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

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

With goal of becoming the most referred company in Cleveland, COIT Cleaning and Restoration Services isn’t shy about asking customers how they feel about its services. Even as the largest specialty cleaning and restoration services in the world, the company still takes time to follow up with every client’s experience, asking, “Were you satisfied? Did you have any issues? Would you use us again?” And lastly, “Will you refer us?”

To be successful, every employee at COIT rallies around the shared goal of PWOM — positive word-of-mouth. To get customers to recommend the company’s services to friends, neighbors and relatives, COIT Cleveland President Harvey Siegel knows that COIT can’t be content with “good job” or “met expectations” when it comes to customer feedback. It needs to create “Wow!” moments that drive word-of-mouth sales to grow the business.

At COIT, creating “wow” moments starts with the attitude of every employee. Beginning in training, employees are taught to view the customer experience from the outside looking in — in other words, looking at service from the customer’s point of view. By helping employees put themselves in the customer’s shoes, COIT has built a customer service team that values the customer experience and the importance of doing the best job the first time around. Although the company strives get it right the first time, if a customer is not 100 percent happy with results, it also offers its COIT 4-R guarantee to reclean, refund, repair and rectify the issue quickly and to their satisfaction. This commitment to PWOM and 100 percent customer satisfaction is further reinforced in the company’s motto — It’s not clean until its COIT clean.

By delivering a level of “unanticipated service” that evokes an overwhelmingly positive response from customers, the company continues to build its reputation, one customer at a time.

How to reach: COIT Cleaning and Restoration Services, (216) 626-0040 or www.coit.com/cleveland

Published in Cleveland

While critics often point out that computers and the Internet are making people more detached and impersonal, BlueBridge Networks LLC with its total solution concept is very customer-centric on a face-to-face basis.

“We schedule frequent calls and meetings to sit down with clients and explore their impressions on how well we are serving them,” says Kevin Goodman, partner and managing director of business development.

The company offers business continuity, disaster avoidance and recovery services, providing a safe haven for IT systems necessary to keep any company in business.

Client and vendor feedback is used to improve and deliver a better quality of service. Daily staff meetings among other matters discuss any issues that have occurred within the previous 24 hours or over the weekend. Specific action items and tasks are assigned with deadlines for completion. Additional sessions are held to not only address an issue but to look ahead to try to predict changes that may be needed in the infrastructure or to identify class instruction that should offered or certifications that may be needed to obtain optimum performance of service.

The staff at BlueBridge Networks understands how important it is to maintain trust. Service level agreements guarantee a 99.999 percent uptime. To help accomplish that exceptional guarantee, the staff is proactive and honest to the maximum degree. Personal relationships are developed to include deep trust and comfort. There is a strict set of protocols and service levels that have been adopted to ensure sophisticated client objectives.

 “We must do all in our power and means to see to it that we provide an environment and atmosphere of availability, reliability and security,” Goodman says. Customers have come to rely on those principles at BlueBridge Networks for their day-to-day operations and compliance.

In addition, the company with its business partners is actively committed to developing a consortium of IT specialists to offer additional core competencies and added value services.

How to reach: BlueBridge Networks LLC, (216) 621-2583 or www.bbnllc.com

Published in Cleveland

It was an easy decision for Ray Dalton when he founded PartsSource LLC in 2001 to choose legal counsel for his new business. He chose the company that he had worked with dating back to 1990 — Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan & Aronoff LLP.

“I felt it was important to have Benesch involved right from the beginning because they’re not just legal counsel, they’re strategic partners,” Dalton says. “We expect Benesch to bring in whoever is needed to do the job the right way, and they’ve never let us down. If it’s a real estate matter, they bring in real estate experts. If it’s a tax issue, they bring in tax specialists.”

Benesch has made it a top priority to stay in touch with clients throughout the economic recession to help guide them through challenging legal matters. That was the impetus for the firm’s First in Service program that promotes client service as a top priority. The program includes a collection of policies, initiatives and training systems that were implemented around company core values that include everything from honesty, trust, integrity and ethical behavior to meaningful contributions to the communities in which employees live and work.

The features of the First in Service program include a software program that tracks client development activities, a training program for attorneys to strengthen the ability to most fully serve clients and quarterly First in Service Awards. These are presented to individuals at the firm who demonstrated exemplary client service, with a year-end overall client service award.

In addition, Managing Partner Ira Kaplan encourages attorneys and staff members to take responsibility for the welfare, progress and security of the firm. Employees are reminded on a regular basis that every team member is a Benesch representative as all times, and are urged to take only those actions which serve to continue and build the brand.

How to reach: Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan & Aronoff LLP, (216) 363-4197 or www.beneschlaw.com

Published in Cleveland

Ambiance, the Store for Lovers, aims to promote a better love life, and thus a better relationship, for its customers. However taking steps toward that — namely buying highly intimate, and for some, embarrassing, items — can be difficult for the average consumer.

That is why President Jennifer Downey has built a company culture focused on exceptional service and attention to each customer’s desires and comfort levels. The company trains its “Romance Consultants” over four to six weeks, incorporating an extensive training guide culminating in a 22-page exam. Romance Consultants learn how to get to know customers and foster trust through Ambiance’s proven “Think Like a Customer” program.

But the company isn’t resting on its laurels. It continues to improve upon its training and customer service initiatives. The “Think Like a Customer” program, for example, was recently updated to include the “180-degree turn” approach to greeting customers as they walk into the store. By greeting the customer with a warm “Hello,” then walking by to continue working, employees ensure the customer feels acknowledged and welcomed without feeling hounded or pressed for details about their visit.

To facilitate help while still accommodating those consumers who prefer private time to shop, Ambiance has also implemented its own brand of public service announcements. These in-store messages incorporate product knowledge, inspiration and humor to educate in a lighthearted way, nonintrusive way.

To maintain associates in tip-top customer service shape, Ambiance has revamped how it tests employees’ service skills. The company did away with its decade-long secret shopper program, recognizing that the secret shoppers were too easily identified by staff while they were also unable to critique accurately since they didn’t have real needs to cater to. Instead, Ambiance is in the process of rolling out a new customer-focused assessment system.

How to reach: Ambiance, the Store for Lovers, (440) 234-6996 or www.ambiance.com

Published in Cleveland