How Cleveland Marriott East added a focus on events

Kenny Didier, General Manager, Cleveland Marriot East

Kenny Didier, General Manager, Cleveland Marriot East

Cleveland Marriott East works hard to give its guests a comfortable room to sleep in so they can be at their best when morning comes. But those guest rooms are only part of the picture at the hotel.

Space is also used regularly for business meetings, weddings, retreats, reunions, parties and a whole list of other events that need to be just as top-notch as the guest rooms. A strong effort over the past year to strengthen this part of the business took Cleveland Marriott East from ranking No. 121 out of 328 in 2011 to No. 12 out of 332 in 2012 for its event services. It ranked the percentage of times a hotel received a 5 out of 5 ranking for an event.

The effort begins with bolstering the process in place to set up events, including the showing of space and discussion of details pertinent to the event the client is looking to hold. At the event itself, employees are made aware of what is happening and greet event guests as they arrive, adding a personal touch that helps everything off to a great start. The effort led by Kenny Didier, Cleveland Marriott East’s general manager, is already paying dividends.

How to reach: Cleveland Marriott East, (216) 378-9191 or

How Hyatt Legal Plans outdoes the competition

William Brooks, CEO, Hyatt Legal Plans

William Brooks, CEO, Hyatt Legal Plans

WCCS 2013 – Hyatt Legal Plans

From inception, Hyatt Legal Plans’ strategy has been to build its business by focusing on quality service. As a result, the company is the nation’s largest provider of group legal plans, serving more than 10 million employees of the nation’s biggest employers.

Hyatt Legal Plan’s philosophy of keeping it simple while providing world-class service has endeared the company to its customers and constituents and is the strategy behind its operations. William Brooks is CEO for the 35-year-old company.

With a mission statement of “Quality Service Always” the company makes sure clients have immediate access to a live person. It combines that with a “once and done” strategy that ensures callers speak with the right person in one call more than 97 percent of the time, earning a client satisfaction rate of 96.5 percent in 2012.

Hyatt’s call center hires only candidates with four-year college degrees and at least two years of customer service experience. These representatives refer plan members to the largest network of attorneys in the industry who must be in practice a minimum of seven years and have no bar association issues. Network attorneys average 25 years in practice, the highest in the industry.

Hyatt’s call center is the showcase of the organization and the major reason why a company would pick Hyatt over the competition.

How to reach: Hyatt Legal Plans, (216) 241-0022 or

How Staffing Solutions builds a ‘WOW’ experience for all

SueAnn Naso, President,

SueAnn Naso, President, Staffing Solutions Eneterprises

At Staffing Solutions Enterprises, there are four steps to spell the word “WOW” — it takes a focus on a courteous, responsive, accurate and proactive approach. The company, led by President SueAnn Naso, teaches that to each new hire and reiterates it to existing employees. And the results are impressive.

Not only does the “WOW Culture” build productivity, friendliness and courtesy among the internal staff, it sets an example of how customers likewise should be treated. Employees follow specific standards for courtesy (such as greeting each person with a smile), responsiveness (like returning phone calls within two hours), accuracy (matching qualified talent with excellent workplaces) and a proactive approach (being able to anticipate and plan ahead to meet clients’ and candidates’ needs).

Naso believes these key elements of the “WOW Experience” create a positive internal company culture and provide an effective system that allows the company to continuously deliver world-class customer service.

Another sign of responsiveness involves frontline staff members — those empowered to solve service issues on their own. Customer experience managers have the authority to grant monetary credit, provide additional complementary services or other measures to meet the clients’ needs and achieve their satisfaction. About 80 to 90 percent of any service related issue is resolved by the customer experience managers on the same day.

How to reach: Staffing Solutions, (440) 461-1652,

How Greater Cleveland Film Commission went all out for “Avengers”

Ivan Schwarz, President, Greater Cleveland Film Commission

Ivan Schwarz, President, Greater Cleveland Film Commission

When Marvel Studios needed a new place to shoot “The Avengers,” the film’s executive producer contacted the Greater Cleveland Film Commission. It was requested that the commission’s president, Ivan Schwarz, be in Los Angeles the next morning to discuss moving production from Michigan to Cleveland.

The fact that Ohio had a motion picture tax credit was a plus, but 37 other states had one too. It was Schwarz’s willingness to go to California on such short notice and his and his team’s ability to make things happen quickly that ultimately brought the film production to Cleveland.

Calls were made to governmental entities to ensure that the production crew would have its needs met completely. The commission operates with the goal of bringing economic development to Northeast Ohio, not A-list celebrities. Everyone at the commission works to ensure that work on the film can be done with minimal interruptions and as costs effectively as possible.

A software program is used to create custom location packages when production requests and opportunities present themselves.

Production on “The Avengers” resulted in $40 million spent in Northeast Ohio as businesses from coffee shops to lumber companies felt the impact.

How to reach: Greater Cleveland Film Commission, (216) 623-3910 or

How a multi-faceted approach helps Invacare keep the customer in focus

Gerald Blouch, President and CEO, Invacare

Gerald Blouch, President and CEO, Invacare Corp.

When it comes to customer service, the mission of Invacare Corp. is to give every customer an excellent experience every time. What helps bring that about is a team of associates passionate about the products the company manufactures and the services it offers.

Each customer service representative participates in “A Day in the Chair” program soon after initial training is completed to experience first-hand the daily challenges of a wheelchair user. As a result, the CSR gains an enhanced ability to empathize with the consumers and to understand that a wheelchair is more than just a product; it’s critical to the quality of life for the person.

That’s just a part of world-class service Invacare, under the direction of President and CEO Gerald Blouch, offers through its CSRs. By using a new workforce management tool that allows resources to be scheduled so that customers have shorter wait times to speak to an agent, callers now experience a 37 percent reduction in time on hold.

Likewise, during CSR idle time, crucial updates are deployed through webinars so CSRs can stay up-to-date on the latest practices.

Invacare focuses on five key areas to deliver exceptional customer service: being accessible to customers, keeping promises, listening to customers, swiftly and thoroughly dealing with complains, and taking the extra steps to reduce customer effort.

Numerous other motivational practices ranging from mentorships to community service help keep Invacare customers “front and center.”

How to reach: Invacare Corp., (440) 329-6000 or

How AtNetPlus ensures delivering customer service is a top priority

Jim Laber and Jim Mellon, partners, AtNetPlus

Jim Laber and Jay Mellon, partners, AtNetPlus

WCCS 2013 – AtNetPlus Inc.

Management and employees alike consider AtNetPlus Inc., first and foremost, to be a service company that also happens to provide IT solutions to its clients. Over the past several years, with the help of partners Jim Laber and Jay Mellon, AtNetPlus has deliberately shifted its training and processes to make customer service a top priority.

As the company has grown, it has recognized the need to integrate the delivery of outstanding customer service into the company culture. In 2010 it developed four service standards: attitude, communications, accuracy and efficiency. These have become a core philosophy throughout the organization.

Every employee has the service standards at their desk as a reminder that they are not just words but that they illustrate what the company believes are the critical factors that lead to customer satisfaction. They are talked about frequently by management and in everyday conversations.

Everything starts with attitude. The right attitude can change an unhappy client into one of the strongest, most vocal supporters. Clear and consistent communications are necessary to maintain a positive atmosphere. Both accuracy and efficiency are important. However, when a choice must be made, accuracy takes precedence over efficiency within AtNetPlus.

Each service standard is dependent on the preceding one. Combined, they result in happier, more loyal clients and a corporate culture in which employees feel empowered to do more for customers.

How to reach: AtNetPlus Inc., (330) 945-5685 or

World Class Customer Service 2013 – Sponsor Notes

wccs_logo_0613Executive Caterers at Landerhaven


What is the best example/case study of how your organization provides world-class customer service to clients?

Executive Caterers has been in business for more than 50 years. We believe this is our greatest example of Executive Caterers’ world-class customer service.

The culture of our company was built by serving our community. We personalize each event with a one-of-a-kind experience, great food great service and great hospitality. We believe we have a responsibility to the community. Every customer deserves to have the best event possible.

Executive Caterers has a public trust: people come to us, corporate or social, and entrust us to the most important events of their lives. It’s a trust we take very seriously and a trust we live up to. We treat our employees as family, and we believe in good citizenship by giving back to the community.

We are a catering company and an entertainment facility. Our quality is not just reflected in our food, but in our unprecedented hospitality. We create an “experience” for our customers that is welcoming, friendly and generous. We built our business by serving our customers and most importantly by anticipating their needs. We deliver an “experience” of world-class cuisine, world-class service and world-class hospitality.


How to reach: Executive Caterers at Landerhaven,

Hughie’s Event Production Services


Hughie’s Event Production Services is Cleveland’s choice for live-event design and production resource since 1953.

Hughie’s believes in giving back to the city where it all began and the area we’ve called home for 60 years. Hughie’s is now soliciting donations of non-perishable food items from our customers, vendors and the community, which we will distribute to local charities at the end of the year.

Hughie’s offices in Columbus and Pittsburgh will also participate in this nine-month event for their respective cities in honor of our 60th anniversary.

Donation drop-off containers will be available in each Hughie’s office for the length of the celebration. As a “thank you” for your generous food donation, we’ll present you with a free, “eco-friendly” shopping bag emblazoned with our 60th anniversary logo. Plus, participants who provide us with a name and phone number will be entered into a drawing to win one of three new 32” flat-screen televisions at the end of the year. A total of three flat screens will be given away, one at each location.

All donations received will be distributed to the Cleveland Food Bank and other similar charities in the Columbus and Pittsburgh marketplaces. The winners of the flat screens will be announced at the conclusion of the promotion on Dec. 15.

Hughie’s is a worldwide supplier of high definition video projection equipment, concert quality audio systems, intelligent moving lights, staging systems and more to satisfy all your presentation and special event needs.

To learn more, log onto or call (216) 361-4600 and follow us on


How to reach: Hughie’s Event Production Services, or (216) 361-4600


Overload Fitness


At Overload Fitness, one of our Core Values is to “Over Deliver.” Here is just one example of our staff carrying this out:

We had a longtime client whose wife just had her third baby — and all were under the age of five. We always get our clients gifts when a baby is born, but this time was different. We could tell he was very stressed trying to balance running a major corporation and having three small children, so we wanted to do something different.

Obviously, a first reaction is a night out for him and his wife, but even that would be stressful for them. So we decided to send them something for a “family night in.”

We ended up going to Target and buying a bucket of ready-to-cook popcorn and filling it with Twizzlers, Swedish Fish, gummy bears, a gift card to Papa John’s Pizza and a Disney movie.

Then we signed the card, “For a night in because we know a night out is difficult! Enjoy!”

We received a thank you card from them that said, “Thank you so much for the creative, thoughtful gift! Our family will enjoy a fun night in with the new baby thanks to you!”

This is just one of countless ways in which getting to know the client on a personal level and creating something specific for them that they would otherwise not expect from an ordinary personal training business.

But then again, Overload Fitness is not ordinary; we are world class!

How to reach: Overload Fitness, Beachwood (216) 292-7569, Westlake (440) 835-9090 or and


World-class customer care is literally that for customers of With the ability to provide VOIP phone services around the world, our locally owned telecommunications company often extends our support and service to some very unusual locations for a Wayne County based, 115-year-old company.

Business comes to us in many forms. With a track record of servicing Fortune 500 and Weatherhead 100 organizations, as well as companies with less than five employees, no customer deserves less than our best efforts.

One of the most important issues associated with telecommunications support is how well we support our customers when bad things happen. Power outages, data failures, fire, downsizing — you name it — can happen to businesses of all sizes. is so confident that we exceed customer exceptions that the majority of our services are available without a contractual commitment. Ask one of the big tel-cos to commit to that service level and you will get a very interesting answer.

When a customer with offices outside of the U.S. experienced Internet and telephone issues from its international phone company,’s support team jumped at the challenge. was able to provide a VOIP solution that allowed them to reroute calling to their U.S.-based headquarters and continue to provide support to their client base.

This kind of business continuity service is vital for businesses especially when technology glitches can make it look like you are out of business. We, as service providers, are there to service our customers and make sure they shine every time.

How to reach:, (888) 881-0805 or


John Robert’s Spa


At John Robert’s, guests would sometimes leave their valuables (jewelry or cell phone) in the pockets of the robes. This meant the guests’ possessions could get washed and/or lost when we did our laundry.

It’s not the spa’s fault that the guests leave their stuff in the robe pockets. The first remedy was to “threaten & punish” by leaving a sign inside the lockers and changing room stating, “We are not responsible for any valuables left behind.” A huge negative cue!

So we changed that to “Please remember to check your robe and locker for all your valuables.” Better, but it didn’t eliminate the problem. Now what? Can we train our spa attendants to check every robe, every time before washing? Only in a perfect world.

“Pay what you think is fair” exercise — The best way we have found to truly embrace the everything is our problem mindset it to do the “Pay what you think is fair” exercise. When you think about how your customers can “short-pay” you for any reason, you will not believe how creative and solution-orientated you become with everything. How did we solve the customer leaving their valuables in the robe problem? We found a supplier who provides pocket-less robes. Problem solved and the best news, the robes are less expensive!

Find your pocket-less robes? If you really train everyone in your company to have the mindset that everything is your problem and responsibility, and you remove the victim mentality of “it is our customer’s fault,” your company’s customer experience will elevate to new heights. You’ll find solutions that eliminate the problems and make your company more efficient, and your customers happier.


How to reach: John Robert’s Spa, (216) 839-4850 or


Cleveland Clinic


What is the best example/case study of how your organization provides world-class customer service to clients?

A key contributor to improving the overall patient experience and our customer service is a robust service excellence model that is integrated into a health care organization’s culture. Frustrated by the lack of a customized health care product validated in a large employee population, Cleveland Clinic developed its own service excellence program specifically for health care workers in a health care environment.

The Communicate with H.E.A.R.T. program has been introduced to more than 40,000 employees in our organization across nine regional hospitals, multiple freestanding health centers and two international facilities.

The results have been impressive; the Cleveland Clinic has seen a change in employee culture that emphasizes a positive patient experience and service excellence across all roles, including clinical and non-clinical.

The model is designed to help caregivers provide outstanding service to both patients, visitors and fellow caregivers, and it includes interactive workshops that focus on Cleveland Clinic’s nine key expected service behaviors.

The Communicate with H.E.A.R.T. model also empowers leadership to recognize, reward and redirect behaviors based on how it aligns with the Communicate with H.E.A.R.T. approach. Supported by practical and easy to remember tools, Communicate with H.E.A.R.T. is the foundation of Cleveland Clinic’s delivery of service excellence.

This innovative service excellence model is used throughout the Cleveland Clinic Health System and empowers employees to address both patients’ and colleagues’ concerns and questions, responding in a way so that the person feels he or she was responded to with care.

How to reach: Cleveland Clinic, (800) 223-2273 or


All Things Eventful


What is the best example of how your organization provides world-class customer service to clients?

All Things Eventful believes that before any service is provided, clients deserve the combination of a smiling face, warm attitude and attuned ears. We make great efforts to listen to (potential) clients — to find out all we can about who they are, what their vision is in coming to us, and who is their “audience,” whether event attendees or gift recipients.

Throughout the project, our creative talents can further flourish because of our on-the-go-adaptability. We give them more than just a collection of quality products. All Things Eventful provides creative ideas, top-notch presentation and a high level of value.

Whether a client comes to All Things Eventful, we personalize the experience for each client.

This customized experience is shown in our work with Koler Financial Group. To distinguish the company from its competitors, All Things Eventful developed a custom client recognition program.

Not only were the gifts a pleasantly memorable surprise, they were created specifically for the client (i.e., they were “exclusive” and couldn’t be found elsewhere). Many times, the gifts would include a key item onto which All Things Eventful would incorporate the Koler logo.

The care that went into every detail- from product research and selection down to the customized gift cards and hand-delivery we provided- reflected on Koler Financial Group’s care for its own clients, resulting in a world-class return on investment.

Our reputation is a more valuable asset than the combined inventory from each sector of our parent company Bountiful Baskets Inc. So, every action seeks to increase its value. The All Things Eventful work team members know “the ever-watchful eye” is upon them, and they produce consistently. The result is a perpetual cycle of dividends being reinvested in our company.


How to reach: All Things Eventful, (216) 551-3358 or or [email protected]

How Zinner & Co. LLP keeps its staff invigorated

Robin Baum, Managing Partner, Zinner & Co.

Robin Baum, Managing Partner, Zinner & Co. LLP

WCCS 2013 – Zinner & Co. LLP

“Your success is our business” is the motto at Zinner & Co. LLP, an accounting and management consulting firm. This motto underscores the firm’s commitment to doing whatever is necessary to help clients achieve their goals, regardless of what they happen to be. Zinner understands that only through this commitment to its clients’ success, will the business achieve its own success.

Managing Partner Robin Baum ensures Zinner constantly strives to stand behind its tagline: the right ideas, the right results, achieved with the right firm. To deliver on that promise, all members of Zinner’s professional staff are required to adhere to rigorous standards and participate in training at different levels, beginning when they first arrive at Zinner and continuing throughout their term of employment.

Known as “Zinner University,” this training is an integral component to the success of the firm and a launching pad for employees in building a meaningful, long-term career with Zinner. Through this program, new employees go through an introduction to firm policies and procedures, as well as their initial technical training.

Upon “graduation” from the introductory level of Zinner University, new employees are better prepared to offer clients the high level of service long-provided at Zinner & Co. Meanwhile, the teaching process reinvigorates their “professors,” resulting in their continuing to provide Zinner’s trademark personal touch.

How to reach: Zinner & Co. LLP, (216) 831-0733 or

‘World-class’ is a special designation, the result of passion and commitment

wccs_logo_0613If you haven’t taken a moment recently to look around Greater Cleveland’s business community, it’s time you do so. You’ll have to experience the pride you feel. After having the privilege to sit on the panel of judges for this year’s Smart Business World Class Customer Service Awards, I am reminded that we are surrounded by innovators, strategists, pioneers and true “bar-setters” of what will soon become world-class standards in customer service.

Unlike when you might see a bright neon sign on the front of an establishment flashing “World’s Best Cup of Coffee” or “World’s Best Corned Beef Sandwich,” “world-class” is a difference that is obvious once you get a taste of this year’s World Class Customer Service Award winners. The term is not something that is displayed on a neon sign — “world-class” emerges as a result of passion and the unwavering, tenacious commitment to a company’s vision and purpose.

Regardless of the industry, the winners that were selected all had one common strand of DNA in the makeup of their company philosophy. That common strand is the ability to convey the beliefs and purpose that are at the core of their company’s mission to every associate within the organization. From the newly hired part-time cashier all the way to the longest-tenured top-level executive, there are no associates who don’t have crystal clarity on their purpose followed up with the accountability to deliver on those expectations.

In addition to communicating and delivering on core principles, I also learned from all our winners that you must deliver an incredible amount of TLC — not the TLC that your grandmother was an expert in delivering; this TLC comprises training, listening and customer care.

Consistent, oftentimes daily, training is the foundation for associates who are expected to produce repeat customers and profitability. A competent associate today, without consistent training, will most likely not be a competent associate tomorrow. Change occurs rapidly, and unless we are committed to this concept we will undoubtedly be surpassed by someone who is.

This group of award winners has also been able to react to trends and see opportunities, sometimes before they even exist, through the often lost art of listening. They listen not only to customers but also to associates who are on the front lines and are faced with constantly changing demands of customer service. Unless the customer and the associates are heard, misguided decisions are often made.

And lastly (only because it helps with the cleverness of the acronym!), Customer Care. Both internal and external customer care must be a priority. The winners showed remarkable consistency in both the constant recognition of a job well done within the organization, and a genuine appreciation of the customers their companies were designed to serve.

Congratulations to all of the World Class companies that are being recognized. We are truly surrounded by the Best of the Best!


John Spearry is the general manager of Metro Lexus. Reach him at [email protected] or visit

How Summa Health System helps ease concerns with TLC

Thomas Strauss, President and CEO, Summa Health

Thomas Strauss, President and CEO, Summa Health System

Ashley Sedorovich and her grandmother have a very close relationship that began when she was very young. Her mother had become terminally ill, and so it was Ashley’s grandmother who essentially took on the role of being her “mom.”

Now an adult, Ashley’s emotions turned to concern when her grandmother was admitted to Summa Health System’s Akron City Hospital with difficulty breathing and tightness in her chest. Shortly after that stay, her grandmother had to return to be treated for an infection and coincidentally found herself back in the same room.

It’s never easy to have a loved one in the hospital, but Ashley’s grandmother was in good hands. She had formed an emotional bond with her nurse, Brittney, who got to know her grandmother’s personal preferences and made sure she was always comfortable.

When she was moved to a skilled nursing facility after her second stay, Brittney took time out of her own schedule to visit her there, bringing a puzzle book, a get-well card and her favorite flowers.

The special gesture gave Ashley’s grandmother that much more incentive to focus on her rehab. It’s the way things are done at Summa, led by President and CEO Thomas J. Strauss.

How to reach: Summa Health System, (330) 375-3101 or