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Customer satisfaction Featured

6:20am EDT November 23, 2005
There’s an old saying that you shouldn’t mix business with pleasure, but the three owners of Perpetual Technologies Inc. have proven that old saying isn’t always true. Ryan Stephens, Ronald Plew and Chris Zeis have been friends for almost 15 years, and they also run a successful, fast-growing business together.

In 1997, Stephens and Plew founded Perpetual Technologies, a provider of on-site and remote information system services. Although the company made less than $1,000 that first year, by 2000, it was worth more than $1 million. And this year, the founders expect it to reach $6 million in revenue.

Stephens, president and CEO of Perpetual Technologies, says that even as it grows quickly, that growth must be controlled.

“We have always tried to grow at a very controlled rate,” says Stephens. “You have to be careful and control your quality as you grow. We’re fortunate in that we’ve grown very quick and been able to handle that.”

Smart Business spoke with Stephens about his company’s rapid growth and why customer service is so important.

How has Perpetual Technologies been able to grow so rapidly?
Being a technology company, the first thing you have to do is know technology and stay current with technology. If you don’t stay current with technology, you fall way behind the curve and you can’t provide proper support to clients and you can’t help them streamline their business with technology. That’s what we’ve always specialized in is streamlining businesses with technology and empowering businesses through data management.

The other thing is customer service. Most companies say that they have excellent customer service. But how many companies actually follow through on that? How many companies actually deliver that?

The reason we have been so successful and the reason that we have grown so rapidly is the fact that we have delivered on true customer service. We’re pretty aggressive. We do make promises to customers. We’re realistic. We follow through and we deliver on those promises.

We are able to provide the technical proficiency and the client services and responsiveness that clients expect. We actually try to exceed their expectations in every case versus just meeting their expectations

If you meet a customer’s expectations, that is the low threshold of where you need to be. Everyone tries to meet expectations. We try to exceed expectations and do it every case. By doing that, we have been able to keep clients for years. Some clients we have had since we’ve been in business.

We give the same level of service to our employees as we do to our clients. In a growing company, if you take care of your employees, then they will take care of your clients. That is very important, too.

The last thing is we build long-term relationships. We are not in it to turn a quick buck. Because of that, we have had low turnover in staff and have kept clients for years.

How do you ensure that you deliver quality customer service and exceed expectations?
We need to have people on staff that are good communicators - people who already possess those customer service skills. That is something that is very difficult to teach. When we hire people, we look for people with those attributes. Once people are brought into the company, we try to further ingrain that customer service mindset into each one of the employees. We try to instill an overall client service culture in our company as a whole. That is something we emphasize every day to our people because it is so important to us.

All three of us owners, every job we ever had has involved strong customer service. When you boil it all down, that is what has made us successful.

There is a difference between customer service and true service. Most people are motivated by money to give clients service. I think that there is a level of sincerity that people can detect. Sincerity is important.

If you are faking it, clients can see through that. We are really out to make sure that we’re providing good service to clients. It is a custom solution for every client. We don’t try to make every client fit into a mold because every client is different.

To me, true service is when you do something for someone and you don’t expect something in return. All businesses are in business to make money, but if you take that true service mindset into the business world and make it your priority to serve people as opposed to making money, then the money will come. People are willing to pay for that type of service because it doesn’t exist that much.

HOW TO REACH: Perpetual Technologies Inc., (800) 538-0453 or www.perptech.com