web site, which allows customers to both send feedback and ask questions in real time.

Spectrum also goes the extra mile with free pickup and delivery service for serviced items, at least two follow-up calls when orders are delivered to a customer, and a thank-you note attached to a bag of jelly beans delivered with each order.

In the past year, Spectrum has unveiled a new Web site with a streamlined ordering process and other updated information. The company has also introduced GPS units in all sales and service vehicles to allow for a faster and more efficient response to customer service requests.

It is attention to details like these that have helped Spectrum maintain its edge in a competitive market.

How to reach: Spectrum Surgical Instruments Corp., (330) 686-4550 or www.spectrumsurgical.com

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

Source for service

PartsSource LLC has built its entire selling process around customer service. With between 1,500 and 2,000 parts requests to process each day, that makes customer service a full-time job for everyone at the medical equipment component provider, which is headed by A. Ray Dalton, the company’s founder, president and CEO.

At PartsSource, a positive customer experience begins with the initial parts request. Once the necessary part information has been gathered, the account manager handling the request has one hour to get back to the customer with part options. From there, the request passes to a sourcing specialist who checks the supply chain for availability and pricing on the requested part. Using that approach, the staff at PartsSource is able to notify customers about their options within an hour of the initial request. If a customer doesn’t hear back within an hour, PartsSource buys the customer lunch.

The staff at PartsSource believes that informing customers is a critical part of giving them the best possible service. With that in mind, price quotes don’t just cover the price of a product. PartsSource is careful to quote not only the price but the part’s condition, age, warranty, terms and other factors that could influence the customer’s decision-making. When the customer makes a purchase, PartsSource immediately does two things: one, the company e-mails and faxes confirmation of the purchase and shipping terms to the supplier, then follows with a confirmation call to the supplier. Two, PartsSource e-mails a confirmation sheet to the customer for fact-checking purposes. If there are any errors or disagreements, the purchase process is immediately halted. After delivery of the part, a PartsSource representative checks in on the day of delivery to ensure the customer’s satisfaction.

By repeating the process thousands of times a day, PartsSource ensures that its customers receive the best the company has to offer.

How to reach: PartsSource LLC, (877) 497-6412 or www.partssource.com

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

Service solutions

At Invacare Corp., increased use of technology doesn’t get in the way of customer service with a human touch. In fact, the two walk hand-in-hand.

At the medical equipment manufacturer and distributor, headed by Chairman and CEO Mal Mixon, technology helps bolster customer service from the time the customer places a call. In 2007, Invacare implemented a work force management tool that allows resources to be scheduled in direct relationship with customer call volumes. The work force management tool has helped Invacare reduce its average call answer time by 37 percent since its implementation.

Invacare also utilizes a call-recording application to review incoming calls and ensure that associates are engaging customers in a professional and service-oriented manner. The application allows for 100 percent voice and screen recording. The company’s quality analysts and supervisors use the application to review and evaluate calls, which helps Invacare provide one-on-one, specifically tailored coaching to its customer service representatives. Utilizing the call-recording application for training purposes has helped Invacare provide a higher level of consistency in customer interactions.

The company’s supervisory team also implements a quality standards document and phone observation scorecard to provide additional feedback on customer service calls. Supervisors maintain a standardized binder with score histories for each representative on their team, allowing each supervisor to see trends for each customer service representative.

The technology-based methods of customer service training and evaluation are coupled with twice-monthly meetings between the contact center manager and the customer service supervisors, giving the customer service managers a chance to exchange results, trends and other information in a face-to-face setting.

These are some of the ways technology is helping Invacare deliver a more efficient and personal experience to its customers.

How to reach: Invacare Corp., (440) 329-6000 or www.invacare.com

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

Caring touch

If the world of business was based on transactions in human caring rather than financial gain, Hattie Larlham would top the Fortune 500 list every year.

Since 1961, Hattie Larlham has provided care and services to a highly specialized group of medically fragile people with mental retardation and developmental disabilities. Such a task comes not just with the responsibility of caring for the disabled individual but also adapting to the needs of that person’s family.

Beyond that, CEO Dennis Allen must constantly evolve and improve facilities and programs to ensure that all of those who come to Hattie Larlham get the experience they deserve.

To do that, Allen firmly believes in what has been dubbed vision casting, a flexible planning process based on a comprehensive overview and understanding of each element of the Hattie Larlham organization. Planning and preparations for action are encompassed by well-defined documentation of missions, values, trends and a projection of how all of those factors relate to Hattie Larlham’s overall vision for how the future might best evolve. A big part of this process includes the ability to continuously update the way the company understands numerous societal, technological and medical trends that can influence its ability to serve individuals with MR/DD. Such trends include family demographics, labor market issues, economic changes, fund-raising techniques and results, tax legislation, and many other factors that keep Hattie Larlham adaptable.

As a result, new improvements pop up constantly. In May 2008, for example, two renovated wings, Cattail Crossings and Reflection Ponds, opened at the Hattie Larlham Center for Excellence in Mantua. With modernized rooms, bacteria-resistant flooring and state-of-the-art air filtration systems, they better accommodate the 126 children and young adults who live at the center. It’s that kind of concentrated effort that helps put caring first in every function at Hattie Larlham.

How to reach: Hattie Larlham, www.hattielarlham.org or (330) 274-2272

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

Soaring expectations

At Flight Options, every customer is treated as a VIP and is considered a member of the Flight Options family.

And to ensure its employees understand that, two years ago, the fractional jet ownership company headed by CEO S. Michael Sheeringa began working with a five-star luxury hospitality company to transform the business into a more customer-centric, service-based organization.

With the company as a consultant, Flight Options developed “Service on a Higher Plane,” an eight-hour training class focused on internal and external customer service. Every Flight Options employee has attended the class, and the company is now developing the second phase of the curriculum.

The Flight Options team follows five principles, called “The Five Non-Negotiables,” which include passionate attention to detail and continuous improvement. These principles hang on posters around the company’s headquarters, and all team members have a copy, as well, gearing them toward a collective goal of providing exemplary customer experiences in all that they do.

This training is critical, because there are times when maintenance and weather — things employees have no control over — can affect service, but the staff does everything it can to minimize the impact. For example, when weather forces a crew to land at an alternate airport, crew members have rented a car to drive their passengers to their original destination.

But the company’s superior customer service isn’t only the result of training; it all starts with hiring employees with “service hearts” and retaining them by treating each person with honesty, professionalism, kindness and dignity. Flight Options also matched employees with positions that challenge them and allow them to grow professionally and encourages them to treat others with honesty, professionalism, kindness and dignity.

HOW TO REACH: Flight Options, www.flightoptions.com

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

VIP treatment

When Twinsburg-based PartsSource LLC was first established, its executives knew that without a commitment to customer service, they would quickly lose customers to the competition.

Ray Dalton, founder, president and CEO, and Don Hubbard, senior vice president sales and marketing, take pride in their company — a provider of replacement parts for medical equipment — and its ability to deliver on the customer service promise.

PartsSource doesn’t treat customers differently based on their size.

Hubbard says all large companies started out as small customers, and small customers deserve the same level of service as large ones.

Each new customer is assigned its own customer service representative, who is backed up by a permanent support team. Every call to PartsSource is answered by one of five receptionists, and customers aren’t transferred into voicemail unless they specifically request it.

Customers are guaranteed a callback within two hours of their initial request, and every order is followed up with a personalized thank-you card and a phone call to ensure that the part arrived on time and worked properly.

New hires get a week of customer service training. Then, they are placed in a designated area of the call center, with the training and development manager nearby to answer questions and intervene with customers as necessary.

New hires meet with Dalton near the end of their first week, and he explains their ownership of the customer experience. They must tackle any situation or problem first because “the people closest to the problem have the most power to rectify the situation.” Before customer service reps go solo, they must understand the company’s expectations of consistently excellent customer service.

HOW TO REACH: PartsSource LLC, (330) 963-7030 or www.partssource.com

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

From our elite sponsors

Smart Business asked the sponsorsof the World Class Customer ServiceAwards to share their customer service philosophies. You can read the full answers to five distinct questions by visitingwww.sbnonline.com.

SummaCareWhat is your organization’s philosophyof customer service?

We believe that every employee isresponsible for customer service and committed to creating a service culture thatembodies the Servant Leadership philosophy as described by author RobertGreenleaf, in his book “The Servant asLeader.”

We strive to serve by putting our customers’ needs first and espouse throughout our organization that ‘If you are notserving the customer, you better be servingsomeone who is.’ Therefore, we put greatemphasis on not only the external service we provide but also on the internal servicewe give each other to ultimately best serveour members, providers, employers andbrokers. Reach SummaCare at (330) 996-8410 or www.summacare.com.

Blue TechnologiesHow have you created a culture of customer service in your organization?

We have two programs that really impactcustomer service — BEI and Own the Call.BEI allows us to sort all service calls monthly by three categories — response times,callback and parts consumption. At month’send, we rank our service technicians andreward them financially based upon theirmonthly results. This has allowed them toreceive recognition for their performance aswell as grow professionally.

Own the Call says, “One call, one dedicated person” who should be able to service acustomer and service the customer well.New-hire training educates how important every phone call received and made is forthe future of the company. If an employeereceives a misdirected call, it is theirs and isowned until the customer’s request is complete. Additionally, we promise the customers that concerns will be remedied within three hours. Reach Blue Technologies at(216) 271-4800 or www.btohio.com

Sky BankHow does your organization make clientservice a competitive advantage andprice less relevant?

We look to our employees to go the extramile. We believe strongly, as do our competitors, in deep client relationships.However, we differentiate ourselves fromcompetitors in the manner in which weembrace our client service philosophy. Inour region, we developed eight commitments that we make to our clients as wework with them to meet their financialobjectives. Each and every Sky associate lives by these commitments: We know you,listen to you, understand your needs, identify solutions, follow through on commitments, earn your relationship and yourtrust, and we care about you. 

Reach Sky Bank at (866) SKY-BANK orwww.skyfi.com

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

integration of clinical treatment, empathyand the best physical and emotional experiences to positively impact a patient’s perception of care and the outcomes of his orher treatment.

Reach Cleveland Clinic Health System at(216) 444-2200 or www.clevelandclinic.org.

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.

Adesso Fashion for MenHow do you attract and retain employees

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.

Reach Adesso Fashion for Men at (440)333-4778 or www.adessofashions.net.

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