Some accounting firms customarily contact their tax clients only around tax season, an approach that can result in missed opportunities for tax savings. Skoda Minotti, led by Chairman Gregory Skoda, makes it a practice to stay in touch with its clients year-round, whether it is simply preparing a tax return or providing other services to the client.
All of the professionals at Skoda Minotti are instructed to take a proactive approach to client service, which enables Skoda Minotti to identify common needs among clients and, when appropriate, to fill those needs in-house. This was the case with several service offerings the firm began providing in recent years, such as professional staffing, business valuations, technology, telecommunications, litigation, small business services and marketing.
In addition to helping its clients grow via its business and financial services, Skoda Minotti keeps its clients updated on developments in the industries related to their businesses. On a quarterly basis, the firm sends its clients electronic updates with their choices from about 200 different industries.
Skoda Minotti publishes monthly e-newsletters with industry news and business articles for several of its niche service areas, and monthly and quarterly industry-specific newsletters covering information technology, real estate, construction, business valuation, litigation advisory, nonprofit and employee benefit plans. In addition, the firm’s professionals maintain a blog that is updated several times a week with news and analysis.
One of the most important customer service benefits that Skoda Minotti’s clients receive is the knowledge and expertise of the firm’s staff. Skoda Minotti’s partners have owned and operated businesses in the past, so they can provide insight to clients in that area. And the firm keeps its entire staff at a high level of technical expertise, with a commitment to offering 1.5 to two times the industry average of continuing professional education.
HOW TO REACH: Skoda Minotti, (440) 449-6800 or www.skodaminotti.com
The customer service philosophy of SS&G, led by its managing directors, Gary Shamis and Mark Goldfarb, is to provide exceptional service to all clients regardless of their size or profitability. Whether SS&G prepares a client’s taxes, performs an audit, or provides financial consultation, the firms strives to show every client it is committed to meeting their needs.
SS&G believes in investing in its relationships with its clients. The firm practices reciprocity for its services by engaging clients for their products and services. SS&G has a policy of working with clients before engaging outside vendors, sometimes putting aside cost in favor of giving business to its clients. Among the client products and services SS&G uses are printed and promotional material, cleaning services, copiers and interior landscaping. And SS&G recommends its clients’ products and services to others whenever appropriate.
At the start of each client relationship, SS&G provides a welcome packet to help the client become acquainted with the firm and its offerings. The packet includes a personal letter and literature about SS&G’s mission, resources available exclusively to SS&G clients and the level of service they can expect to receive. And to get to know clients outside of the office, SS&G invites them to sporting events, award banquets, and networking and social events.
SS&G has lower staff turnover than the national average, which helps ensure that its clients receive consistent service year after year.
SS&G makes a charitable donation each year in its clients’ honor to organizations with a presence in each of the communities in which the firm operates. During the most recent holiday season, SS&G made a donation to Alex’s Lemonade Stand dedicated to fighting childhood cancer. Each client received a holiday card informing them of the gesture made by SS&G on their behalf.
HOW TO REACH: SS&G Inc., (440) 248-8787 or www.ssandg.com
Akron-Canton Airport isn’t just popular for its airfare rates, which are the lowest in the region on average. It’s also an innovation leader in the airport industry, continuously adding and improving on features and amenities to promote both the ease and comfort of travelers coming through the facility.
President and CEO Richard B. McQueen leads the airport in creating such efficiencies, ensuring customers reach their destinations as quickly and as stress-free as possible. CAK employs people — not machines — to provide customer service, as well as general and flight information, via the airport, phone or social media outlets. Information desk staff can be reached daily until midnight, while Web-based questions are routed to specific departments and answered on the same day that they are received. Skycaps are also available to lend a helping hand and push wheelchairs — run through CAK’s new wheelchair sanitizer — through the airport.
But efficiency and quality of service isn’t enough at CAK. The airport goes to great lengths to ensure customers are also comfortable during their time within the facility. Professionals can enjoy the quiet, free-of-charge business lounge, complete with comfortable chairs, computers, a printer and a fax machine. Those looking to escape work can enjoy massage chairs in the relaxation stations, available throughout the terminal. And children won’t ask, “Are we there yet?” when they enter the CAK Playport. Free Wi-Fi also enables customers to pass the time, as well as download CAK’s iTunes playlist.
Additionally, CAK recently completed a $5 million project to build a new food court and add a completely new screening area. State-of-the-art screening equipment was installed, as well as additional screening lanes to speed travelers along to their gates. For those looking to pick up passengers, they can simply pull into the free waiting area and wait in their car while monitoring flights on arrival screens.
How to reach: Akron-Canton Airport, (330) 499-4059 or www.akroncantonairport.com
“What’s important to you?” That’s the question employees at Today’s Business Products know to ask every time they meet with a client for the first time. Recognizing that every customer has unique and specific needs, the national provider of office supplies and furniture approaches customer service by focusing on the things customers say are important to them. They call it a “roll up your sleeves and get the job done mentality.”
Under the leadership of President Richard Voigt, Today’s Business Products recently celebrated its 27th anniversary, continuing to drive its goal of being the first name that people depend on for their office products. Today, the organization provides more than 50,000 business items for clients and taps its network of 40 regional warehouses to deliver to 98 percent of the population nationwide. Even with such a vast reach, transcending the competition hasn’t been easy. Two words have been critical in helping the company differentiate itself with customers: unsurpassed dependability.
Whether it means coming in early or staying late, the company’s customer service team members are ready to do what it takes to get an order right, meet a client deadline or make life easier for a customer or co-worker. This mentality stems from a culture that engages employees in partnership, customers, the community and the company.
The company rewards employees who embody customer-driven attitudes with programs such as its “Gold Star” awards, which gives team members gold stars to put on the wall to signify a job well done from clients, and the Bravo Award for employees who go above and beyond their job duties for a fellow employee or client. In order to help employees see their role as a partner outside of the company’s products and services, Today’s Business Products also works with many education and nonprofit clients, donating cash and auction items to local charities and organizations.
How to reach: Today’s Business Products, (216) 267-5000 or www.todaysbusinessproducts.com
At Visual Marking Systems Inc., customer service is their competitive advantage. The company’s employees, led by CEO Dolf Kahle, act as consultants in the industry. The company’s staff frequently acts as a friend and shoulder to lean on for clients who are struggling to decide the direction in which they want to take their product identification. VMS provides support by giving advice and solutions that solve the product identification problems faced by customers.
To help facilitate productive solutions for customers, VMS developed an innovation center, which is often the first chance the staff at VMS gets to interact with a new client. The staff meets with the client to brainstorm ideas on everything from the best way to manufacture a product for their requirements, cutting options, shipping options, packaging methods and the best material to use. As a result of those meetings, VMS can often produce pre-production prototypes to allow customers to see and approve the product before placing a full-quantity order. By relentlessly looking for ways to improve products, VMS demonstrates that they have their customers’ best interests at heart.
All of the attention VMS pays to customer service is aimed at allowing their customers to excel at their own businesses. By making the purchase process as easy as possible, VMS allows its customers to focus on serving their own customers. VMS eliminates the burden of selecting complicated adhesives, materials and print options, instead evaluating the overall needs of each customer, and finding innovative solutions that meet their needs. By doing so, VMS allows customers to excel at their own company. By providing the services that build loyal customers, VMS allows their own customer to build loyal customers, strengthening everyone’s business in the process. VMS is a trusted partner for its customers and takes pride when they do well.
How to reach: Visual Marking Systems Inc., (330) 425-7100 or www.vmsinc.com
“Do unto others as they want you to do unto them,” is a rule that has become integrated into the fabric of Zinner & Co. and the way Managing Partner Robin Baum runs the accounting and management consulting firm.
When dealing with clients the firm is always conscious of the fact that not every client is the same and the natural or normal way of doing things may need to be altered to the various styles of different clients. The firm’s focus is to make clients as comfortable as possible in order to ensure they are happy with services and how they are provided.
While Zinner aims to treat every client as a VIP, there are always some that require a greater depth of business relationship in services provided because of their size or the volume of business they do. In addition, the firm understands that when a new client relationship is started there is only one opportunity to make a first impression. Therefore, Zinner strives to provide exemplary service right out of the gate.
The ultimate goal of Zinner & Co. staff is to connect with clients in a more meaningful way by finding out what is most important to them. This is accomplished through reaching out to clients frequently using books, literature, cards, personal communication, and gifts based on their personal interests. Whether it’s a season subscription for regional theater at the Cleveland Play House, a suite at Progressive Field to enjoy a night of baseball with clients, or a table at various not-for-profit events and benefits, Zinner wants to engage with its clients while taking in the best of local culture.
Zinner & Co. staff members also adhere to rigorous standards and undergo on-going training to maintain not only the highest possible level of technical skill, but the most satisfying client service experience possible.
How to Reach: Zinner & Co., (216) 831-0733 or www.zinnerco.com
At a workshop, I had an influential partner (let’s call him Larry) ask if he could share a story with the group. His story was about how one of his largest, long-term clients had recently changed its CEO. Any time an organization changes a CEO, all vendors are in danger of being replaced. So Larry went on to share that he knew he had to quickly demonstrate to the new CEO (let’s call him Greg) how valuable and how brilliant his company was, before it was decided to start shopping its services.
Larry admitted it was a struggle; every meeting that the new CEO attended was short and very transactional. Every time Larry and his associates tried to make small talk, share advice or demonstrate their expertise, Greg, who is known by his close friends as “Benny,” was not interested in engaging in anything more than the facts. Larry knew that once the company’s current contract was up, it was going to lose this large, long-term client.
That is when Larry started thinking about all the training, systems and tools he and his team had been going through. He admitted while he didn’t put much stock into it, he decided he had nothing to lose. He realized that there was very little customer intelligence he had learned in the few meetings. He remembered about F.O.R.D. (family, occupation, recreation and dreams) from the training and started doing some research online. Through that, he discovered that Greg was an avid triathlete and was a big supporter of multiple sclerosis causes.
At the end of their next meeting, Larry briefly mentioned that he was aware that Greg competed in triathlons and how it was a goal to compete in one. Larry said Greg’s eyes lit up. He started showing him pictures of different events and telling stories. He told Larry that if he could do it anyone could. Over the next few weeks, Greg was sending Larry advice, books and articles on how to train. Larry also found out that Greg has a daughter who is challenged with multiple sclerosis and that is why he is such a big supporter of MS causes.
Several months later, Larry was competing in his first triathlon with new buddy, Greg. Additionally, he has since become a supporter of the annual event that Greg holds every year for MS. Larry went on to tell the group how Greg’s company renewed its annual contract with Larry’s firm, but best of all, every note or e-mail he gets from Greg is signed “Benny."
Most guests wouldn’t come away from a hotel experience where their car had been broken into, resulting in a shattered front passenger window and stolen GPS, with a positive attitude. Even fewer would write a letter of thanks and praise to the establishment.
But Debra, a guest at the Hotel Equities-managed Fairfield Inn by Marriott, did just that.
She wrote about how the “outstanding” general manager not only granted her stay for free after learning of the incident, but also arranged for maintenance to vacuum the glass from the car before personally trying to tape plastic over the broken window.
“He put himself in my shoes immediately and realized the stress and frustration I had gone through,” Debra wrote in her letter. “He was professional, thoughtful, considerate, compassionate, caring. He did whatever he could to help send me on my way with confidence restored in the hotel.”
Hotel Equities founder, CEO and President Frederick Cerrone expects employees of all 50 hotels to provide excellent world-class customer service that exceeds expectations. By hiring service-minded associates who are then extensively trained in the vision “Excellence in Hospitality,” Hotel Equities aims to give guests a positive, personal experience.
Employees take pride in learning and remembering guest names for personal greetings, as well as remembering guest preferences such as pillow firmness and room location. They cater to special requests, such as cakes for birthdays, and will even call a doctor or deliver soup if a guest becomes ill. The Hotel Equities Associate Representative Team responds to spiritual needs or hardships among the hotels, performing random acts of kindness for fellow associates and guests alike.
Through individualized care from a service-oriented staff, Hotel Equities excels in quality, memorable customer service. The company believes that true world-class customer service comes from the heart.
How to reach: Hotel Equities, (678) 578-4444 or www.hotelequities.com
Just about every company claims to deliver the highest level of customer service to its clients. However, not all of them make customer service the biggest aspect of an employee’s job quite like Global Payments Inc. does. The electronic payment processing company makes sure all of its employees understand the level of customer service that’s expected from them from the first day they start.
Paul Garcia, chairman and CEO, and his team at Global Payments strive to provide the most trusted payment service in the world, and it starts with the organization’s training program. The company builds its training program around employees fully understanding what behaviors and actions generate excellent service as perceived by its customers. The organization’s employees understand the bigger picture and the importance of growing brand loyalty through extraordinary service.
New employees of the company endure multiple-week training sessions where they learn the ins and outs of the industry, internal systems and everyday skills. That training is followed by a one-week intensive coaching unit or ICU. During ICU, new hires are given real calls to handle and are provided additional support from seasoned agents to provide real-time assistance.
Global Payments doesn’t end the training there, it is an ongoing process for all employees. The company wants every employee to stay sharp, cross-train and remain focused on the customer. Unit managers, quality specialists, senior analysts and training specialists regularly provide team and one-on-one coaching.
The company also makes sure that the organization’s mission and values are known and taken seriously by all employees. That too is taught to them on their first day. Each employee is expected to know what the mission and values mean to them as well as why they’re the foundation of the daily behaviors and decisions made throughout all facets of the business.
Ongoing quality management with high standards and well-understood criteria is crucial to the company’s service culture. This dedication to quality is what helps each employee grow to become better and is what makes the company adhere to constantly improving its service to customers.
How to Reach: Global Payments Inc., (770) 829-8000 or www.globalpaymentsinc.com
President and CEO John Rasper’s expectations for his employees at DeKalb Office go beyond meeting high standards of customer service. The office furniture company actively challenges its staff to find new ways to improve customer satisfaction and enlists applicants and current employees in tailored boot camps to keep them in tip-top customer service shape.
Because the staff is viewed as the company’s most valued asset, attracting and retaining qualified associates is DeKalb Office’s first drill to ensure its customers have access to excellent service. Applicants are run through specialized testing programs that gauge aptitude, customer service abilities and favorable skill sets. New Hire Boot Camp is offered to associates as an orientation on company processes, allowing participants to spend time in several departments.
As the largest Steelcase dealer in the Southeast and one of only nine recognized Steelcase Exemplary Performance Dealers in the United States, DeKalb Office exercises a continuous improvement process beyond initial instruction. Product Knowledge Boot Camp keeps seasoned employees fresh and conditioned through training on Steelcase knowledge, products and services. This program improved upon the company’s previous internal product-training program, resulting in increased participation and quality of instruction.
The DeKalb leadership team also emphasizes the importance of customer service in departmental meetings, encouraging personal ownership and individual development as part of the company culture. Through activities providing quality concepts and methodologies, DeKalb Office raises the bar for employee performance. And hard work doesn’t go without reward. Those who provide exemplary customer service, as noted in customer satisfaction surveys or the Customer Letter Program, receive company recognition and their pick of an item from an incentives catalog.
DeKalb Office’s focus on employee development ensures customers receive solutions and excellent customer service from associates with high levels of service skills, integrity and product knowledge.
How to reach: DeKalb Office, (770) 360-0200 or www.dekalboffice.com