What is your organization’s philosophy of customer service?
‘Patients First’ is the guiding principle of Cleveland Clinic. Patient experience is a key component of Cleveland Clinic’s strategic plan to achieve a coordinated delivery model that integrates patient-centered care with clinical outcomes, quality, safety and employee experience.
A culture centered on Patients First acknowledges that the technical aspects of what we do are not enough. It takes the integration of clinical treatment, empathy and the best physical, emotional and spiritual experiences to positively impact a patient’s perception of care and the outcomes of their treatment.
How does your organization make customer service a competitive advantage and price less relevant?
Cleveland Clinic’s management is based upon the responsible use of resources for the improvement of patient care. This means that medical waste is minimized and operational efficiency is rewarded. Clinic physicians work together in multidisciplinary teams to assure that every patient receives a correct diagnosis and the most effective treatment. The key is to provide seamless, coordinated care.
The embodiment of Patients First is an essential component of Cleveland Clinic’s customer service and competitive edge. The clinic competes on the basis of how well it diagnoses and treats patients, prevents disease, reduces mortality and provides state-of-the-art practices — all areas that can vary significantly among hospitals and physicians and where competition can drive efficiency and innovation.
How do you go above and beyond?
With a shared institutional focus on our patients, we strive to become better every day. By setting standards, collecting data, analyzing results and listening to our patients, Cleveland Clinic continually strives to innovate and improve the delivery of patient-centered medical care. We train our employees to be service-oriented and to help patients, families, organizations and individuals throughout the community.
Cleveland Clinic offers employees continual training, education and mentorship programs to develop and build essential skills. Changes and enhanced services are coordinated around patients’ survey feedback. Best practices are identified and adopted systemwide for the benefit of patients.
Cleveland Clinic is also committed to contributing to the health, wellness and revitalization of the communities in which we live and work. From offering free smoking-cessation programs and free limited-time gym memberships to all Cuyahoga County residents to spearheading the resurrection of Cleveland’s Fairfax neighborhood to attract new businesses, homeowners and visitors to the area, the clinic is an organization providing a multifaceted approach to health care within our community.
Since 1993, John Robert’s Spa has been one of Northeast Ohio’s great success stories, growing from two employees and 900 square feet to a collection of upscale salons and spas. It has been selected multiple times as one of the top 20 salons in America. During one of the most difficult business climates, Stacy DiJulius, co-owner of John Robert’s, was tragically killed in an automobile accident March 2009. All of this led to questions of whether this company would be able to survive the loss of their visionary leader? Would John Robert’s close? Would they have to sell?
“It rallied an already close team even more, to not let Stacy down and honor her legacy, to make sure we continue what all of us have been working for and believing in for so many years,” says Eric Hammond, who started back in 1998 as a manager of the front desk and, today, is the managing partner of John Robert’s Spa.
This is no small feat, considering the loss of their leader, and every business seemed to be reeling from the economic crisis.
John Robert’s had to focus on uniting its leadership team, reinforcing the buy-in of Stacy’s vision and ensuring the guest experience remains something that everyone is fanatical about.
It meant sharing the original business plan of John and Stacy, which was a couple of napkins they wrote on when they were out to eat, the months and days leading up to them starting John Robert’s.
“If everyone gets our vision, then being fanatical about the guest experience takes care of itself,” says John DiJulius.
While most of the beauty industry and other industries were seeing significant drop off in business, sometimes in excess of 20 to 35 percent the last two years, John Robert’s Spa fared substantially better than most. Sales remained even from previous years. How is 2011 looking?
“We are having one of our strongest years in our company history, we are up over 10 percent,” DiJulius says. “It is such a testament to our incredible team. Everyone stepped up, their commitment to the company, Stacy’s legacy and their passion for what they do is so inspiring. I don’t understand when leaders complain about employees today having little work ethic. We have such an exceptional group of motivated employees who do the right thing, all on their own, for each other, the guest and give back to the community.”
“Our plan has always been to open more locations, reach more markets in Northeast Ohio. We are always looking for opportunities to expand our brand,” Hammond says. “We also have a goal to open a cosmetology school that will be called the Stacy DiJulius Academy.”
When asked if there was ever any truth to the salons were up for sale, DiJulius says: “No way; I love this business, and I love my entire team. We haven’t finished what we started 18 years ago, we still have plenty more to do, provide more opportunities and be an escape for our guests from the day to day stresses of life.”
While many people complain about the work ethic of the younger generation, in world-class customer service companies, I see the exact opposite. They have cult-like cultures where their employees, many between 17 and 25, make ridiculous sacrifices ensuring co-workers and customers receive the experienced promised. Why do a few companies have these employees, while so many other companies are constantly turning over this same age group? Yes, one answer is that they select better candidates. However, I truly believe there is only a small fraction of people who burn with the service DNA to serve people. The rest are grown by great companies and their cultures.
Think about who are the most selfless, most sacrificing people you have ever come across. You will probably agree that it is anyone who has anything to do with the following groups: volunteers, charities, campaigns or high school or collegiate athletes. OK, next question: What do these groups and the people that make them up have in common? They make little or no money, and it is highly unlikely they can ever make any big money in this field, but they are part of a cause, part of something bigger. They are focused on their direct impact, and they have an abundance of pride and loyalty to their team, which is a special fraternity that they are willing to fight for. Many times, this is the same age group of young adults who we can’t get to show up for work on time. Now think of the great service businesses that have totally disrupted stale industries with a completely new model, energized by a work force on a mission to fulfill the experience promised: Southwest Airlines, Apple, Starbucks, Chick-fil-A, and Nordstrom to name a few. They created the same sense of purpose that volunteer groups, charities, political campaigns and scholastic sports have. However, they do one thing better: They pay their team members. A purpose and a paycheck.
A few years ago, my middle son, Cal, who was 11 at the time, read a book about a politician and became a huge fan and supporter. He asked if he could work on this politician’s Northeast Ohio campaign committee. I said I doubted the campaign would allow a minor to work for it, but that didn’t stop Cal. He called and called and finally got the NEO campaign director to meet with him to discuss how he could contribute. Shortly after, he was attending meetings every night, making phone calls to registered voters and knocking door to door. The local newspaper even ran a story about a youth’s rare commitment to a political campaign. His candidate ended up winning, and Cal is convinced he was the reason why. But think about his sense of purpose, his commitment and devotion for a cause — a vision. That is the type of thing I want out of my employees toward our Customer Service Vision and non-negotiable standards.
John DiJulius III is the author of “Secret Service: Hidden Systems that Deliver Unforgettable Customer Service” and “What’s the Secret.” He is also president of the DiJulius Group. Reach him at John@thedijuliusgroup.com.
Great customer service never goes out of style, but there are times when it’s even more appreciated than normal. SS&G has learned that recessions are a time when clients are thirsting for expertise to help them get through financial challenges and come out the other end in good shape.
It’s why Gary S. Shamis, the accounting firm’s managing director, pushes the idea of building partnerships with his clients. He wants his people to be like family to clients and his firm a place where they can turn for answers rather than red tape and more headaches.
The firm is always looking for new ways to provide that little something extra to clients to help them manage through stressful times. Free seminars are held regularly to discuss an array of subjects that directly relate to issues that clients are dealing with. The best part is they are most often held in the morning so as not to disrupt the rest of their busy day.
Often, the seminars are hosted by SS&G personnel. But when they aren’t the expert, the firm finds someone who is and taps into his or her expertise. The goal is the same either way: to provide topnotch insight and advice to help clients prosper.
SS&G has also introduced a secure client portal that offers clients access to important documents that they might need free of charge. The goal in these and other offerings is to always provide clients with what they need before they even have to ask for it.
Shamis encourages close working relationships with clients and an attitude of consistently looking for better ways to satisfy clients and provide them with even better service.
Between great service and tremendous expertise, SS&G leaves little to chance when it comes to delivering for its clients.
How to reach: SS&G, (440) 248-8787 or www.ssandg.com
While you might want to reminisce about the days of old and rock ‘n’ roll, that’s only a part of what Rock the House Entertainment is all about. Offering concierge-class customer service for occasions ranging from corporate events to weddings, Rock the House wants to create an experience that CEO Matt Radicelli and staff want customers to remember for a long time.
It all starts with the initial contact ? 80 percent of business is through word-of-mouth ? as the RTHLive software keeps track of all e-mails, conversations and other interactions with customers so that all departments are on the same page. Each customer is paired with a go-to person for the event; it’s the company’s “single point of contact” strategy. All full-time staff members are trained in assisting with every aspect of the business. This strategy is designed to build brand loyalty with the entire company so customers will trust the whole machine and not just the person with which they work most often.
New employees ? energetic staff members with good hearts ready to get with the program ? go through a detailed orientation program that includes company history, customer service philosophies, and mission and vision statement discussions. Then they receive training specific to their role supervised by seasoned staff members who have been recognized as sincerely embracing the customer service philosophies.
Rock the House even employs “wildcards,” staff members that stand by to relieve an ill team member, deliver replacement equipment and perform other duties as needed. As a result, there haven’t been any unresolved event-related issues in five years. Customers take notice that it is truly the company’s pleasure to be of service.
Highly satisfied customers are clearly the goal at Rock the House. The refund policy underscores that with the simple statement, “If you don’t get what you asked for, expected or paid for, it’s free.”
How to reach: Rock the House Entertainment, (440) 232-7625 or www.rthgroup.com
With a heritage that goes back to César Ritz, nicknamed “the hotelier to kings,” The Ritz-Carlton upholds his belief that guests come first and that the customer is never wrong. What makes service so distinctive is the hotel’s ability to perceive, empathize, anticipate and respond and to share something in meaningful ways with guests.
When employees are hired, they go through multistage interviews so that the executive team will be able to determine skills, work personality and their ability to respond to theoretical situations. In short, people who have a vested interest in wanting to engage guests and exceed their expectations make the cut; the rest do not.
New hires go through a two-day orientation to learn the history, culture and service expectations of The Ritz-Carlton. Training and development is an ongoing effort and includes a commitment to lateral service ? assistance from a person in one department to another department. It’s all part of the belief of The Ritz-Carlton and General Manager Joseph Mattioli that guests’ needs are important over other needs.
Four statements set the guidelines for world-class service: the motto, service values, credo and employee promise. From the motto of “We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen” to the 12 affirmations of the service values, the service philosophy resonates in each experience at The Ritz-Carlton.
A positive experience depends greatly on the heart of the organization, the ladies and gentlemen, as they are called. They are the ones who help promote open, clear communication, who are empowered to impress a guest, and are internal guests who offer their time to help each other while upholding the company’s service values. As the first value states, “I build strong relationships and create Ritz-Carlton guests for life,” and with the team focused on a common goal of creating exceptional customer service, it is only natural that lasting memories will be fashioned.
How to reach: The Ritz-Carlton, Cleveland, (216) 623-1300 or www.ritzcarlton.com
It didn’t look good for The Equity Engineering Group Inc. The company was working with a vendor to install Microsoft Dynamics GP on its server, but the installation was not going smoothly.
Unsure of what to do about the problem, the company turned to Skoda Minotti. The accounting firm determined that Equity Engineering Group needed to create a test environment to safely make alterations to the application without any risk of damaging the production environment.
Skoda Minotti jumped on the challenge and soon decided that if Equity Engineering Group contacted Microsoft, it might be able to reach a quick solution to its troubles. The company did just that and a solution was indeed identified, eliminating a major headache.
This ability to track down solutions and ease customer stress is a hallmark of the philosophy of service that exists at Skoda Minotti under the leadership of Gregory J. Skoda, the firm’s chairman. What makes it special is that the firm does not limit itself to dealing with accounting problems.
Skoda preaches a commitment that goes beyond the task at hand and helps to develop lasting relationships that benefit both parties.
While the firm’s core business is accounting, requests are also made for advice and counsel on business recommendations and personal matters and other areas that fall outside of that core. It’s part of being a company that people can count on and one that rarely, if ever, utters the words, ‘We can’t help you in that area.’
By emphasizing this approach to customer service through all aspects of the business, Skoda Minotti’s culture is one where solutions are always being sought. It empowers employees to want to help their clients and to make sure they do their part to protect the reputation and the tradition of Skoda Minotti.
How to reach: Skoda Minotti, (440) 449-6800 or www.skodaminotti.com
When the Ohio Buckeye Chapter of the National MS Society came to The Shamrock Cos., it brought a challenge to the company, which does marketing communications and project management.
The chapter needed to devise a new option for producing race event participant materials for its Pedal to the Point fundraiser, and it needed to save time and money while creating efficiencies on and before race day. Shamrock, under the leadership of CEO Robert Troop, was ready and able to assist. The company was able to create a final product that completely eliminated the need for manual assembly and any chance of error with race day materials. It also saved time, money and increased accuracy.
This is just one example of how Shamrock creates “raving fans,” which is its ultimate goal with every customer. It does this by adding value and delivering above and beyond, and customers are well aware that the company wants to go the extra mile for them. The raving fan theme is present in every department and customer service procedure.
Shamrock also believes that to create raving fans, its day-to-day performance must be stellar, and they must continuously improve processes and push the envelope in terms of quality, turnaround time and customer relations. To make sure this happens, the company has a statistical method it requires of all employees called the Problem Solving Analytical Technique. This requires them to identify the problem, identify all possible reasons for that problem, measure occurrences against the possible causes, determine the real root cause, implement corrective action and monitor results to determine that the corrective action has been effective.
As a result of all of these efforts, the company regularly receives unsolicited praise from its customers about how its team members satisfied them. That feedback, in turn, is then shared with employees, which yields continued dedication to delivering plus-one service and a continuation to exceed expectations.
How to reach: The Shamrock Cos., (440) 899-9510 or www.shamrockcompanies.net
In the office supply industry, you can very easily become just another name in the Yellow Pages. With competing companies offering many of the same products, Today’s Business Products — led by co-founder, President and CEO Rick Voigt — has recognized that the key to winning in the marketplace is delivering the best possible customer service.
Voigt and his staff realize that customer service has to develop into a large-scale philosophy within an organization. But they also know that great service can often be found in the details.
With that in mind, the company’s staff finds ways to make daily life a little easier for customers. Staff will look up previous orders for clients in a hurry — clients that generally know what they want but might need some assistance to find the right product.
In addition, the customer service team at Today’s Business Products can provide same-day delivery for clients who need to manage an unexpected situation. Company employees have even shopped at a competitor’s store to meet a same-day deadline.
The company’s delivery drivers also make customer service a priority. With all new accounts, drivers will meet with the clients to discuss delivery instructions, which helps maximize convenience for the client. After a delivery, drivers provide any necessary cleaning of the installation area before they consider a job completed.
Today’s Business Products has also made use of technology to make the purchasing and delivery process easier and more efficient. Many of the clients now use a small bar code scanner provided to them by the company, which enables the client to order from a customized catalog, the general catalog, bar codes on products or bar codes specially prepared for their storage or work room areas.
The company’s quoting, ordering warehouse and delivery systems all run on the same software, allowing for consistent communication between departments and a smooth service experience for clients.
How to reach: Today’s Business Products, (216) 267-5000 or www.todaysbusinessproducts.com
Although the industry of Staffing Solutions Enterprises has been commoditized over the years, the recruitment solutions provider has been resolute in pricing services based on the value proposition the company delivers.
The company is built on a foundational belief that savvy customers understand the difference between highly discounted services and service that is priced appropriately to support delivery of exemplary service.
With a high level of understanding of the market they service, Staffing Solutions Enterprises, led by founder and CEO Carmella Calta, has fashioned a specialized approach to building and maintaining loyal clients.
The company has a service standards program, which allows staff to make decisions based on what will benefit the client. Decisions are based on courtesy, responsiveness, accuracy, being proactive and efficiency.
The service standards have aided Staffing Solutions Enterprises in creating a business model that helps client companies better manage utilization of assignment employees. The company’s business model allows clients to save significantly because each assignment employee achieves a higher level of productivity, requiring fewer employees to work on each assignment.
In 2010, the company underwent a technology upgrade, improving its applicant tracking system and offering the system to clients at an affordable price. The technology saves clients time and money by helping them better manage the high volume of resumes received during the recruitment process.
Staffing Solutions Enterprises has also recognized the need to create an avenue for women in the human resources field to network with each other. Five years ago, the company helped establish the HR Executive Women’s Network, and continues to lead and grow the network, enabling female business leaders to meet and network with each other. Four times per year, the company holds informal meetings to serve as a networking opportunity. The meetings have served as a steppingstone for building business relationships.
How to reach: Staffing Solutions Enterprises, (440) 461-1652 or www.staffsol.com