Six key tactics to improve customer service 

Customer service is a key function of any business operation. Companies that place a strong emphasis on assisting their customers, whether it be in-person, online or by phone stand a better chance of winning in the marketplace. Those who do not may not only lose sales to competitors but may also incur a public relations and social media problem.

Here are some key tactics to help improve your customer interactions.

Develop a customer service strategy

Business owners, CEOs and executives should develop a strategy to ensure customer service is maintained at the highest level. This can include calling and asking for yourself, or some product information and analyzing the responses of a call center employee or sales staffer. What you hear may surprise you and could be costing you money.

Hire appropriately

Creating a customer service centered culture includes hiring the right people for the  appropriate position whether it be in the lobby, online or on the phone. Mistakes are often made  by just filling seats with warm bodies. Phone employees should have a pleasant voice, speak clearly, and maintain a smooth conversational pace.

Matching the person’s personality to the task is necessary to achieve optimal performance and results.

Commit to ongoing training

Customer service training is essential and should be ongoing. Studies have found there appears to be a direct correlation to poor customer service and no training program in place, especially for the employees who handle the customers direct.

Front line training, those employees who handle the customers on a day-to-day basis, and the ones that get “rated”, are often left at the starting gate. They are left with an “on-the-job” training mentality. A program focusing on training from the start will improve employee performance and generate better results.

Emphasize product knowledge

Your customer service team is not only the first cog in the sales process but they are also your brand ambassadors. Therefore, they need to understand details of the products and services offered. The team should be involved in product demonstrations with managers and others.

The more they know the better able they are to assist the customer and make the  customer interaction more positive and enjoyable.

Keep the customer informed

Good customer service begins with good communication. Your representative should explain what is going to take place during each step of the process. Placing a caller on hold for a long period of time or disappearing during an email chat without an explanation is unacceptable.

Should the call need to be passed on to a supervisor, or other contact, inform the customer of what is occurring. The caller will appreciate the feedback and professionalism.

Focus on friendliness

Our ongoing research indicates a lack of friendliness is the No. 1 problem in customer service.  Customers should be treated as welcomed guests when they call or visit your company. As most of us have experienced, customers are often treated as an annoyance or an interruption. Improving this aspect alone can help not only improve sales but also help build your brand.

Nancy Friedman, author of “Customer Service Finally Defined” and eight other books on communication, is president of Telephone Doctor Training and a sought-after customer service keynote speaker. Visit for information.


Going the extra mile

Roger Staubach once said, “There are no traffic jams along the extra mile.” I like this quote because it reminds me that we have to work harder and think deeper about what matters most when the orange barrels and construction fences come out — our customers.

Years go into preparing for major infrastructure improvements before the hard work begins. How can we ensure a positive, relaxing customer experience despite the construction that will surround them? At the airport, a relaxing customer experience isn’t just important, it is central to our brand.

Understand your customers

As we prepare to break ground on multiple construction projects, our top focus is on customer service. To protect our brand promise and help customers get on their way safely, it is vital to spend as much time considering how to ease customer pain points as it is to finance and design the project.

This is a team effort. We needed to get as many voices in the room as possible to think through all the potential customer contact points that could be affected by our construction. The team’s differing perspectives about our customers and how they use our facility helped us create that list and then find solutions to key considerations such as wayfinding, communication, signage and continuous improvement.

Travel can be stressful. Understanding your customers state-of-mind and factoring it into the decision-making model is key. To help make customers feel more comfortable about major construction or other disruptions, try to give as much advance notice as possible. Use your frontline employees to let your customers know what is coming and the duration of the inconvenience.

We send regular e-newsletters, update our website and use social media to keep customers, employees and tenants informed. We are also considering the use of CAK customer service ambassadors inside the building to answer questions and assist with way-finding to our gates. The personal touch, we have found, is particularly effective in reducing customer anxiety — going that extra mile, if you will.

Watch and learn

Since one of our major projects this year involves our main parking lots, clear and concise outdoor signage will be important to direct customers when they arrive. We will also take extra time to watch how customers move about the facility. From those observations, we will correct any difficulties we may have overlooked. Again, input from employees and management will be invaluable.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, we will remain flexible. Conducting regular reviews of the plan and tweaking when needed will help customers endure construction disruptions or delays with less stress. It will be important to empower the team to make changes on the fly as well.

Keeping a customer-first attitude during a disruption is critical. Many of these lessons — wayfinding, communications, signage, continuous improvement — can help your business maintain a healthy relationship with your customers. Don’t be afraid to go the extra mile, especially when you know their experience will be significantly altered. Your customers and your brand will thank you.

Rick McQueen is president and CEO of the Akron-Canton Airport. He leads more than 50 employees at Akron-Canton Airport, which has annual revenue of $13 million. CAK contributes more than $500 million annually to the local economy and offers the lowest average fare of any Ohio airport.

Dustin S Klein

Publisher and Vice President of Operations

As Publisher and Vice President of Operations, Dustin manages operations and all things content-related. He is a veteran business journalist, author and speaker; and oversees the editorial content for Smart Business and its business conferences and awards programs; manages the production and circulation departments; the Smart Business Books division; supports the sales team; works with clients to develop customized content solutions; dabbles in business development; and has key responsibilities for the expansion and launch of new markets, and creation of new products and services. As part of his operational duties, Dustin is responsible for developing, implementing and managing the company’s editorial vision, guidelines and procedures.

A 1991 graduate of Kent State University, Dustin joined the Smart Business team in 1997 as a reporter after holding reporting and editing roles at three different daily newspapers. He has held numerous roles at Smart Business, including editor of the Cleveland and Akron/Canton publications and corporate executive editor, where he was responsible for all content-related operations for the publications. He also co-founded, and later sold, Pyramyd Air, an online retailer and distributor, as well as eSports Media Group, one of the Internet’s first pay-on-demand content providers.

Dustin is a native of Shaker Heights, Ohio, and a regular keynote speaker on innovation, leadership and entrepreneurship. He has authored or co-authored four books, and has helped more than 20 CEOs and entrepreneurs transform their ideas into books as an editor or development consultant. Among his works, Dustin co-authored Stella’s Way (Daisa Publishing), which chronicles the life story of an immigrant entrepreneur; and edited and co-authored the Amazon #1 Bestseller The Benevolent Dictator (Wiley & Sons, June 2011), which he co-wrote with the co-founder and former CEO of OfficeMax, Michael Feuer. His most recent book, The Unexpected: Breakthrough Strategies To Supercharge Your Business and Earn Loyal Customers for Life, hit the streets in April 2015.

Dustin has received numerous awards for his business writing, column writing and editing, including a 2013 Distinguished Sales & Marketing Executive Award from Sales & Marketing Executives International (SMEI), and several Best Publication awards for Smart Business magazine. Under his direction, Smart Business Network publications have been honored with more than 100 national, regional and local awards for journalism excellence.

Customer base or fan base, they both deserve top customer service

One of the most common threads that runs through all businesses is the goal of building relationships that will endure between your front-line employees and customer.

If a business has a loyal customer base, it can probably say without reservation that keeping that client base is a top priority.

So it is with the business of baseball. Busch Stadium, the subject of this month’s Uniquely St. Louis feature, has been hosting Cardinal fans since 2006, and 21 million have attended Cardinals games there since the stadium opened.

While some may say the best measurement of satisfied customers at a ballpark is whether they keep coming back, it’s more complicated than that. Many factors can’t be controlled — weather, team slumps and player injuries, for instance.

But what can be controlled are the front-line customer service representatives who deal with the fans. Those representatives should understand the business of delivering customer service.  When there are problems, the representatives should know how to resolve them.

A CEO I recently interviewed offered this advice on how to find the right type of employees:

“You’re looking for good talent, people who have the ability to adapt and people who have the ability to learn,” he says. “When you interview people, look for who’s going to fit within the organization. You may not hire the person who is technically right for the job since you should be concerned with somebody who fits in.”

While that applies to front-line employees, a different approach is needed to bring results in your search for qualified management trainees.

The CEO’s experience showed him that recent college graduates are the preferred material for management trainees. On-the-job training offers senior management an opportunity to observe the would-be managers.

“Design a 24-month program,” the CEO says. “You rotate through, say, six different departments, four months per department, to get you to the 24th month. Then you slot them into a full-time job, something that they like that they’ve learned, for the first 18 to 24 months.”

The time spent in the program will serve to groom trainees for their specialty. Many new college graduates are malleable and open to career options.

“Look for somebody who can think on their feet. For any business, you need to go in and learn. We’re looking for good talent, where people have the ability to adapt, where people have the ability to learn.”

Make training a priority to ensure that your customer service representatives are capable of dealing with the most complicated customer issues. It is equally important to train your front-line representatives to effectively deal with people under the most delicate of circumstances.

You don’t need to be an expert to know that keeping loyal customers by delivering exceptional service is smart business. Customer service, however, isn’t a box that can be checked off a to-do list. New protocols and systems are not enough. Delivering remarkable service requires ongoing companywide commitment and continuous attention.

So, let’s play ball!

Terry Cunningham: Improving each customer touch point

Terry Cunningham, President and General Manager, EVault, A Seagate Co.

Terry Cunningham, President and General Manager, EVault, A Seagate Co.

Business today is more competitive than ever. With a few clicks of the keyboard, every customer can research, price check and read reviews of your product or service. Many times, with one more click, they can have that same product delivered to their door from anywhere in the world. Want it tomorrow? No problem.

So how does a business succeed in this era of the empowered consumer? How can it differentiate itself? I’ve given this question a lot of thought, and the answer may lie in a practice called Customer Experience Management.

Failing on the promise

Let’s talk about customer experience. How many times has a customer service representative ended a conversation by reciting something along the lines of, “I hope you received excellent customer service today,” when the service was less than gratifying? How satisfied did you feel after hearing their script?

Most businesses pay lip service to the idea of superior customer service, but when it’s time to execute, they fail. Their departments are structured to run their own processes smoothly, not to ensure their customers think, or better yet, say, “Wow.”

CEM asserts that if we put our customer’s experience at the core of our business and subsequently construct functional departments around it, we will gain that competitive edge. Yet, truly understanding the customer’s experience while interacting with your business is easier said than done. So, how does one reinvent a company with the customer at the center?

Start at the touch points

Begin by becoming aware of your company’s touch points — all the places a customer comes into contact with your business. Keep in mind that these touch points vary widely. They include obvious departments such as telesales and customer support, but these touch points also include the clarity of the invoice/statement, your website, your ad in the newspaper, a partner or retailer and many more.

We did a quick count at my company and discovered 26 touch points! Too many for sure, since more touch points mean more opportunities for mistakes.

After you’ve identified the touch points, do some investigating. Be the mystery shopper, in person and on the phone. Listen to the language a salesperson uses to describe your product or service. Do it again. Notice the differences between what you hear depending on who is serving you. How did their actions differ from what you wish they had done?

Once you experience every touch point first hand, you might begin to feel your customers’ frustration, pain and sometimes, surprise. Then you can begin rebuilding toward a satisfying customer experience.

Use CEM as a tool

Right now at EVault, we’re working hard to reduce and improve each touch point using a CEM lens. For us, that means creating simple, valuable, authentic and pleasantly surprising exchanges.

We want each customer to feel that every interaction with EVault was worth their time, was clear that we genuinely wanted to help, and that we did something pleasingly unexpected.

How do you want your customers to feel when they interact with your business? You need to find out and then rebuild.


Terry Cunningham is president and general manager of EVault Inc., a Seagate company. He founded Crystal Services, which was purchased by Seagate in 1994 and integrated into the company’s software division, which then became Seagate Software. He has also served as president and COO of Veritas Software, and founded, built and led two other successful software companies.

Home is where the heart is for Michael Armento and the tradition of customer service he wants to build at Torcon Philadelphia

Michael Armento, vice president, Torcon

Michael Armento, vice president, Torcon

When Michael Armento talks about Philadelphia being a tight-knit community, he speaks from the heart. As a young boy, he would often take a ferry across the Delaware River from New Jersey to South Philadelphia where his father worked for the U.S. Navy.

“There is some history and there are some good memories here,” Armento says.

This memorable locale from his childhood is now the place where Armento goes to work each day as leader of the Philadelphia market for Red Bank, N.J.-based Torcon.

That sense of belonging he has always felt for the area was front and center in Armento’s mind eight years ago when the construction management firm set up shop in the City of Brotherly Love.

“What we set out to do was hire only employees local to Philadelphia with deep roots in the region,” says Armento, a vice president in the firm. “Philadelphia is a very parochial community and we knew that for us to succeed, we had to base our Philadelphia office with Philadelphia-based employees.”

Armento and John DeFazio, Torcon’s project executive, felt strongly that potential clients in Philadelphia wanted to do business with people that they felt a connection to, people who understood what they were all about.

At the same time, Torcon was not a new company. It has more than 200 employees and is one of the most active construction management firms in the Mid-Atlantic region. Torcon has done more than $4 billion worth of construction in the past decade.

“The challenge for us was to learn how to introduce Torcon to the local Philadephia community,” says Armento, who has more than 30 employees in his Philadelphia office. “In the beginning, it was a lot of knocking on doors to visit with people John and I knew from years back working in Philadelphia. It was spending a lot of time out on the street, getting out there and introducing ourselves.”

The effort has paid off in the form of 3.5 million square feet of construction work in Philadelphia, amounting to $70 million in 2011 revenue and about $105 million in revenue for 2012.

Here’s a look at some of the steps Armento has taken to build a team that could make those valuable connections and ultimately drive growth.

Set clear standards

If you’re looking to establish a strong presence in your community, make sure your employees and everyone on your leadership team is up to speed with your expectations.

“Our strategy can be very complicated if it’s ambiguous,” Armento says. “We’re in the construction management business. The reality is it’s a customer service business where our client always and without exception comes first.

“I try to provide clear and candid communication with our employees on whether they are excelling or falling a bit short. I’m forever reinforcing the importance of Torcon’s core values so that any confusion is eliminated.”

The message is often conveyed through the prism of Torcon’s own strong history of close relationships. The company was founded by Benedict Torcivia in 1965 and is now run by his sons, Benedict Jr. and Joseph.

“As far as we are concerned, in every respect and in every level of service we provide, we act fairly, with integrity and with honesty,” Armento says. “Ben and Joe are the two brothers who run this organization and through an incredible amount of hard work, they have built a stellar reputation for the company.”

But without the constant reinforcement that helps drive smart decisions, a reputation that took several lifetimes to build can collapse in an instant.

“That is so true in our industry of construction,” Armento says. “It’s very competitive and you work hard to finally win a project for a client that you have been pursuing for quite some time. It’s not just winning the project. You have to work very hard to be sure you are providing the services that the client is expecting.

“All it takes is one little error or mistake and in five minutes, that reputation can be ruined. That is what I teach and profess all the time. Try to look at things from the perspective of your client.

“Then you can understand what is important to them,” he says. “Business is built on reputation and performance and we have to show that in everything that we do.”

Performance has to be strong at all levels in order to maintain your great reputation. If a project is late in being completed, exceeds its budget or doesn’t fulfill your customer’s expectation, it’s clearly not a success.

“The definition of success is when a client says to us at the end of a project, ‘You folks at Torcon delivered on every promise and every commitment you made from the outset of the project,’” Armento says. “That is when we know we were successful in executing the project. We want to be sure that everyone involved views the project as a success and not just the construction manager.”

It’s the difference between possessing a reputation based simply on knocking out projects as quickly as possible and one that is consistently focused on a high level of customer satisfaction.

Reinforce the team concept

One key to building a team that is of one mind and can make strong connections with your customer base is to empower them to do what they do best. Build confidence in your people so that they know you see them as the experts at what they do. Create an environment where they don’t need to check in with you every time a decision needs to be made.

“We try not to be dictatorial,” Armento says. “We believe very much in allowing our people to be autonomous, to allow them to express their opinion and tell us about their findings and what they think the solution is to a particular challenge. We want them to feel like they are an integral part of the solution to problems on projects. When they do, they take ownership in solving those problems.”

Teamwork is part of the culture of the construction industry from your earliest days on the job, no matter where you work.

“Most people who are educated in construction management or construction management-related curriculum understand that every project is performed and completed by a team of those core positions,” Armento says.

“If there is a particular portion of the project that is struggling and needs some extra attention, we would expect the other team members to jump in and help out. It’s understood in our industry that it’s a group effort.”

Teamwork can easily fall apart, however, if that commitment to your team begins to waver or if you begin to provide evidence that you value one group in your organization over another.

“The key is to be consistent with your message and spend as much time listening to your people as you do talking to them and providing direction,” Armento says. “It’s essential for us to reinforce our message and reaffirm our employees’ value to our organization.”

When employees come to you with ideas or suggestions about how to do something better, demonstrate that it hasn’t been a waste of their time to come up with this new idea.

“It becomes a matter of personal pride,” Armento says. “If an employee has an idea after living with a certain situation day to day, they want to know that the time they have spent thinking about how to improve our approach is valued time and that their opinion is respected by management.

“When you hear an employee or a staff member who has a good idea on how to do something better, allow them to act on it. Give them the opportunity to take ownership if it was their idea.”

Take the time

You work each day to build a stronger team that is focused on providing the best service to your customers. Armento felt that was a winning strategy to achieving customer satisfaction.

But to drive home the connectedness that he wanted customers to feel with Torcon’s Philadelphia operations, Armento strongly encourages participation in the community.

“I’m a newly appointed board member with the Delaware Valley Chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation,” Armento says.

He’s also involved with the American Heart Association and took part in the company’s effort to do a 9/11 memorial along the Schuylkill River.

“That was done gratis by Torcon along with a group of subcontractors,” Armento says.

These efforts were part of an overall push to show potential customers in Philadelphia that Torcon understood what they were all about and could relate to what it meant to be part of the Philadelphia community.

“The way we have overcome that challenge is one, to make sure everybody we employ here in the Philadelphia office comes from Philadelphia construction,” Armento says. “And two, to entrench ourselves as deeply as we can in the community and with community functions.”

How to reach: Torcon, (215) 271-1449 or

The Armento File

Born: Camden, N.J.

Education: Construction management degree, Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pa.

What was your very first job?

My first job as a kid was working for a local concrete contractor who did replacement sidewalks and driveways. My job was to break up the old concrete in preparation for the new. If it did anything for me, it gave me an appreciation for the difficulty of laboring on a daily basis.

What is the best business lesson you ever learned?

This is a very challenging business. We rely heavily on the performance of others in order to make a project successful. When I say others, I mean our own people as well as other members of the team.

To the best of your ability, try to manage situations on a project without emotion. Treat people the same way you expect to be treated. And that is coupled ironically with the understanding that you can’t blindly trust everyone. Remain objective and keep the clients’ interests in mind at all times.

What skills are essential for a leader?

Be firm when you need to be firm. Listen to people as much as you talk to people. Recognize it’s not always about issuing directives and establishing policies. A good leader sometimes has to be a teacher, a cheerleader and sometimes a confidant. Be open to your people when necessary, but be firm when being firm is necessary.


Set clear expectations.

Promote a team concept.

Be civic-minded.

When the customer isn’t right

Dustin S. Klein, Publisher and Vice President of Operations, Smart Business Network Inc.

Dustin S. Klein, Publisher and Vice President of Operations, Smart Business Network Inc.

Every year for the past seven years, I’ve had the privilege of hearing executives from many of the region’s top organizations passionately explain how they deliver world-class customer service. And every year, I’ve come away from this experience armed with new ideas.

This year, one idea posited gave me pause. At the same time, however, it reaffirmed one of my long-held beliefs that seems diametrically opposed to the usual mantra, “The customer is always right.”

In describing their competitive advantage, two executives cited their ability to effectively tell clients what they don’t want to hear. They reset conventional wisdom and succinctly explain to clients why what they believe to be correct often isn’t. And then, they offer better solutions. This, they said, is one reason why they have prospered.

Think about this. With the exception of trusted advisers — typically lawyers, accountants and bankers, people whom we intentionally pay to set us straight — nearly everyone else we contract with is given the expectation that we want what we want, when we want it and sometimes even how we want it done.

On the surface, telling your clients “No” flies in the face of conventional wisdom. But in reality, it makes perfect sense.

Take, for example, these two entrepreneurs. They assigned a key business success metric to telling clients “No” and then explaining why they should do something they may not want to do or are simply reluctant to incorporate. They believe that the best customer service delivery may contradict a client’s wishes. But, at the same time, it provides a better solution that will lead to even greater success — and higher client satisfaction.

A critical element of any top-notch customer service initiative is showing clients you truly care about them. You can’t give this lip service. Your actions must be real. Demonstrate a genuine desire to forge and foster a real partnership and the client will recognize whatever solutions — or services — you provide are developed because you truly believe they are what are best for the client’s organization.

Isn’t this the essence of what your clients and customers pay you for — to provide them with the best possible solution for their business pain point?

One of my friends has fired dozens of clients because they refused to listen to advice they paid him to provide or failed to incorporate solutions they paid him to create — all of which were designed to fix systematic problems with their businesses that they didn’t see. His reasoning was straightforward: Why partner with a company that you know is going to fail because their management team is already set on a solution that won’t work?

Experience painfully taught him that the end result is always the same: Clients will still blame you for their own mistakes — even if they choose that direction instead of the one you provide them with. When that happens, they say you weren’t forceful enough in selling them on your solution or that you didn’t adequately warn them they would fail.

The bottom line here is simple:  Anyone can turn service delivery into a commodity. Just become an order taker. But only a select few can think differently about customer service. Those that truly understand the value of pointing out when a client is wrong in his or her assertions, and is willing to risk the loss of business in order to do what’s right for that client, will more often than not succeed. Better yet, they will gain a lifetime of trust.

Dustin S. Klein is publisher and vice president of operations of SBN Interactive, publishers of Smart Business magazine. Reach him at [email protected] or (440) 250-7026.

How VoIP can help improve customer service

Alex Desberg, Sales and Marketing Director,

Alex Desberg, Sales and Marketing Director,

We’ve all been there before. A call that should take mere seconds extends 10 minutes or more because of an aggravating and antiquated phone system that fails to connect you to the proper party or does not notify the person who you are trying to reach.

There are ways to improve customer service simply by updating technology and making the switch to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). Some businesses are using automated systems to improve screening, routing and transitions to the right professional, while others are using VoIP to ensure a more personal touch. Neither way is wrong. The important thing is that customers aren’t left on the phone fuming.

“With VoIP you can choose between the two extremes; you can make it very personable or leverage technology for maximum efficiency,” says Alex Desberg, sales and marketing director at

Smart Business spoke with Desberg about how VoIP can enhance customer service, improvements on the horizon and the importance of customization.

How can VoIP services help enhance customer service?

Customer service takes so many different forms — it ranges from one extreme to another. Some companies, typically smaller businesses, believe that good customer service requires every incoming call be answered live, and they strive for one-call support. On the flip side, larger organizations want to make sure that technology is in place so the customer can reach the person or department that he or she wants to speak with. This can take the form of auto attendants or dial-by-name directories. VoIP allows large businesses to maximize efficiency and small businesses to add layers to their phone systems, both of which enhance the customer service experience.

What VoIP changes and improvements are on the horizon that will help companies connect with their customers?

First, it’s important to note that companies can keep the current technologies they have in place, such as an inbound dialing system, while moving into the VoIP realm. New technologies on the horizon include virtual PBX systems that will allow more hands-on control and management. Virtual PBX, a private branch exchange phone system offered as a hosted service, can be a very useful tool for marketing efforts. With this system, you can direct people to call the store they are most likely to shop at rather than a call center, where they will have to be redirected.

How can companies identify the right size for their VoIP configuration?

This boils down to picking the right technologies for your mode of communications. I recently worked with a midsize company that has multiple locations in various communities. It’s extremely important for this business that when someone calls them they are connected to the correct office. They don’t want their customers to get shuffled around or transferred to the wrong extension. The system they now have in place allows their customers to call a local number that supports the local office, while from a grand-scheme perspective, they are able to manage their telecommunications under one large phone system so there is four-digit dialing and no long distance between offices.

How can companies customize their VoIP system to improve customer service?

Once you move out of the traditional analog phone world, you can start using a mix-and-match platform. For example, if you determine that you need specialized services for a regional or remote location, it’s possible to incorporate a virtual PBX system into your VoIP solution. This allows you to keep adding bits and pieces to the existing platform under the management of a single supplier. Internally, a person handling a VoIP call might notice a difference with the phone, but customers will have a seamless experience — they will simply reach the person who can serve them best.

Alex Desberg is sales and marketing director at Reach him at [email protected]

Visit for a list of educational seminars.

Insights telecommunications is brought to you by

How The Ritz-Carlton provides effective, impressive service

Kelly Steward, general manager, The Ritz-Carlton, Cleveland

Kelly Steward, general manager, The Ritz-Carlton, Cleveland

The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co. launched a new process in 2012 to ensure every employee at Ritz-Carlton hotels around the world are working toward a wildly important goal, or a W.I.G.

By following Stephen Covey’s guide, “The Four Disciplines of Execution,” Ritz-Carlton hotel teams like Kelly Steward, general manager of The Ritz-Carlton, Cleveland and her staff, focus on the most important objectives, define actions to establish a standard for performance, and showcase clear measurements and accountability.

What could be the most important goal for The Ritz-Carlton, Cleveland? — Guest engagement. The hotel’s W.I.G is to achieve a certain percentage of guest engagement on its Guest Satisfaction Index Scorecard. With the W.I.G. in place, each department within The Ritz-Carlton, Cleveland creates measurements as to how it can aid in achieving the W.I.G. For example, the front desk team created measurements to ensure they say a guest’s name at least three times during check-in or during an interaction. Every employee has a clear measurement to complete on a weekly basis over the year in order to achieve the W.I.G.

The departments create scoreboards to measure their weekly successes and opportunities to improve and corporate calls are held to ensure the hotel is staying on track. The Ritz-Carlton’s overall goal is to provide effective, impressive service.


How to reach: The Ritz-Carlton, Cleveland, (216) 623-1300 or

How PartsSource fills customer needs properly

A. Ray Dalton, founder and CEO, PartsSource Inc.

A. Ray Dalton, founder and CEO, PartsSource Inc.

Inside the corporate headquarters of PartsSource Inc., you’ll find a whiteboard that reads, “The customer is not always right. The customer is always the customer!”

It’s an acknowledgement that there are times when a customer is in the wrong. But any business that prides itself on providing exceptional service understands that you don’t gain anything by arguing with a customer whom you believe to be wrong. Rather, it’s your job to gain an understanding of the problem and find a way to solve it.

It’s a philosophy that has enabled PartsSource to become a leading provider of medical replacement parts. The company is led by A. Ray Dalton, founder and CEO, and follows a philosophy to do whatever it takes to get customers what they need.

PartsSource works with its customers to locate the parts they need, but then sticks with them throughout the process to make sure the order is filed and then fulfilled properly. This includes a call to verify delivery and confirm that the package contains exactly what was ordered. The effort to be responsive in times of need is continually refined to provide a level of comfort for customers that PartsSource will be there when needed.

How to reach: PartsSource Inc., (877) 497-6412 or