LeasePlan USA, which provides vehicle leasing and fleet management solutions, strives to make service its competitive advantage in every aspect of its business. As a service-oriented company, LeasePlan regards its people as its product. The company doesn’t produce anything tangible and its prices aren’t the lowest in the industry, so its leaders recognize that LeasePlan has to provide exceptional service in order to stand apart from its competition.
Under the guidance of President and CEO Michael A. Pitcher, LeasePlan invests a great deal in the development of its people. LeasePlan’s customers foster long-standing business relationships with the individuals that make up its team, and the investment in human capital provides a positive return when LeasePlan reaches its customer satisfaction goals based on its performance in exceeding the client’s expectations.
LeasePlan provides employees with customer service and leadership training in a number of formats, including computer-based programs, audio books and a mentoring program. With a training initiative known as LeasePlan Academy, the company encourages employees to take the time to invest in their own personal development by obtaining 40 hours of training credits per year.
LeasePlan’s customer service philosophy is unique. In a time of impersonal, technology-driven customer service, the company prides itself on being a high-touch provider of premium service driven by people who are among the best employees in the industry — and who are complemented but not replaced by technology. And the company’s approach has proven to be successful, as evidenced by its recent client satisfaction and loyalty scores.
“LeasePlan has been a valued partner for the past five years,” says Tom Armstrong, fleet director for ThyssenKrupp Elevator Americas. “Their flexibility and willingness to modify their programs to fit our needs has been extremely beneficial for our fleet operations.”
How to reach: LeasePlan USA, (770) 933-9090 or www.us.leaseplan.com
InfoMart was founded in 1989, around the time the background screening industry was being born, and the company’s leaders say they believe their firm’s experience is the key factor sets it apart from its competition. Many of InfoMart’s competitors have been in business for less than 10 years, while InfoMart has been providing background screening solutions for more than twice that long, earning the trust of some of the world’s most respected corporations.
Early in InfoMart’s history, the company’s leaders realized that prospective clients can get background checks from a large variety of sources since much of the information provided is public record. But InfoMart decided it could differentiate itself by providing exceptional customer service.
Led by President Tammy Cohen, InfoMart provides background checks for thousands of corporations daily. All of those clients have diverse needs. While they all require a high degree of security, each has its own system requirements. Despite these divergent needs, InfoMart meets their expectations by providing customized care. The company’s long-term clients continue to support InfoMart because of its individualized service, its technology and its deep understanding of how the screening and hiring process works.
InfoMart is large enough to handle the volume of its national accounts but small enough to treat each customer as if it were InfoMart’s only customer. While InfoMart’s leaders know that the company must remain competitive with its price structure, they also know price is not the most important factor in choosing InfoMart for screening services.
“InfoMart is dedicated to providing top-notch customer service,” says Jay Boyles, who works in protection and preventive services for FedEx Ground. “The customer service team takes pride in their work and is knowledgeable regarding state laws and our business rules, and when tasked with a hot-button issue, they make it a priority to resolve it in a timely manner.”
How to reach: InfoMart, (770) 984-2727, www.infomart-usa.com
Enterprise business software provider I.B.I.S. Inc. emphasizes what it calls its vertical focus to customer service. By specializing in understanding of its clients’ businesses and helping manufacturers and distributors run their business more effectively, I.B.I.S. limits the price factor for prospective clients.
By offering what it calls Discovery sessions, I.B.I.S. gets to know the prospective client’s business in great depth. “The value of partnering with I.B.I.S. is a trusted relationship,” says Timothy Roe, director of sales and marketing at NSPI. “They are very knowledgeable about our business and will be here for us after the initial implementation.”
Under the guidance of CEO Andy Vabulas, I.B.I.S. hosts its clients twice a year to develop their Microsoft software skills. In the first meeting, a Microsoft user event called Convergence, I.B.I.S. helps clients choose their schedules and hosts them for a reception. The second event, called iSight, is exclusive to I.B.I.S. Offered in Atlanta and Charlotte, iSight is a no-cost event held for I.B.I.S. clients. The iSight event provides users with valuable tips and tricks on how to use technology in a more beneficial way. It also teaches them new skills and gives them the opportunity to network with other clients and to share solutions with each other.
I.B.I.S. has a help desk called DynamicsCare staffed by three full-time experts, all of whom are certified on all Microsoft products. I.B.I.S. clients have the option of purchasing an unlimited DynamicsCare plan, which gives them around-the-clock access to the company’s help-desk experts; alternatively, clients can purchase a DynamicsCare pack, which guarantees them a three-hour response time.
I.B.I.S.’s culture includes a top-down approach to motivate employees to be creative and productive for the benefit of the company’s clients. I.B.I.S.’s executives pride themselves on empowering their staff to create an environment focused on learning, education and continuous training.
How to reach: I.B.I.S. Inc., (770) 368-4000, www.ibisinc.com
CSI Laboratories considers client service a way of life. The specialized cancer diagnostics lab encourages its team members to strive to improve client service every day in their interactions with one another, with clients, with vendors and with everyone else with which they come in contact.
Led by President and CEO Heather Creran, CSI works with pathologists and oncologists to help determine correct diagnoses and select the best treatment options for their patients. Each day CSI receives patients’ biopsies from across the country. Its medical, lab and operations teams test and analyze the material and provide timely information to answer the critical questions facing each patient.
Even though CSI never sees a patient in its facility, patients come first in everything CSI does. The lab’s team members understand that behind every biopsy is a patient and a family anxiously waiting for the results of their test and how it will impact them. CSI knows that the time spent waiting for results can seem like a lifetime, so its team members strive to get the right answers as quickly as possible.
CSI does not offer any testing that is unique or proprietary and most of its testing is paid for by insurance. Therefore, CSI works to differentiate itself through the level of quality and services it provides — the quality and accuracy of its tests and results, the speed with which it is able to complete the testing and the information systems it uses to convey the answers to its clients.
“We depend on CSI’s quality, speed and collaborative approach to keep our clients happy,” says Dr. Julie Plumbley of Blue Ridge Pathologists and Augusta Medical Center in Staunton, Va. “CSI’s service is second to none. They demonstrate it every day. They may be our send-out lab, but it feels like they’re right here in the community with us.”
How to reach: CSI Laboratories, (678) 248-8000, www.csilaboratories.com
Connectivity Wireless Solutions was founded in 2008 by wireless and utility industry veterans who had gained their experience working with complex customers for many years. This broad-based experience has catalyzed the wireless telecommunications provider’s customer-service culture.
Led by President and CEO Greg Jacobs, Connectivity delivers best-in-class consulting, engineering, project management, installation and staffing services to wireless carriers and enterprise customers. The company offers a full turnkey solution and manages the entire process, allowing customers to focus on their core business.
Since its formation four years ago, Connectivity has grown explosively. The company now has more than 100 team members and has reaped strong financial growth as a result of a leadership edict that “Customer service is everything, and everything we do is customer service.”
Connectivity’s leaders believe that if the company delivers the best customer experience in the industry, price will not be as influential a factor. Customers make purchase decisions on complex wireless systems with project life cycles that last from six to 18 months, and they expect their experience to be perfect.
The key word is “experience” because team members look at every interaction during the project life cycle as part of a customer’s experience. Every touch point is important. Whether it is Connectivity’s website, proposal documentation, an email exchange between the customer and a Connectivity construction manager or a conversation with a member one of Connectivity’s field teams, if the customer is satisfied with the interaction, repeat business and new business will follow.
“Connectivity’s team did wonderful work completing the recent installation of Sprint CDMA and iDEN antennas in three of our campus buildings,” says David Vessey, director of information technology with Hospice of the Comforter in Altamonte Springs, Fla. “They could not have been more accommodating and always strived to make everything about the installation as aesthetically pleasing as they could.”
How to reach: Connectivity Wireless Solutions, (678) 584-5799, www.connectivitywireless.com
As a provider of outsourced IT services, BlueWave Computing LLC regards service as the core of its mission and its key competitive advantage. The company, guided by CEO Steve Vicinanza, ensures that its service is the best available in its market segment by adhering to four concepts:
- Hire the best staff possible to deliver the company’s services.
- Provide the training and processes to ensure consistent service delivery.
- Develop service metrics that allow BlueWave to continually improve the quality of its services.
- Apply recommendations from BlueWave’s customer panel to support quality development.
BlueWave has implemented a rigorous recruiting process that focuses on connecting with college placement offices to find the top students available in its field, and then it pairs its new hires with seasoned company veterans to reinforce customer service concepts and adherence to proven processes. The company’s training program provides a focus on teaching its outstanding young engineers “The BlueWave Way” to ensure that its customers are consistently satisfied with the service they receive from the company.
BlueWave considers every one of its customers a VIP and strives to deliver top-quality service to each of them. The largest customers are assigned a technical account manager whose responsibility is to make sure that the customer’s complex IT environments are managed appropriately and effectively.
The results are self-evident. A third of BlueWave’s clients have been with the company for five years or more. And Ecolink, BlueWave’s first customer when it launched 15 years ago, has continued as a customer through three changes in corporate ownership.
“I have seen BlueWave grow from a small five-person IT shop to become one of the largest IT firms in Atlanta,” says Brandon Pelissero, Ecolink’s COO. “So many companies grow quickly but lose their ability to deliver high-quality service. I’m delighted to say that has definitely not been the case with BlueWave.”
How to reach: BlueWave Computing LLC, (770) 980-9283, www.bluewavecomputing.com
Bardi Heating & Air’s corporate motto, “Always, always do the right thing,” is also the personal philosophy of its founders, Alex and Susan Bardi. It’s a tall order, but the company strives to live up to it, judging from the slew of awards it has taken home over the years, including this World Class Customer Service award from Smart Business and two first place awards last year from the Metro Atlanta Better Business Bureau for Best Customer Service and Best Community Service.
Bardi has a core of longtime residential customers that rely on the company for regular maintenance of their home heating and air conditioners. The company regards these maintenance plan customers — members of its “Bardi On! Club” — as its most important customers.
To recognize this, Bardi this year offered those customers two complimentary services: a free whole-house plumbing inspection (a $119 value) and $50 in services to use on HVAC or for plumbing repairs. The coupons, mailed twice to very important customers, have no expiration date to make them as convenient as possible to redeem.
As evidence of Bardi’s commitment to customer service, the company requires that its technicians call customers 10 minutes ahead of a home visit to ask if it’s OK to ring the doorbell. In addition, technicians are required to park their truck on the street so the the driveway won’t be blocked, to request permission to enter the home and to don shoe protection before entering. Some technicians even pick up the newspaper if it’s still on the driveway.
Bardi has a flat-rate pricing guide for both commercial and residential service. Unlike many companies that charge by the hour, Bardi’s upfront pricing is preprinted in a manual, eliminating surprise and excuses.
How to reach: Bardi Heating & Air, (770) 263-5355, www.bardi.com
The employees at Ashton Staffing Inc. regard every vacant position presented to them as an opportunity to bring the right people together. Headed by President and CEO Melissa Hulsey, Ashton has a customer service philosophy that instructs its associates to treat every job as if they were placing their best friend at their parents’ company.
Ashton employees often tell potential clients that their firm will probably not be the cheapest staffing option they will find and that if they are shopping for price only, Ashton is not the service they should partner with.
Ashton’s commitment to quality is demonstrated by the many professional certifications it holds. One of the most important is the Workers’ Compensation Risk Certification. The requirements for obtaining WRC include having strict application and screening protocols, conducting mandatory drug and background checks for all associates, and allowing a third party to audit all employee files for compliance once a year. A minimum score of 85 percent must be achieved to obtain and maintain the certification.
Customer retention is important to Ashton, and one way the company rewards its customers is by contributing to things that are important to those clients: sponsoring baseball teams, contributing prizes to special events, making charitable donations in their name. In so doing, Ashton has retained customers well. The company has many clients with more than 10 years’ tenure.
“For more than 10 years, Ashton Staffing has been the first choice for our staffing needs,” says David Agan, senior accounting and finance manager with KCMA Corp. in Kennesaw, Ga. “Their courteous professionals are attentive and always provide the proper person to meet our requirements. No matter what the opening, Ashton has been able to assist us with qualified candidates. We have enjoyed working with Ashton and have been very pleased with the results.”
How to reach: Ashton Staffing Inc., (770) 419-1776 or www.ashtonstaffing.com
Many companies that sell extended car warranties and vehicle service contracts compete based on price because there isn’t much product differentiation in that market segment. Automobile Protection Corp. — APCO for short — bases its value proposition on customer service.
APCO, led by CEO Larry Dorfman, provides extended car warranties under its EasyCare brand, as well as service contracts for new and used vehicles, and the company prides itself on not just offering a product that auto dealers can resell to their customers but going beyond that by helping dealers improve their customers’ satisfaction with a process of buying and owning their vehicles that APCO terms its “EasyCare Experience.”
While many of APCO’s competitors focus on only one profit center within the dealership — finance/insurance — APCO provides training and marketing materials for all six profit centers within the dealership. The company provides on-site training at the dealership, virtual training and conferences at its corporate headquarters. This not only helps APCO’s dealers increase revenue, it gives the company opportunities to serve its dealers’ customers at multiple points of contact.
When the customer has a positive experience with one of APCO’s products, it increases their satisfaction with the dealership that issued the product. Companies that complete in APCO’s segment as low-cost leaders may earn their dealers more profit on the initial sale of the contract, but if their coverage or service fails to meet customer expectations, that sometimes translates into customer churn.
“The service APCO provides is critical in helping us retain our valued customers,” says Mark Gulbrandson, CEO of the Apple Auto Group in Minnesota’s Twin Cities. “Nothing is more important to us than customer satisfaction, and APCO is a partner that understands that. Their EasyCare products allow us to improve the experience of purchasing and owning a vehicle.”
How to reach: Automobile Protection Corp., (678) 225-1000 or www.easycare.com
Purchases in the multibillion-dollar laminated polywoven segment of the packaging industry have historically been price-driven, but Anduro Manufacturing, led by President and CEO Marc Datelle, has changed the dynamic by developing processes and systems that address key customer concerns.
Turnaround time is a good example. In the woven packaging industry, turnaround time has historically been long and unreliable — 16 weeks or more from order to delivery in most cases — because the only source for affordable biaxially oriented polypropylene packaging was from suppliers based in Asia. In 2012, Anduro completed a project to localize the process of bag production, from sourcing the raw materials to specialized printing to its own manufacturing and shipping activities, from its plant in Honduras.
The closer-to-home production has enabled Anduro to reduce turnaround time on orders from U.S. producers to a dependable 45 days or less. In the process, Anduro has made biaxially oriented polypropylene packaging more affordable, which allows producers to convert more of their products to the preferred packaging.
Between 2009 and 2011, Anduro committed more than $8 million to developing innovations and improving operations. The company’s innovations have resulted in more choices and greater flexibility for customers than any other manufacturer in its Anduro’s industry segment. New technology and processes have improved performance and output at the plant, such as reducing scrap to less than 2 percent. The comparable figure under the previous owner had been above 30 percent.
“Through my 30-plus years at the head of three Atlanta business-to-business marketing agencies, I consider Anduro Manfacturing and its executives and professional staff the most dedicated to superior customer service of the hundreds of clients I have worked with,” says Mike Shaw, owner of Shade Communications LLC in Marietta, Ga.
How to reach: Anduro Manufacturing, (800) 792-6990 or www.anduromfg.com