At Firestone Country Club, members pay the premium of a private club membership in lieu of golfing and dining in public facilities because they value personalized customer service. The club, led by General Manager Mark Gore, strives to maintain the utmost in customer service, because if it doesn’t, people won’t perceive the value of their membership.

For this reason, Firestone Country Club regularly evaluates how it can improve its members’ experience of the club. The organization’s leaders believe that continuous improvement will keep the club at the forefront of customer service.

Firestone Country Club regards every person that walks through its doors, whether member or guest, as a VIP. staffers aim to impress everyone with their personalized service and attention to detail, including the club’s three steps of service:

-          Warm welcomes: Recognizing all members and guests by name.

-          Magic moments: Random acts of kindness and the resolve to make people’s day.

-          Fond farewells: Leaving a lasting impression and extending a warm invitation to return.

Each of Firestone Country Club’s front-line employees must pass a select test that ensures that they have the personality, work ethic, and “servant’s heart” necessary to work and excel in the private club industry. The employee’s attitude is key, so the club hires only people who demonstrate a positive attitude and an outgoing personality.

Firestone Country Club encourages employees to provide first-class customer service by recognizing them when a member or guest compliments them or when another employee notices them giving exemplary service. The club’s STAR Recognition Program enables employees to earn rewards via a point system. When employees receive rewards under this program, it underlines for them the importance of the service culture that Firestone Country Club strives to maintain.

HOW TO REACH: Firestone Country Club, (330) 644-8441 or www.firestonecountryclub.com

Published in Cleveland

When Findaway World was founded, the leaders wanted employees to feel empowered to act on their own to solve customer problems. So they created a list of core values that they hoped would serve as the foundation for the business.

This philosophy has served the company well and is a big reason behind the success of the world’s first self-playing audiobook.

Co-founder and CEO Mitch Kroll wanted a company that creates products that are simple for customers to use and one that has systems in place that make it simple to resolve problems.

Employees are asked to take responsibility and give respect, to exceed expectations at all levels and always do what’s right. They are hired because of their ability to embrace change and pursue growth and do so with a high level of passion. As the company’s name implies, they are asked to always, ‘Find a way.’

Kroll doesn’t believe in the idea of a few VIP customers. Rather he views all his customers as being worthy of that kind of exemplary service. That applies whether you’re buying a few products from his company or you’re a library purchasing thousands of units every year.

When problems do occur, a study is undertaken to determine what happened and why it happened. The idea is to find out what can be done to prevent the problem from happening again.

This is all possible because employees don’t have to wait for their superior to give the OK to take action. They have been trained to handle situations on their own and they know what to do. It creates an environment where people believe things will get done rather than wondering if they can be done.

It’s a big reason why the company has become such a success.

How to reach: Findaway World, (440) 893-0808 or www.findawayworld.com

Published in Cleveland

When a policyholder calls Family Heritage Life Insurance Co. about a claim, the company’s employees know that the person on the phone is probably going through a tough time. As a provider of insurance policies for catastrophic illness, accidents and fatalities, the company deals with customers every day who are overcoming personal obstacles, whether it’s the loss of a loved one, a serious accident or relative that’s been diagnosed with cancer. Sifting through policy questions and concerns is one more added stress. Now more than ever is the chance to make that customer’s life easier.

Family Heritage’s founder, chairman and CEO, Howard Lewis, has worked hard to make sure his company defies the cliché of the big, impersonal insurance company that is more concerned with its sales than customer needs. Recognizing the stress the company’s customers are dealing with, he and the company’s management team take a much different view of customer relationships, one where “above and beyond” service is the norm.

At Family Heritage, treating customers like family is a company standard, which is why customer service is one the five pillars of the company’s corporate culture. In the hiring process, every claims department employee is carefully selected based not just on skill set but also personality and attitude. With two sets of customers — policyholders and independent agents —  it’s even more important that all team members be equipped with both a friendly attitude and customer service skills to keep the claims process easy and efficient.

By extending employee training beyond just basic job knowledge and skills, Family Heritage has developed a culture where employees genuinely empathize with customer needs. Representatives are provided with ongoing opportunities to put a face on policyholders and learn about their unique challenges, whether it’s taking classes in stress management or shadowing a sales agent to see how policy sales work.

How to reach: Family Heritage Life Insurance Co. of America, (440) 922-5200 or www.familyheritagelife.com

Published in Cleveland

When a company celebrates its 250-year anniversary that means you have done something right by way of customer service. In 2011, Faber-Castell USA Inc. celebrated 250 years.

Faber-Castell USA, a maker of creative and writing products, manufactures many quality items, but it has been its customer service philosophy that has allowed for the company’s longevity and success. CEO Jamie Gallagher knows that people are important to the company, and he often will personally reach out to customers to let them know their voice is being heard.

Gallagher and his team at Faber-Castell know how important the customer service experience is to a company since they too have firsthand experience being consumers. Customer service plays a big role in the perception of and loyalty to a company and its brands. One of Faber-Castell’s mottos is, “Doing ordinary things extraordinarily well,” and is a motivational driving force within the organization.

In today’s business environment more and more system automation can become the standard. Responses become generic and human contact is limited leaving customers in the dark not knowing if anyone really cares. This often results in customers coming out of the experience more frustrated than when they went in.

Faber-Castell has found ways to extend the exact opposite to its customers and does everything it can to add the extra gestures that make a huge impact. The company stands behind all of its products, from a $5.99 craft kit to a $4,000 limited edition pen. Customers will get a one-on-one experience and VIP treatment whenever they contact the company.

From customer service calls to helping repair a product, Faber-Castell aims to leave every customer happier than they were before and for 250 years that philosophy has worked as well as the writing utensils customers use to write their thank you letters.

How to reach: Faber-Castell USA Inc., (216) 643-4660 or www.fabercastell.com

Published in Cleveland

When an out-of-state chef wanted a specific bowl for his culinary presentation, he was dismayed to find that no event rental company in the area could provide it on short notice. Other companies weren’t willing to be put out just to supply a single bowl and no promise of subsequent business. But after Event Source received a call requesting the item from its inventory, the company wasn’t so quick to dismiss the opportunity.

Even though the single item order wasn’t exactly a fit for the business and the request was six hours outside its service area. But by keeping the door open and promptly responding to the request, Event Source ended up securing a $20,000 order for the event and a long-term client to boot.

As a party equipment rental company, Event Source can’t afford not to be reactive to its customer needs. In the fast-changing industry, every detail can make or break the success of an event. The nature of the business rests on immediate response time and the ability to anticipate a client’s needs at any given moment. The family-owned company, led by President John Bibbo Jr., is only able to achieve this level of execution by making every customer the center of attention — there is no request too small to handle.  

With an inventory of 2,900 different products, in 645,000 variations, the company provides comprehensive employee training on product recognition and operations to ensure every member of its team can give a speedy response to any customer request. New team members attend training at Event Source University as well as ongoing training and bi-monthly sales meetings to learn the subtle differences in products, seasonal trends and industry news affecting their customers. By listening closely to each customer’s preferences, interests and life milestones, the company can proactively help customers execute their vision for an event.

How to reach: Event Source, (216) 901-0000 or www.eventsource.net

Published in Cleveland

Customer services is at the very heart of EmployeeScreenIQ’s business. The company is an industry leading global pre-employment screening firm providing clients with the information they need to make proper hiring decisions through the use of background checks.

With client assistance and protection at the core of their business, EmployeeScreeIQ’s team of managers and associates — led by President and COO Jason Morris — have had a great deal of practice in providing great customer service.

The company makes every effort to create an enjoyable user experience for customers, and their efforts have been well-received by clients, who have provided positive feedback on the company’s performance. The team at EmployeeScreenIQ builds trust among customers by offering simple and flexible screening options customized to meet a client’s needs.

The company can create customized packages by position or preload reference codes so invoicing can be tailored to customer specifications, and the team can format the company’s internal processes to best meet a client’s requirements, both on a daily and long-term basis. In addition, the company’s leadership uses responses from annual surveys and account reviews to help shape future strategies.

EmployeeScreenIQ’s approach to personalized service is a market separator for the company in what has become a highly regulated and complicated industry. The company’s representatives realize that a personal touch is often the difference between a one-time transaction and a long-standing customer relationship. With that in mind, EmployeeScreenIQ’s representatives will often contact clients for casual, conversational check-ins. The company’s philosophy is to engage customers and build familiarity and loyalty whenever possible.

The company’s leadership believes its customer service philosophy has to center on the word “trust.” With trust as a pillar of the customer-company relationship, the relationship develops into a partnership that can last for years and decades.

How to reach: EmployeeScreenIQ, (216) 514-2800 or www.employeescreen.com

Published in Cleveland

Abby Stancik, a financial adviser, was happy with the results she was getting from her workouts at Overload Fitness. But there was another aspect with which she was even more impressed.

“I really do like that the trainers take your workout as seriously as you take it,” she says. “There is not a lot of chit chat. And beyond that, though, all the staff is very knowledgeable in nutrition.”

She was very interesting in the connection between nutrition and fitness.

“That is as important to me because you can work out like crazy, but if you are putting junk in your body, you’re not going to get the results that you want,” she says. “Overload’s trainers give you good guidance on that. They’re very knowledgeable; they have tools at Overload to measure your body mass index, so it’s really kind of all-encompassing facility.”

At Overload Fitness one of the core values is to over deliver, says Jeff Tomaszewski, vice president and co-owner.

“We pride ourselves on going above and beyond the call of duty or what is expected of us from a client,” he says.

While Overload believes it offers the most efficient and effective exercise program available, the staff doesn’t stop there.

“We want the client to have a world-class experience every time,” Tomaszewski says.

From uniformed staff, to a 67 degrees temperature in the facilities, a ban on mirrors and music, a continuous training of staff on customer service and more, Overload offers world-class customer service.

“We have discussions about not only exceptional customer service experiences but also terrible ones,” Tomaszewski says. “At each monthly staff meeting, we ask each person to share an experience in which they implemented world class customer service in their personal lives. This has a dramatic effect on changing behavior, and it is truly amazing to hear some of the stories that come from this exchange.”

How to reach: Overload Fitness, (440) 835-9090 or www.overloadfitness.com

Published in Cleveland

Historically, the Council of Smaller Enterprises — COSE — has made its name as a health insurance provider for small businesses, relying on discounted rates to provide value to its members.

But over the last decade, as the health insurance market has become more commoditized, COSE has differentiated itself by providing excellent health insurance-related customer service.

COSE, which is led by its president and executive director, Steve Millard, has a member service department consisting of 10 professionals based in the organization’s call center. When members have a question or problem, they call on COSE rather than calling the insurance company directly. COSE thereby serves an advocacy role for its members, working directly with the insurance provider so members don’t have to.

The health-insurance-related services that COSE offers its 14,000 small-business members include:

-          Access to Ohio licensed health insurance professionals through a members-only dedicated telephone hotline.

-          A dedicated e-mail address that provides members a guaranteed response from a staff member to all inquiries in 24 hours or less.

-          A live online chat service through which the COSE member service team interacts with members and provides real-time resolution to their questions.

-          Free benefit review sessions in which members meet with a COSE staff member to review their health insurance coverage and needs. Last year, COSE conducted more than 900 benefit review sessions with its members.

-          Free information and consultation on issues related to health care reform.

COSE has also begun to provide a higher level of service to customers for items outside the health insurance sphere, including networking, education and advocacy. Serving its members in these new areas has forced COSE to step up its game in the area of customer service. COSE now takes what it calls a “concierge’s approach” to serving its members’ needs, with staffers taking ownership of individual members’ inquiries, following them through to complete resolution.

HOW TO REACH: COSE, (216) 592-2222 or www.cose.org

Published in Cleveland

Collection Auto Group has made a name for itself throughout the region by sweating the details when it comes to customer service. Starting with President Bernie Moreno and continuing to every employee in Collection’s organization, there is a universal emphasis on doing the little things right.

Collection’s staff goes the extra mile by picking up and dropping off vehicles that are scheduled for service, saving customers the drive to the dealer. Vehicles are washed before they are returned to the customer, and no interaction ends until every question the customer has is sufficiently answered.

At Collection Auto Group, services are not mere transactions. They are opportunities to educate customers on the needs of their vehicle and the array of services available to them. It’s an approach that builds relationships, as opposed to merely carrying out transactions, which helps to build trust and keep Collection customers loyal to the brand.

All employees at Collection are clear on the importance of the group’s customers. The company’s business strategy has been designed around the customer experience, and trickles down to all areas of the company, which is critical, since every employee at Collection plays a vital role in the customer experience — whether they work in sales, service or management.

Collection’s staff realizes it’s not always in preventing problems for customers — since some problems are going to arise no matter how hard you work to prevent them — but in how you react when a problem does arise. The staff at Collection assures customers that, whatever issue they might have, it is addressed and resolved quickly. While the problem is resolved, Collection takes steps to ensure the customer experiences minimal inconvenience. Ultimately, no matter what happens or what brings a customer to one of Collection’s facilities, the company wants to make sure the customer is taken care of.

How to reach: Collection Auto Group, (440) 716-2700 or www.collectionautogroup.com

Published in Cleveland

When PartsSource Inc. launched its ePartsFinder online locator for hospital equipment parts in 2006, the company’s leaders were confident it would resolve any issues regarding customer response time. After all, it enabled customers to receive replies to requests for parts pricing and availability in 30 to 60 minutes, dramatically faster than any other company hospital equipment parts provider.

But over the last couple of years the company realized that sites like Amazon.com and Orbitz were beating it by providing instantaneous pricing and availability for parts. Therefore, being the fastest company in its market niche was no longer good enough. PartsSource’s president and CEO, A. Ray Dalton, challenged his company’s IT department to build an application within ePartsFinder that would deliver instant information on pricing and availability to customers. Essentially, he was demanding that ePartsFinder become as quick and reliable as Amazon.com.

Last October, the company launched the new application, SmartPrice, and after some tweaking and training of employees and customers on how to use the service, customer feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, the company reports.

In addition, PartsSource has found that strong customer adoption of the new service has quickly taken hold. The company is experiencing a surge in new users, the first such upswing since its launch of ePartsFinder six years ago.

PartsSource also reports that it is seeing increases in parts requests and customer satisfaction scores since launching the SmartPrice application. As the company adds more parts to the available SmartPrice matrix, it is experiencing additional increases across the board in each of those key metrics from its entire customer base.

PartsSource’s mission has always been to improve health care delivery while reducing associated costs. Due to changing demographics and health care reform, the need to help its customers reduce costs further will increase dramatically over the next decade.

HOW TO REACH: PartsSource Inc., (330) 562-9900 or www.partssource.com

Published in Cleveland