Tuesday, 31 May 2011 20:01

Stepping up

It was shaping up to be a very bad day for Parker Hannifin Corp. until Keith Shopnick, general manager at Cleveland Marriott East, literally plowed through the brutal snow and cold to make it all better.

The problem was a brutal winter storm that was wreaking havoc throughout Northeast Ohio. Parker had a number of potential recruits at the Cleveland Marriott East hotel and needed to get them to the headquarters of the motion and control technology company in Mayfield Heights.

Unfortunately, the company expected to bring these people to Parker failed to show and a replacement vehicle was nowhere to be found.

That’s when Shopnick swung into action. Parker’s college recruiting manager, Mike Klein, picks up the rest of the story.

“In spite of the terrible winter storm, Keith offered the use of his personal vehicle, and he also contacted a personal friend living near the hotel that owned a large SUV,” Klein wrote in a letter to the hotel. “Between Keith’s vehicles, his friend’s SUV and the two Parker chaperone vehicles, they were able to quickly transport all of our candidates to Parker’s corporate headquarters and prevent any major delays with our recruiting event.”

It’s extra effort like that which keeps clients coming to Cleveland Marriott East over and over again. Shopnick recognizes that people have other viable options for their hotel needs when they come to the Cleveland area. But when service is provided that is above and beyond what’s expected, such as with Parker’s recruiting event, it’s a lure to think of Cleveland Marriott East first the next time they need those services. 

“Their service is what brings me back to the Cleveland Marriott East,” writes Klein in his letter. “I know I can depend on the hotel team for superior service and be confident my events will run smoothly.”

How to reach: Cleveland Marriott East, (216) 378-9191 or www.marriott.com

Published in Akron/Canton

People can golf and dine anywhere, but as Mark Gore puts it, they join a private club for the experience of incredibly personalized service, which makes cost insignificant.

As general manager of Firestone Country Club, Gore has seen firsthand the impact of excellent customer service. While many clubs around the country struggled in the difficult economic climate during the past few years, the fact that Firestone has prospered is a testament to the service it provides its members.

All of the club’s employees have a servant’s heart, and their goal is to make every person — member or guest — feel welcome and comfortable by creating a home-away-from-home experience. The club’s goal is to build relationships and enrich lives, which it does through three steps of service: warm welcomes, magic moments and fond farewells.

This starts with welcoming members and guests by name. E-mails are sent to the staff each day so they know who will be arriving and who has birthdays that day. Staff is expected to greet people by name and to make every attempt to be the first to say, “Hello,” “How are you?” or “How can we help?” Firestone keeps a MemberPride database that has information about every guest, including name, title, educational background, birthday, anniversary, interests, etc. The club also has a picture profile book for each department where every member is listed with his or her picture so staff can learn to recognize people.

Magic moments are random acts of kindness in which staff members look for ways to make someone’s day. It may mean leaving a note or something special for that person with his or her golf clubs or at another location within the club. And then the fond farewells start with always saying thank you and we appreciate you. It also means extending an invitation for guests to return.

This approach makes members and guests alike feel like VIPs every time they arrive.

How to reach: Firestone Country Club, (330) 644-8441 or www.firestonecountryclub.com

Published in Cleveland
Tuesday, 31 May 2011 20:01

For the long term

It was a warm August day last year when the chilled water system at Cuyahoga Community College’s Metro Campus burst. The plant operations director called it catastrophic. A call was made at 7 a.m. to The Brewer-Garrett Co., who maintained the facilities with Tri-C. By 7:30 a.m., pipefitters and supervisors were on the job. A second crew was called to simultaneously drain a different part of the system. Both stayed on location until the repairs were finished.

Such response and commitment is an indication of how customer service is foremost at the company, which specializes in engineering, design, installation and service for educational, governmental, commercial and industrial clients.

CEO Louis Joseph and associates show pride in the number of multiple projects completed for many long-term customers. The clients value proven performance. Three public-sector clients have won the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Energy Efficiency, another example of Brewer-Garrett’s customer service competitive advantage.

Most new employees are hired through professional recruiters, who have been educated about the company culture. After the first interview, candidates are tested for intellectual aptitude and customer service orientation. The final interview is with the CEO. Once hired, the employee receives core orientation and training and “The Art of Service” training.

Since Brewer-Garrett often touches many different people in an organization, the company’s objective is to ensure that everyone is satisfied with the work done. The goal is to have customers want to work with the company, rather than having to work with the company just because they have a contract or their boss directed them to do so.

Feedback from Customer Assurance Review and Evaluation, or CARE, surveys is key to the organization as not only a measure of satisfaction and to address immediate needs but as a way to prepare for the needs and challenges clients will experience in the future.

How to reach: The Brewer-Garrett Co., (440) 243-3535 or www.brewer-garrett.com

Published in Akron/Canton

At Findaway World, customer service starts with the notion that employees aren’t called employees or associates or team members. They are findawayers. Not surprisingly, “Find a way” is one of the seven core values of the company that manufactures and distributes the Playaway, a self-playing prerecorded audiobook.

Findaway’s CEO Mitch Kroll and his team have a multilayer recruiting process to ensure that when they bring in new employees, they fit the company’s DNA. Each new findawayer learns how to prepare the product for customers and is taught the importance of making things as close to perfect as can be obtained. Then, findawayers are given expectations on how the company would like to treat customers both internally and externally.

As a result, every customer is treated in the best way possible. Each is a VIP customer, and there is no difference how a quantity shopper is treated from someone who buys only a few units. Customer experience specialists take the lead on being the friendly voice customers talk to if they ever experience difficulties. Flexible ordering, a simple return policy and billing solutions are offered, as is help on title recommendations from librarians on staff.

Thanks to an emphasis on empowerment and engagement, findawayers are entrusted to make decisions on behalf of the company

While in many companies customer service is a separate department, at Findaway World customer service is an idea and responsibility that permeates every aspect of the company. In each transaction, Findaway’s reputation is at stake and success is based on the ability to sell each customer exactly the product they requested and within the fastest time possible.

Even better things are ahead for this year with the creation of a new quality team and the hiring of the first quality assurance manger to ensure Findaway exceeds customer expectations.

How to reach: Findaway World, (877) 893-0808 or www.playaway.com

Published in Cleveland
Tuesday, 31 May 2011 20:24

The extra mile

When the H1N1 virus outbreak happened, State Industrial Products was slammed with demand for its hand sanitizer 10 times higher than what it had seen in prior years. While this may be difficult for many companies to keep up with, under the leadership of Harold Uhrman, the company, which manufactures and distributes specialty chemicals, was able to successfully meet its customers’ needs.

This commitment to meeting customer needs has been crucial to the company’s success for the past 100 years, and unlike many companies, much of the organization’s customer service actually takes place after the sale. State Industrial’s sales and service teams serve about 25,000 customers each year through its Circle of Service program. These associates recognize that customers constantly face new challenges and aim to help them through finding new solutions and products.

The sales team consists of 475 account managers who work with the customer to identify new opportunities for improvement through a survey of its facility. Based on what the account manager finds, that person will then make suggestions for products or systems that solve the customer’s need or problem. The sales team even goes the extra mile by installing systems and training customers and end users on how to use the new equipment they’ve purchased.

But the service doesn’t end at just the training. Instead, the account manager visits his or her customers on a regular basis to check on the progress of the solutions, to ensure customer satisfaction, review inventory levels and support them with troubleshooting or additional product training. Additionally, the account managers make themselves available to their customers 24/7 in case there is an emergency.

The account managers always go the extra mile — even painting customers’ buildings or windows for the holidays — and this extra mile makes all the difference in State Industrial’s business.

How to reach: State Industrial Products, (216) 861-7114 or www.stateindustrial.com

Published in Akron/Canton
Tuesday, 31 May 2011 20:01

A better relationship

Shopping for relationship enhancement products is not quite as easy and straightforward as picking up a gallon of milk in the local grocery store. That’s why Jennifer Downey, president of Ambiance, the self-labeled “store for lovers” puts a strong focus on ensuring the customer feels as comfortable buying an intimate product as he or she would picking up a loaf of bread.

Because Ambiance customers are shopping for highly intimate and even some possibly embarrassing items, the store hires employees who can put customers at ease. Employees of the company use exceptional service and attention to detail to help each customer get what he or she came to the store for.

Becoming an Ambiance employee or a “romance consultant” is no easy task. Potential hires go through a four- to six-week training period and have to pass a 22-page exam. If they pass, they are promoted from trainee to romance consultant and customers can be certain they are being helped by a knowledgeable employee.

Ambiance believes that customers should not only feel confident that they are getting value and quality, but they should be reassured they are not being judged for being in the store. That’s why Ambiance creates trust with their customers. Romance consultants perfect the trustworthy trait through the store’s “Think Like a Customer” program.

The program teaches employees an understanding of the customers and the reasons they shop at the store. Employees focus on reassuring customers that their interest in Ambiance is healthy, positive and nothing to be embarrassed about. Romance consultants are always nonjudgmental. They show understanding and will always look to offer ideas, inspiration and support as well as products.

Ambiance’s empathy with its customers and their desires is the cornerstone to helping them overcome nervousness about shopping for personal and intimate items they would normally be hesitant to shop for. Ambiance’s dedication to customer service and trust is what makes a nervous first-time buyer a repeat customer.

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

Published in Akron/Canton
Tuesday, 31 May 2011 20:19

A network of support

Started by a group of parents who saw few true opportunities for their children with cerebral palsy, United Cerebral Palsy of Greater Cleveland has grown into a support system for people with a wide spectrum of disabilities.

The organization keeps its founding mission in mind at all times, and today, it works hard to meet the evolving needs of some of the community’s most vulnerable yet promising members through a continuum of services ranging from early intervention for infants to lifelong adult residential and vocational supports.

Patricia Otter, president and CEO of UCP of Greater Cleveland, makes sure that the organization operates under five core values. The organization is always client-centered, collaborative, compassionate, devoted to excellence and demonstrating integrity. The organization maintains that every individual with a disability has the right to thrive and to be as independent as possible within the community he or she resides.

UCP provides services to more than 1,200 individuals with disabilities from Cuyahoga County and the surrounding area each year across all lines of age, gender, race, ethnicity and socioeconomic status. In addition to direct client services, UCP contracts with local businesses to provide work opportunities for disabled individuals at the agency headquarters and in the community.

UCP has more than 125 individuals with a range of disabilities enrolled in employment programming and engages a full staff to train, place and support these clients. Collaborative business partners are given appropriate training in working with disabled individuals as well as policies and procedures for partnership. To ensure that high-quality standards are met, UCP maintains an extensive follow-along process that includes response planning, an annual survey and an evaluation.

The organization considers clients to be the heart of the agency, not simply a facet. The expectation of 100 percent excellence transcends from the board of directors to the direct care staff and is evident in all UCP facilities. Through the example set 60 years ago, UCP continues a legacy of empowering individuals with disabilities to do more.

HOW TO REACH: United Cerebral Palsy of Greater Cleveland, (216) 791-8363 or www.ucpcleveland.org

Published in Akron/Canton

Buying an insurance policy can be daunting, partly because if the insured scenario never actually happens, it can result in a losing financial scenario for the investor. However, Family Heritage Life Insurance Co. of America shows its clients that buying insurance can actually be a win-win.

Family Heritage has grown more than 30 percent annually since Howard Lewis, its chairman, president and CEO, founded the firm 22 years ago. Under Lewis’s leadership, the firm has continued to deliver on its mission to provide financial security and peace of mind for customers through its customer-driven programs and systems, many of which are unique to the insurance industry.

One example is Family Heritage’s zero-risk premium return policy. The return of premium benefit gives people peace of mind in knowing that they are insured in case they need it, but if it turns out they don’t use the insurance, Family Heritage will return their money. In either case, the money is there waiting.

When employees can empathize with customers and relate to their challenges, they are better equipped to help them. That is why all Family Heritage agents are quickly immersed in the service-driven culture from day one. The firm also encourages its agents to educate themselves about the issues facing current and potential customers, for example, by participating in sales calls to find out more about different customer experiences.

Another way Family Heritage provides peace of mind for customers is by offering services that make handling insurance-related issues quick and easy. Instead of giving customers no option but to navigate through a phone menu, Family Heritage agents make sure customers can always get their claims issues addressed by a live person. The firm also employs speedy claims processing systems and direct deposit of claims so that clients have faster access to their claims money, which is one less thing to worry about in a stressful time.

How to reach: Family Heritage Life Insurance Co. of America, (440) 922-5222 or www.familyheritagelife.com

Published in Cleveland
Tuesday, 31 May 2011 20:01

Trusted steward

When it comes to data protection and recovery for small to middle-market businesses, BlueBridge Networks LLC wants to be seen not only as a vendor but also as a partner in its enterprises. Customers can trust that their data — their lifeblood — will be backed up, stored and ready for recovery in data centers of the highest security.

To that end, CEO Jeff Levine and the BlueBridge staff realize that customer service is critical. To be hired, a person must have passion for homeland security, economic stability and must hold a desire to make a difference. Applicants are sought who are not only highly technical-oriented but also have had longstanding relationships with vendors and employers. In addition, evidence of being a team player who contributed significantly to projects and objectives is important.

Once on board, new employees follow controls and protocols established in the customer manual, which is in both electronic and hard copies. A trouble ticket system allows service issues to be tracked from the time they are reported to when the issues are resolved. For after-hours support, a highly technical call center service is located on site to respond immediately to customer concerns.

BlueBridge Networks feels so confident about its services that it guarantees a 99.999 percent uptime. That allows a downtime of only six minutes a year ? which the company has never even been close to experiencing in its six years in business.

To indicate that BlueBridge practices what it preaches as an Internet service provider, the company uses multiple layers of protection against intrusion and has completed SAS 70 Type II audits as well as achieving Payment Card Industry Standard compliance.

To stay ahead of the technology curve and to offer the most current services, the company continuously reinvests in the facilities to deliver IT solutions that are a competitive edge for customers.

How to reach: BlueBridge Networks LLC, (216) 621-2583 or www.bluebridgenetworks.com

Published in Akron/Canton
Tuesday, 31 May 2011 20:01

Teaming up

When clients come to the law offices of Benesch Friedlander Coplan & Aronoff LLP, they don’t just come for the legal service. They come for the client service.

Led by Managing Partner Ira C. Kaplan, Benesch recognizes that a successful client relationship is only possible when there is a positive price-value relationship for the client. So to communicate its dedication to client service, the firm developed its “First in Service” program to emphasize how Benesch attorneys and staff members execute top client service as their No. 1 priority.

Benesch is always looking for new ways to add value for its clients. Whether it’s offering alternative fee arrangements or working off the clock to find out more about a client’s legal needs, the firm’s attorneys are always re-evaluating the client-attorney relationship to make sure their level of client service is always on par with their level of legal service. In fact, to promote continuous improvement in service excellence, every single internal practice group meeting at Benesch has a discussion about client service on the agenda.

It’s not uncommon the hear Benesch clients talk about the firm’s staff using words like “adviser,” “partner” and “friend.” That’s because teamwork goes into each of its client success stories. Each client of the firm works in collaboration with a client team, or group of attorneys and staff members, which is carefully selected and assembled based on each team member’s ability to support a client’s specific needs and strategy. The client team model approach is at the heart of the company’s mission to give clients the best value for the price. By making sure attorneys are assigned to client teams based on their individual strengths and knowledge, Benesch aims to ensure to its clients that it can provide them with the best legal solutions for their particular businesses and, therefore, a sound competitive edge.

How to reach: Benesch Friedlander Coplan & Aronoff LLP, (216) 363-4500 or www.beneschlaw.com

Published in Akron/Canton