Wednesday, 31 August 2011 20:01

Service as a full-time job

Colliers International Management — Atlanta doesn’t have to stress a service mentality with employees because service is the very thing the company sells.

President Charles Swain and his team operate with the idea that customer service is ingrained in the identity of their business as a third-party provider of property management services. The exceptional service resulting from this attitude has given the company a competitive edge within its industry.

Colliers International defines service as exceeding expectations in personal interactions as well as exceeding expectations in business outcomes. With a variety of involved parties to accommodate including tenants, property owners and service vendors, company staff frequently deals with clients on a personal basis.

The company uses several platforms to empower clients and facilitate optimum customer service. Colliers’ 24-hour service center allows the company to respond to emergencies, as well as track the progress of projects and actions taken on behalf of clients. The Online SharePoint Property Portal aids communication between the leasing representative, property owners and property managers, allowing for discussion on projects and easy sharing of calendars and filed documents. Through Nexus Payables, an online approval payment process, Colliers International can ensure speed, accuracy and accountability.

The company also assembles teams within the company’s management division to work together to care for physical assets, monitor tenant satisfaction and assure financial accountability. To strengthen the cohesiveness of these management teams, Colliers International hosts regular team-building outings, such as whitewater rafting excursions and bowling trips. Many outings also encourage the continued attitude of service and productivity expected of all its employees, such as walking for March of Dimes.

Whether adjusting conference room temperatures before meetings, responding to a roof leak or helping a tenant with a payment plan, service is a full-time job for Colliers International Management — Atlanta.

How to reach: Colliers International Management — Atlanta, (404) 252-2288 or www.colliers.com/atlanta

Published in Atlanta
Wednesday, 31 August 2011 20:01

Pledging to product quality

When Atlanta received record rainfall in September 2009, flooded basements and soaked first floor walls were common. Loading as many personal items as possible on high shelves to escape the water, several past Closets and More customers did not take into consideration the company advised limits of their shelving. But when these shelves consequently needed repair, the company backed its product warranty and repaired the damages without question.

Closets and More President and CEO Jeffrey Lewis has built a company philosophy that a completely satisfied customer is the best form of sales and marketing. The Closets and More lifetime warranty is one way the company ensures customer satisfaction with all of its products.

The company has confidence in its product quality because it operates as a fully integrated solutions provider, differentiating itself within the market by designing, manufacturing and installing each of its custom solutions. By controlling its front and back end services, Closets and More develops an exclusive relationship with its customers. The company’s emphasis on a complete customer experience has attracted a loyal client base, with about two-thirds of business coming from repeats and referrals.

Company employees aim to foster trust with customers and provide a positive, professional experience. The entire design process is explained to a customer, as well as any customer preparation needed before employees show up to work on a project. If such preparation hasn’t been completed, such as clearing out a closet, installers take on the job without hesitation.

Closets and More hires employees who are expected to go above and beyond the expectations of customer service and uphold the reputation of the company. By creating a culture where customer service flourishes, Closets and More provides customers with satisfactory products guaranteed for a lifetime.

How to reach: Closets and More, (770) 421-0211 or www.closetsandmore.com

Published in Atlanta
Wednesday, 31 August 2011 20:01

Hard deadlines

When Kennesaw State University decided to build a new soccer complex, it expected strong customer service from Choate Construction Co., as the university has had Choate build 15 different projects throughout its campus.

But in addition to strong service, it also had a very tight and hard deadline: eight months in length so that the inaugural game for the Atlanta Beat women’s soccer franchise could be broadcast on Fox Sports Soccer Channel from the stadium.

“The original project schedule of eight months seemed challenging enough,” says Bob Heflin of the KSU Foundation. “Then consider, after several years of drought, we entered an extreme wet period in addition to freezing temperatures and snow causing us to lose 69 days to adverse weather. Many days it was difficult just to get to the job site trailer.”

Despite these challenges, Choate was able to apply innovative techniques to dry the soil and pour concrete in freezing temperatures in an effort to maintain the schedule. Additionally, crews worked nights and weekends to get the job done.

“The dedication of Choate people not only to the project but to the owner remains most impressive,” Heflin says. “From estimating to financials to on-site management and scheduling, their care and concern is reassuring. Add to that, the personal calls and visits from [the project manager] and [principal in charge] demonstrate that our project matters to everyone at Choate and is not just another project number.”

Founder and President Millard Choate wouldn’t expect anything less than this type of service. Strong customer service is one of the key values to the organization and its motto is “Reputation is everything.” By providing the best service, it has earned a strong reputation of quality, and 60 percent of its clients are repeat customers.

How to reach: Choate Construction Co., (678) 892-1200 or www.choateco.com

Published in Atlanta
Wednesday, 31 August 2011 20:01

Protecting what’s valuable

Chesley Brown International Inc. refuses to be another “polyester guard company” when it comes to the reputation it holds with communities and the customers it serves. That’s why in addition to supplying high-caliber security for clients and their multimillion assets, the security management company gives every employee the added role of ambassador of superior customer service.

Led by Brent Brown, who is the company’s founder, chairman, president and CEO, Chesley Brown’s culture of customer service excellence begins with training, so employees come to think of customer service as not just part of the job but the priority.

From the first lesson plan, the mission of providing customer-focused security management programs is a theme throughout the company’s training. Employees are trained not just in security protocol but with skills such as how to communicate with positive language, act professionally in difficult situations and handle mistakes. Completing training also requires employees to do a series of situational exercises in which actors portray hostile or verbally disruptive individuals who treat them with disrespect, so employees become adept at remaining calm and acting professionally in whatever circumstances they face.

To recognize and award success in its service culture, Brown conducts a monthly companywide conference call to acknowledge all security teams that have gone above and beyond for customers. Employees are also given ribbons for their uniforms in recognition for their accomplishments. To keep employees striving to achieve, Chesley Brown also places great value on employee recognition with its awards and recognition program.

Every new hire at Chesley Brown is instilled with the company’s service philosophy starting on day one. Yet instead of emphasizing to employees that they are security professionals who deliver premium customer service, the company’s approach is to show them they are actually customer service professionals who specialize in security. Chesley Brown’s dedication to its service culture has continued to earn it business with new and existing clients.

How to reach: Chesley Brown International Inc., (770) 436-3097 or www.chesleybrown.com

Published in Atlanta
Wednesday, 31 August 2011 20:01

Happiness by design

In addition to designing cell phone cases and accessories for mobile devices, Case-Mate is in the business of “designing” happiness. The company’s customer service philosophy is to make sure everything it does is designed to bring happiness to customers, partners, consumers and its communities.

Shashi Reddy, the founder and CEO of Case-Mate, leads the service philosophy at the company from the top down. In fact, Reddy often gives away his own, personal cell phone case to people that he meets in passing. Understanding that cell phones are actually personal extensions of their owners, he works to further a culture where that personal experience extends from the employees and the company itself. That is why the company’s customer service team is called the Customer Experience Group, their motto being: “making happiness happen.”

The Customer Experience Group is a close-knit community, and that family culture begins with training. While there is no manual that can teach the Case-Mate philosophy, there is two-week, one-on-one training session for every new employee. The training is broken up into four areas, beginning with product training, then systems training, policies and procedures, and shadowing. Throughout the training process, every new hire is given a training mentor to work with during all phases of training, which helps employees fully understand and embrace the tenets that form Case-Mate’s service culture.

The goal of the customer experience team is to make sure anyone who visits a Case-Mate location leaves with their expectations exceeded. Every employee focuses on making sure customers, many of which return time and again, are always met with quality products and quality service. Whether it’s offering special extras to repeat customers as a thank you or just because or adding a few complimentary items in with an order for service men or women overseas, team members treat every customer with the personalization of a VIP.

How to reach: Case-Mate, (770) 888-9965 or www.case-mate.com

Published in Atlanta
Wednesday, 31 August 2011 20:01

Team spirit

Each year, Philips Arena — run by Atlanta Spirit LLC and President Bob Williams — receives 2,000 applications for roughly 200 positions. Hiring the right individuals to provide a world-class customer service experience is the company’s main priority, so Atlanta Spirit has developed an extensive, robust training course designed to equip each new employee and existing employee with the necessary tools to achieve their service brand promise.

Once new employees are hired, they must attend a four-hour orientation that covers all necessary information for arena operations, and trains them on how to elevate simple tasks to create an even better experience for the customers who attend events in the area year-round.

After orientation, each employee works a four-hour shift with an existing employee, who becomes the new employee’s mentor. During a new employee’s tenth shift on the job, the person’s mentor shadows them to ensure that all processes and procedures are being observed.

Atlanta Spirit hires employees based on their desire to add value to the customer service experience at Philips Arena. Employees must quickly identify customer needs, find ways to create a shared experience and discover new ways to develop a “stickiness” factor that will get customers wanting to come back to the arena for future events.

But as much as the company expects its employees to provide in regard to the customer service experience, Atlanta Spirit strives to do the same for them. The company has implemented an employee retention program that rewards employees on an ongoing basis, based on the belief that recognition is a motivator to providing great customer service.

The Philips Arena customer service department has created a recognition program that includes recognition for one employee each month, who is selected to receive a gift for their work. The department also recognizes star performers each year at a staff banquet.

How to reach: Atlanta Spirit LLC, (404) 878-3000 or www.philipsarena.com

Published in Atlanta
Wednesday, 31 August 2011 21:01

A personal touch to business

Ashton Staffing has used service as a competitive advantage within its industry, emphasizing a personal approach to connecting associates with companies.

President and CEO Melissa Hulsey’s company focus on individualized connections has ensured a high rate of customer retention. After matching a candidate with a job, an Ashton representative checks in on the first day, second day and weekly to confirm both the client’s and employee’s satisfaction with the position. Results of these quality assurance calls are recorded, as well as customer feedback and suggestions for improvement, to ensure the company is providing high-quality customer service.

The company prides itself on treating clients as people as opposed to products. Ashton employees implement small tools, such as handwritten notes, birthday cards and thank-you notes, to make a big difference with their customers. The company also emphasizes rewarding clients by contributing to things that are important to them, whether it be sponsoring a baseball team, providing a prize for a special event or contributing to a charity in their name.

Ranked as the best place to work in Atlanta in a 2005 issue of the Atlanta Business Chronicle, as well as one of the best places to work in Georgia in a 2006 issue of Georgia Trend magazine, Ashton Staffing takes a strong stance on quality, personal interactions with its own employees, in addition to clients. This internal strategy encourages a positive atmosphere of service that enhances Ashton staff interactions with clients.

The company provides extensive training for new hires, continuing education and advancement, and encourages employee growth and internal promotion. Ashton associates are also given performance-based bonuses and profit-sharing incentives, encouraging active staff participation.

The distinct care and attention given to Ashton Staffing clients, as well as the company’s own employees, have distinguished the company and bolstered customer retention.

How to reach: Ashton Staffing, (770) 419-1776 or www.ashtonstaffing.com

Published in Atlanta
Wednesday, 31 August 2011 20:01

Manufacturing a service strategy

It was a customer service strategy that got Anduro Manufacturing into the woven polypropylene packaging industry in 2009. Marc Datelle, president and CEO of the woven packaging manufacturer for seed and feed products, and his team saw huge potential for the product and ways they could revolutionize the industry.

The U.S. animal feeds market for woven bags was in its infancy when Anduro began business in 2009, but it was already valued well in excess of a billion bags a year and demand was growing. The woven bags provided unmatched durability and had the capability for graphics. However, the industry had some issues customers weren’t happy about.

Suppliers were, for the most part, unsophisticated, and there were major problems in the delivery of the bags. Nearly all of the bags and the raw materials originated in Asia and turnaround time on orders took roughly four months. There was also a tariff on the materials because it was coming from China. Anduro was approached by a company that had a facility in Honduras to cut down on delivery time and eliminate the tariff issue. Anduro eventually bought that business and began initiating necessary changes to improve the industry and better meet customer needs.

The company’s first move was to address operational deficiencies that were at the center of customer dissatisfaction. The company implemented SAP facility management systems and upgraded the manufacturing hardware. Most important, the company hired sales and customer service professionals who were experienced in the industry. Anduro didn’t stop there.

The organization knew it had an opportunity to beat its competition in the industry and focused on innovative ways to better serve customers. Instead of waiting for materials to come in from China, Anduro bought looms and began making its own woven polypropylene near its facility in Honduras. The company also formed partnerships with printers who could execute the special printing process needed for graphics.

Along with these innovations, Anduro’s employees are trained to look for potential problems that could slow down delivery time or cause a product to not be high quality. Those innovations and quality improvements have resulted in more choices and greater flexibility for their customers than any other manufacturer in the industry. Today, Anduro’s Durofab brand bags are the highest-quality woven packaging and are delivered to customers in 45 days or less.

How to Reach: Anduro Manufacturing, (800) 792-6990 or www.anduromfg.com

Published in Atlanta
Wednesday, 31 August 2011 20:01

Silver lining

Several years ago, AGCO Corp. suffered a company tragedy when its COO and another top executive were killed in a plane crash. The company had a memorial service at its headquarters, and numerous customers attended the ceremony, many driving through the night several hours to make it.

During the service, one customer after another went to the podium to speak not just about those who had died in the accident but about how many of the executives across the company had built personal relationships with them. It was certainly a testament of how well the agriculture manufacturing equipment company had treated its customers.

“I deal with many clients, but AGCO is one of a kind,” says Benton J. Mathis Jr. of Freeman Mathis & Gary LLP. “If every American manufacturer did business like AGCO does with its customers, in terms of building a quality product and providing exemplary customer service, we would be in a far better economy in this country.”

While that accident occurred several years ago and the company has changed a lot as it’s grown, one thing hasn’t changed — its commitment to strong customer service. Under the leadership of Chairman, President and CEO Martin Richenhagen, AGCO still strives to provide the best products and service possible to its customers around the world. He recognizes that one of the most powerful criteria a farmer will use in determining who to buy from is the quality of the dealer who sells and services that equipment. As such, the company provides significant support to its dealers in order to improve the quality of that network. It monitors each dealer’s performance and profitability and established programs that focus on continual dealer improvement.

By focusing on customer service, AGCO is ensuring that it continues to grow and be a leader in the industry.

How to reach: AGCO Corp., (770) 813-9200 or www.agcocorp.com

Published in Atlanta
Wednesday, 31 August 2011 20:31

Sponsors notes

Habif, Arogeti & Wynne LLP

Describe your organization’s philosophy of customer service?

Our goal is to let every client know they are important to us. We serve businesses of every size, both domestically and internationally. In every engagement, we strive to be responsive and add value, but we don’t and won’t stop there. We see ourselves as entrepreneurs, and that approach to problem-solving mirrors the way most of our clients approach business. So, in addition to competent, quality services, we seek deep relationships with our clients so that we can truly help them achieve their business goals.

Provide a case study that illustrates this philosophy?

When Closets and More needed an audit firm, the company reviewed interviewed at least six CPA firms. They selected Habif, Arogeti & Wynne based on our history of service with their CFO. Closets and More’s first audit covered two and a half years of financials. Jeffrey J. Lewis, president and CEO of Closets and More, said HA&W put together a package of services specifically tailored to meet their requirements.

“It was a challenging audit and there had been a transaction four years earlier,” he says. “Cleaning up some of the past practices took awhile. The expertise and capabilities HA&W brought to the table were very important to us.”

HA&W sought to bring value beyond the audit.

“Habif, Arogeti & Wynne are so entrenched in the community that their outside relationships are as important, or more important, to the growth and success of our business,” Lewis says. “There are continual seminars, webinars and opportunities to meet and greet other people in the industry. The opportunity to continue to work with those people has led to the point where we’re running two-thirds of our business on repeats and referrals.”

Lewis says the key to Closet and More’s success is taking care of every customer every day. “There is no question that Habif, Arogeti & Wynne is the correct choice for us.”

Learn more at www.hawcpa.com.

Northwestern Benefit Corp. of Georgia

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

At Northwestern Benefit, our culture is intentional and purposeful. It is the foundation for our success. We place emphasis on our core values, the way we build lasting relationships and exceeding our clients’ expectations.

Before we can create an intentional service culture, we must be clear about the business we are in, which is client advocacy, plain and simple. Without a clear service vision and written service strategy, it would be impossible for us to have an intentional service culture. We are not a company that expects just our ‘customer service’ representatives to uphold extraordinary customer service; we expect all of our associates, from our CEO to our front receptionist, to provide world-class service.

Through our leadership team, we are teaching, training and measuring our associates every day against these standards. In the regular practice of our 25 Tenets, we teach our associates to recognize all opportunities to exceed customers’ expectations, regardless of the circumstances, and to practice blameless problem-solving. Also, it is important that all of our associates clearly understand our nonnegotiable standards, those actions and practices that we will always do, and those we should never do.

Our service brand promises are at the forefront of every decision we make, both with internal and external clients:

•          Create a feeling

•          Keep it simple

•          Drop it in their hands

•          Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t do

In order to maintain a resilient service culture, we must empower our associates to take all necessary steps to make Northwestern Benefit easy to do business with by continuously scrutinizing our customer service cycle, which is all the points of contact and interaction that our customers will encounter when doing business with us. It is important to us that associates are given the authority to fully engage and take action to quickly resolve problems; we believe empowerment shouldn’t just be in the hands of management.

Learn more at www.nbcga.com.

Freeman Mathis & Gary LLP

What is your philosophy of customer service?

Freeman Mathis & Gary LLP strongly believes in certain core values that always govern our conduct in the practice of law and representation of our clients. And one of those core values is a true commitment to delivering the highest level of support and service to our clients and doing so with integrity, honesty and superior competence.

‘Client-Centered — Results Driven’ is not only our motto, but it also is our philosophy. We understand that clients, like people, have different needs. That is why we tailor our representation of client matters in the manner most appropriate to the client’s needs. Every client is important to our firm, and we strive to make them feel that way in our communications with them. Whether it is responding to phone calls promptly or e-mailing our client with the latest development, we excel in communicating with our clients in a timely and efficient manner so they can make practical and effective decisions. Or, in many instances, our client-driven philosophy is highlighted when we are asked to get involved in a time-sensitive matter that requires the immediate attention of our lawyers and staff.

Can you provide an example in action?

One of our clients, a national logistics company, called us worried when one of their employees left and began using confidential information in the solicitation of current customers. As one of our client’s customers already had left to go with the former employee’s new company, lawyers from our labor and employment team quickly put together a complaint and filed a lawsuit where we asked the court to enjoin the former employee from using confidential information in the solicitation of customers. After the lawsuit was filed, the former employee voluntarily agreed to pay our client a sum of money and, most importantly, agreed to stop her unlawful solicitation of customers and to comply with her contractual obligations in the future.

Another example of our customer-driven commitment is highlighted by a unique service offered by our Transportation Law Practice Group. This group, which has extensive experience defending trucking companies in motor vehicle liability claims, maintains a 24/7 emergency response team. Through the ERT, our firm provides clients with immediate around-the-clock access to our attorneys and network of qualified investigators and experts. So, if a truck swerves and hits another car and we get the call about the accident, the ERT immediately moves into action and coordinates the various delicate aspects of the accident investigation in preparation for the defense of a future lawsuit.

Simply stated, whether it is an employment issue, a trucking accident or another matter for a client, our commitment remains the same. We are your partners in the law.

Learn more at www.fmglaw.com.

BlueWave Computing

What is your organization’s philosophy of customer service?

Many companies are forced to view IT services as a black box. There is little accountability or visibility into the process and little information provided about how the organization can better manage costs and IT performance. We excel at providing complete accountability for what we do and putting control back into the hands of the customer. We believe that by providing transparency into our actions and taking complete accountability for the outcomes that it forces us to continually be better at what we do and provide outstanding customer service.

How does your organization make customer service a competitive advantage and price less relevant?

BlueWave has invested years of research and development into creating a Web-based IT management system that allows us to fully manage and monitor our work and our customers’ networks. Clients can log on to an IT dashboard where they can monitor service levels, network status, their IT budget and spending levels, IT assets and much more. Our exclusive IT quality management system ensures continuous improvement of the customer’s IT infrastructure. The Atlas Dashboard provides unprecedented visibility into support call status, network uptime, monthly budgets, team performance, spam/virus filtering, asset management and more. The bottom line — BlueWave keeps technology highly reliable, cost efficient and under control to meet our clients’ evolving IT needs.

How do you go above and beyond?

We see ourselves as partners with our customers in their businesses. We are their IT department and take that responsibility with the utmost sense of urgency and importance. To ensure their critical systems are always available, we provide around the clock support for our customers’ critical infrastructure. For example, if a customer’s server should go down at 2 a.m. on a Sunday night, we will have an engineer working on it within the hour to get it back up and running before their employees arrive at work on Monday morning. The dedication of our team to this mission goes above and beyond normal support on a regular basis.

Learn more at www.bluewave-computing.com.

Country Club of the South

How does your organization deliver world-class customer service?

We deliver world-class service by ensuring our team — at all levels — delivers above and beyond any expectations.

This starts with our club and golf course. Opened in 1987, The Country Club of the South is an Atlanta-area club and golf course that is graced with unsurpassed natural beauty. Of all the Jack Nicklaus golf courses in Georgia, this Atlanta golf course presents one of the most challenging layouts. Lush pines and hardwoods, rolling hills, lakes, streams and granite outcroppings were preserved to provide spectacular natural hazards and scenery. Voted one of the ‘Top 20 Best Courses in Georgia’ by Golf Digest, our 7,000-yard, world-class championship Atlanta golf course hosted the Champions Tour Nationwide Championship from 1991 to 1994. All of these features and more combine to make The Country Club of the South the best of all Atlanta golf clubs.

It then extends to the homes where people live. Nestled away on more than 900 acres of beautiful countryside, the community hosts more than 700 homes in an unmatched lifestyle. Residents can find not only a perfect home but also a perfect family environment, highlighted by a quaint community center, basketball and tennis courts, swimming pool, as well as two well-maintained playgrounds and scenic vistas throughout the year.

And then there is the club, itself. The Country Club of the South is the perfect club for the busy family. We provide an unparalleled level of service. Our people and world-class facilities combine to create a fun and relaxing environment for family and professional activities, including business functions, weddings and other private events.

Learn more at www.clubcorp.com/Clubs/Country-Club-of-the-South.

The DiJulius Group

What is your customer service philosophy?

At The DiJulius Group, we believe in anticipating what our clients needs are. We do this by really listening to what people tell us and using ‘secret service’ to personalize our relations at all levels. Our clients are people who we get to know at a deep level and whom we trust as much as they trust us. Family, occupation, recreation, dreams are the types of information we look for in our interactions with our clients which help us create long-term bonds.

How do you make training an integral part of this?

As the leading customer experience consulting firm, we have to walk the talk every time. There are many organizations out there who do everything from customer service training to consulting. We differ from them not only by teaching world-class principles, experiences and systems but also by creating wonderful experiences in any and all touch points. This is only possible by being a team of certified customer service specialists willing to serve at all times. Though our culture is trained heavily on what are some of the fundamentals of becoming world-class, our rigorous hiring is what truly sets us apart. You have to love to want to serve others, to help and to go above and beyond. We can't train for this. Yet these people do come to surface during our hiring process. We can't train for attitude but we can train for technical skills.

These same people become the heart of The DiJulius Group. And together we set goals and objectives allays aligned with an ultimate cause. It’s the cause that makes teams move mountains and it’s a cause that makes people go above and beyond by their very own nature. Our cause is simple really: to change the world by creating a customer service revolution.

Learn more at www.thedijuliusgroup.com.

Published in Atlanta