Customer Service Awards 2017

These 24 organizations have demonstrated a commitment to superior customer service. They have each taken it upon themselves to raise awareness of the importance of customer service and have worked collaboratively to make a difference in the communities they call home.

Jim Laber and Jay Mellon
President, CEO
AtNetPlus Inc.
Customer service is not just a competitive advantage for AtNetPlus Inc. It’s engrained in everything the company does. Everyone is empowered to do what is right for the customer at any time. People like to do business with people they like and under the leadership of CEO Jay Mellon and President Jim Laber, AtNetPlus firmly believes that superior customer service will always win out.
Recently, one of the company’s clients went through a stressful time changing its company name, moving offices and getting its bearings as a new company. Part of the process included a new building and construction where it needed to have the internet installed. Unfortunately, both the company’s owners were out of town when the cable company planned to install the lines and the construction workers could not guarantee they would be on the site to let the internet installer in.
Since it was crucial for the business to get up and running as quickly as possible, Mellon sat outside the building and waited for the internet installer to arrive. The building had no running water, toilets or workspace due to the construction, but thanks to Mellon, the internet was installed and was ready in time for the company’s move into the new office.

Gregg LaSpisa
Regional president and divisional executive vice president
AXA Advisors
AXA Advisors has been providing stability and reliability to its clients since 1859. The company’s goal is to help its clients live their lives with confidence, give them peace of mind and enable them to realize their dreams for their loved ones and their legacy.
The foundation of AXA’s client relationships is customer service, experience, and knowledge about strategies and options that can help clients address their specific concerns, goals and hopes for the future. AXA works to ensure its clients have everything they need to reach their financial goals.
Headed by Gregg LaSpisa, regional president and divisional executive vice president, the firm is committed to working with clients around their particular needs and wants for securing a financial future.
AXA’s financial professionals have the tools and knowledge needed to help clients develop and implement a personalized financial strategy, explaining complex issues in easy-to-understand language. Their job is to map out clients’ goals and select the appropriate products to meet their objectives.
To ensure clients are comfortable with their strategy, they work collaboratively with AXA financial professionals through each step of the process. AXA sees their clients’ participation as vital to the creation, implementation and success of their financial strategies.

Jeffrey Neuman
Barnes Wendling CPAs
Barnes Wendling CPAs, headed by President Jeffrey Neuman, has established a client satisfaction program that consists of two components: an ongoing client survey system and a client visitation program.
All projects leaving the office include a survey that is collected by the client service department. Any surveys relaying negative comments or low ratings trigger an immediate call by the client service manager. If the issue can’t be promptly remedied, the client could be contacted by the client service manager, the president of the firm or the client service executive.
Each year, survey results are summarized in an annual report to clients. The most recent survey found that 99.5 percent of the firm’s clients would refer Barnes Wendling to a friend or associate and 98.2 percent of clients are very or extremely satisfied with Barnes Wendling.
The second component of client satisfaction, the client visitation program, involves interviewing randomly selected clients to learn more about clients’ experiences with the firm and discover ways to better serve the client and make improvements.
Because of its continued effort to provide clients with the excellent service, Barnes Wendling receives many referrals each year. Roughly 52 percent of its new clients are referrals from existing clients.

Dr. Delos “Toby” Cosgrove
President and CEO
Cleveland Clinic
All Cleveland Clinic employees — from the shuttle bus driver to President and CEO Dr. Delos “Toby” Cosgrove — identify themselves as caregivers. The word describes its united behavior and philosophy that every life deserves world-class care.
The Cleveland Clinic believes that putting patients first means minimizing anxiety and fear in what may already be a difficult time for families and loved ones.
In January, the office of patient experience began to roll out the service behavior model, S.T.A.R.T. with Heart, at South Pointe Hospital. The model outlines how every interaction should begin and how meaningful connections can be made quickly.
Following the rollout, South Pointe saw an increase in HCAHPS scores, which assess patient satisfaction. Specifically, nurse communication went from the 65th to 97th percentile and environmental services improved from the 51st to 90th percentile. There was addition improvement in the areas of responsiveness, medication communication and hospital recommendation.
The program had a significant impact on Cleveland Clinic staff as well as patients. Ninety two percent of participants felt it enhanced their communication skills.
The S.T.A.R.T. with Heart program helps drive the Clinic’s competitive advantage; reinforces its mission, vision and values; and promotes world-class customer service.

Jodi Hall
CrossCountry Mortgage Inc.
CrossCountry Mortgage Inc. is a full-service lender founded on the premise that it could do more to meet the needs of customers every step of the way through the process of becoming a homeowner. Its mission is to provide clients with the best possible advice while facilitating a straightforward, stress-free mortgage process for the buyers, sellers and real state agents.
CrossCountry, with direction from COO Jodi Hall, strives to be recognized as a leading and reputable mortgage company, which it works to achieve by earning its customers’ trust.
While the company prides itself on developing rewarding, long-term customer relationships, that goal crosses over to its approach to its staff. It considers its human resources department its internal customer service department.
The company believes it is important that each new employee knows that the company is thankful they chose to work at CrossCountry. New hire orientation begins by thanking employees and conveying that they have a voice in the company. Hall emphasizes a platform called the “Idea Bridge,” through which employees can share ideas and innovations, enabling them to make their innovations a reality.
All of this is an effort to create a first-day experience that sends new employees home knowing they made the right choice.

David Gilbert
President and CEO
Destination Cleveland
Through its CLE Travelbackers program and CLE Concierge Team, Destination Cleveland is committed to making superior customer service the region’s competitive advantage as a destination.
Customer service is essential to how Cleveland looks, acts and feels as a visitor destination, and the city’s frontline staff (servers, hotel employees, taxi drivers, etc.) define the experience for the vast majority of visitors.
Through the CLE Travelbackers program, Destination Cleveland provides the city’s travel and tourism community with the knowledge and tools needed to improve the visitor experience. In five years, the CLE Travelbackers Program has trained over 2,500 participants representing over 280 businesses and organizations.
Destination Cleveland, led by President and CEO David Gilbert, also underscores its commitment to customer service with its CLE Concierge Team. These Destination Cleveland staff members provide recommendations to visitors at every stage of their journey, from pre-trip planning to customized recommendations based on interests.
Destination Cleveland believes best-in-class customer service is critical to consistently provide positive experiences for visitors, change the narrative about Cleveland and encourage repeat visits.

Chris Hodgson, principal and owner
Scott Kuhn, owner
Driftwood Catering
Driftwood Catering, led by Principal and Owner Chris Hodgson and Owner Scott Kuhn, takes customer service seriously, considering it a core value and basic foundation for any event. It emphasizes the importance of happy and well-served customers through specialty menu items, strong client communication and vendor coordination.
Each guest is served to the highest standards, and Driftwood works closely with its clients to create specialty menu items to fit the theme of their events and guests’ allergy restrictions. Whether it is a specific type of cuisine, specialty desserts or a brunch-themed dinner menu, the staff is fully equipped and excited to create a menu perfect for its clients’ special day.
To ensure these needs are met, Driftwood relies on strong communication and follow-up. With consistent communication throughout the planning process, company and client can remain connected, clear and informed.
Many clients rely on Driftwood Catering for vendor coordination and planning, handling anything from rental equipment and dessert vendors, to decorations and signage.
Driftwood Catering believes in serving its guests both superior quality cuisine and above average customer service through custom menus, consistent client contact and vendor coordination. The company promises to emphasize the importance of excellent customer service while overcoming all obstacles and seizing many opportunities.

Greg R. Barry
President and COO
EYE Lighting International
Customers are at the center of all EYE Lighting International does. They help drive product and technological innovations and enhance the company’s internal processes from manufacturing and quality to finances and shipping. Led by Greg R. Barry, who last month replaced the retiring Tom Salpietra as president and COO, the company believes its personal connection with each customer strengthens the relationship.
Customer service is considered the nucleus of EYE Lighting’s internal processes. Within the past year, the company has adapted a new operations system for client orders. Personally following each order from start to delivery has helped identify issues within its operations system and anticipate new demand, while never missing a shipping deadline.
The company’s customer service department is directly connected to all other departments, which enables EYE Lighting to meet the needs of its customers. Customer service acts as the voice of the customer, enabling the company to forecast sales and make recommendations for the operations director to modulate the production schedule to meet current orders, new orders and to anticipate demand.
As it strives to earn 100 percent customer satisfaction across each measure, the company surveys customers monthly to rank how it is performing against standard metrics. The results are reviewed regularly and used to maintain continuous quality.

Bill Burke
Fire-Dex LLC
Fire-Dex’s commitment to customer satisfaction, production excellence and product innovations has paved the path for continued rapid growth and the ability to consistently develop and acquire new life-saving technologies in the fire protection market.
The company’s mission is to serve those who serve. It remains committed to protect and give back to firefighters and first responders. In 2012, Fire-Dex supported firefighters in New York and New Jersey, the areas hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy, by donating 1,000 pairs of G1 firefighting gloves — a retail value worth over $100,000.
Fire-Dex’s goal was to honor and support the firefighters who worked diligently to restore the communities after the devastating effects of Hurricane Sandy. Together with its dealer partners, Fire-Dex was able to get these much-needed gloves out to those departments that could use them in their efforts.
This is just one example of the company’s efforts to give back and support firefighters and first responders — its customers — across the nation. With Hurricane Harvey and Irma recovery efforts taking place, the company worked rapidly to finalize the details of its efforts to support the task forces involved.
Fire-Dex, led by CEO Bill Burke, believes its commitment to its customers is key to its continued success.

Scott Mawaka
President and CEO
Fleet Response
Fleet Response’s mission is predicated on innovative and effective service to its clients and a high standard of professionalism. The company ensures the responsiveness and availability of all personnel to its clients, maintaining a culture that empowers its employees to deliver the highest level of customer service.
Scott Mawaka, president and CEO of Fleet Response, believes treating employees well is crucial to ensuring the highest level of customer service. He knows the difference between good and great customer service ultimately depends on the people who provide it.
This is why he is committed to operating on Fleet Response’s founding principle of innovation with a culture that not only places clients at the forefront of the business, but employees as well.
Fleet Response finds great pride in having its clients know that the company’s employees provide a high-level of customer service. As the company continues to grow, Fleet Response maintains a family-like culture with beliefs that focus on employee and customer satisfaction. Its growth has proven the importance of that focus time and again.
Fleet Response expects it will continue to do what it takes to increase employee satisfaction, which will allow its high levels of customer service be its competitive advantage in the marketplace.

Joseph Calabrese
CEO and general manager
Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority
The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, led by CEO and general manager Joseph Calabrese, listens and responds to its customers in a number of ways.
It sends speakers out in the community almost daily to do outreach and assist customers on-site when a serious service disruption happens. Its Tower City Customer Service Center employees see 500-1,500 customers each day while its telephone call center handles an average of 5,700 calls a week with an average wait time of only 24 seconds.
More than 40,000 unique users visit weekly to request trip plans and get real-time information. RTA also responds to customer issues through social media on its Facebook and Twitter pages.
Customers who aren’t happy with their riding experience can let RTA know by filling out a postcard and dropping it in a mailbox to get a refund. In July, RTA received only one postcard for every 35,214 customers.
Each spring, RTA participates with other transit agencies in a customer satisfaction survey for bus customers, allowing it to measure itself against other systems and set targets for the coming year. RTA also does local customer satisfaction surveys, with responses going out to all customers with a list of actions it has taken to address the issues.

Sam Falletta

Owner and CEO
Incept exists to help clients conduct meaningful conversations and develop deep relationships with the people most important to them every day. It’s a strategy that has helped companies like Microsoft, Serta and the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) save millions of dollars through the retention and acquisition of customers. In other cases, the approach has literally saved lives.
The attention to individual conversations and the lasting relationships that they can form between clients and customers has etched out a competitive advantage in the marketplace for Incept, which is led by Owner and CEO Sam Falletta.
In order to continue to evolve and do its work even better, Incept has been willing to make adjustments to its business model. About a year ago, the company shifted the way it makes hires. It began looking for candidates who aligned with client causes rather than focusing on minimum competency requirements, recruiting blood donors to save lives and helping small businesses save money and create jobs.
The shift not only led to a higher employee retention rate at Incept, but better individual conversations with client customers. When a conversational marketing expert is passionate about helping the person on the other end of the phone, results will follow.

Mark Tricano
General manager and senior vice president
Northeast Ohio operations
JACK Cleveland Casino
JACK Cleveland Casino has taken a number of steps to become a must-see destination for visitors to downtown Cleveland. The effort to provide an exemplary customer experience begins and ends with the people who work at JACK.
In order to ensure team members are empowered to provide the most attentive customer service possible, the casino uses an industry-leading training and development program.
Dealers working for the casino can attend a dealer’s academy, a free seven-week training session designed to provide applicants with the necessary skills they need. In addition, the training gets into guest interaction and other important aspects of customer service that help to ensure lasting memories for each and every guest who walks through the doors.
JACK is led by Mark Tricano, who serves as general manager and senior vice president of Northeast Ohio operations. Under his leadership, the casino has implemented the Beverage Ordering Service System, also known as BOSS.
This technology allows guests to order drinks at a gaming machine without having to wait for a beverage server. They simply press a button on any gaming machine and select their drink of choice from the menu. Once the order is confirmed, the request is executed by food and beverage team members immediately.

Valarie Kelly
Sales coordinator/customer service manager
Kaufman Container
Kaufman Container serves multiple markets and companies in industries ranging from food and beverage to industrial and pharmaceutical, as well as many other areas of business.
It has customers as small as an individual who makes salsa out of a home kitchen and as large as businesses that supply high-end salon care products. Led by Valarie Kelley, who serves as Kaufman’s sales coordinator and customer service manager, the company is responsible for maintaining inventory programs, purchasing from suppliers and coordinating its value-added services.
Kaufman Container works in teams with its salespeople to continually build customer relationships. It is in building those relationships that the company is able to work with the buyers and guide them to a more productive way of doing business.
Kaufman looks for strong individuals who are able to establish and maintain good relationships with a diverse customer base. They must be organized and efficient to manage multiple customers and projects simultaneously.
The company currently has more than 2,800 customers that are maintained by 10 customer service coordinators. Additionally, Kaufman Container works with more than 200 suppliers who are utilized to help customers get exactly what they are looking for.

Steve Marks and Harvey Nelson
Main Street Gourmet
Customer service is most often a thankless task and many times is only noticed when something goes wrong. As a bakery manufacturer specializing in custom-made baked goods, Main Street Gourmet is eager to turn virtually impossible requests into realities that set it apart from the competition.
When a company is willing to go to such lengths to achieve excellence, it can increase the odds of a mistake being made. However, by focusing on attention to detail, dedication to excellence and maintaining composure under pressure, Main Street Gourmet has created an efficient and effective customer service department that minimizes this risk.
Co-CEOs Steve Marks and Harvey Nelson had a vision for the company to become its customers’ “fairy godmother” who could make all their product wishes come true. A client may have a request that would prove challenging for a larger competitor to deliver, such as a specialized recipe, an exact size or weight for each piece, a relatively large or small quantity for an order or a short-notice shipping deadline.
Main Street Gourmet, however, has developed systems and departments in such a way that the company is able to accommodate these requests and provide a high quantity of high-quality work.

Tony Mercurio
President and CEO
National Interstate Insurance
National Interstate Insurance understands that accidents, and in turn, claims, happen every day. It’s what drives the company, led by President and CEO Tony Mercurio, to be every insured’s best partner on their worst day.
When a claim is reported, it is assigned to an adjuster who specializes in that product and the customer is given direct contact information for that adjuster. Claims are handled in partnership with the customer and communication is frequent, beginning with a review of the claims process with the customer.
Once a claim has reached resolution, customers are surveyed and asked to provide feedback on elements of the claim process such as responsiveness, communication and sensitivity. Surveys inviting additional commentary or discussion by management are followed up on.
Similar to the transparency and collaboration of the claims process, the billing method is an equal partnership. Each account is assigned a billing representative who is empowered to work with the customer to find a payment plan that is mutually beneficial.
While world-class customer service may be a simple concept, that doesn’t mean it’s easy to execute. It requires a sustained effort from every employee to have the tools and training needed to do the job, be empowered to make decisions quickly and provide real expertise to customers.

Ed Kenty
Park Place Technologies
Moraine Valley Community College in southwest Chicago needed to find a hardware support solution that would fit a shrinking budget. The college maintains two separate storage area network environments that support its enterprise resource planning system and other applications. MVCC had a team that could support software, but finding someone to hardware was proving to be a challenge.
When the college made the switch to Park Place Technologies, the initial decision was based primarily on price and flexibility. However, field engineers provided the college’s IT team with appropriate solutions and documentation related to any issues they were having with their IBM storage devices. MVCC could also add or drop equipment at any time.
And on the financial side, when compared to standard original equipment manufacturer costs, the college ended up saving 70 percent in maintenance and support costs.
Park Place’s dedication to flexibility and responsiveness earned high praise from the college’s director of network operations, who said, “Not locking us into long contracts allowed us to be comfortable in making decisions about our storage equipment moving forward.”
One reason the company, led by CEO Ed Kenty, is able to be so attentive is that it has 150,000 parts available across 132 stocking locations that offer direct access to engineering teams, which can then complete the work.

Douglas J. Sibila
President and CEO
Peoples Services Inc.
Peoples Services Inc. understands that keeping up with the latest technology is the key to not only surviving, but also continuing to grow.
The company is led by President and CEO Douglas J. Sibila and has a dedicated information technology committee that meets monthly to review the progress of projects and to set new initiatives.
Some recent projects include updating the company’s internal phone system to new software packages that help the team report and monitor facility financials, as well as an upgrade of Synapse Warehouse Management Systems software that allows customers to access their inventory remotely for real-time counts.
In addition, SmartDrive cameras have been installed in trucks, as well as a system called PeopleNet, which allows the company to communicate with drivers, track vehicles and use electronic driver logs. This system ties directly into Peoples Services’ transportation management system, known as BOLT, which captures all the information for tracking and invoicing customers upon delivery.
An ongoing relationship with customers is important for continued success and these technology systems enable that relationship to be strong. The company has a better understanding of its goals and how its services can help customers succeed, which has led to more business with both existing and new customers in recent years.

Ryan Markham
Quality IP
In an effort to distinguish itself as a superior provider of customer service, QualityIP has focused on achieving excellence in three key areas: state-of-the-art tools and technology, employee training and customer education.
When this is done effectively, it creates an environment where customers always get service that goes above and beyond expectations. The company is led by CEO Ryan Markham.
In the area of technology, QualityIP uses the latest remote monitoring and management tools to monitor client network infrastructure, as well as their computers, and perform preventative maintenance that keeps systems secure and working at optimal capacity.
When issues do arise, employee training has enabled technicians to be ready to handle any situation. They are trained to be patient and empathetic and thus are able to not only handle complex problems, but also explain them to concerned clients. A qualified technician responds to every ticket that is received at QualityIP within 30 minutes.
Finally and perhaps most importantly is customer education. The method to reach a provider must be simple and easy to remember. QualityIP recently directed a marketing campaign called Just Click the Q, which is a quick reminder that reaching the company is as easy as clicking the “Q” icon in the taskbar on your computer.

Ray Gilles
Ray’s Auto & Truck Service
Ray’s Auto & Truck Service has been providing quality car care in Avon since 1979. The family-owned business, headed by Owner Ray Gilles, delivers honest and professional automotive repair and auto maintenance services.
The company understands that a person’s vehicle is a major investment. That is why its mechanics care for each customer’s vehicle as if it were their own.
Ray’s Auto follows a strict code of ethics so customers will know upfront what to expect. As part of this code, it pledges to be dedicated to customer satisfaction, to care for the customer’s property and to maintain the highest standards of the profession.
From its beginnings in Gilles’ Avon home, its success and commitment to quality and customer service enabled a move to its current state-of-the-art facility and the addition of a large truck shop to better service commercial fleets and heavy trucks.
While much has changed, one thing has stayed the same: customers trust Ray’s Auto. The company doesn’t try to “upsell” unneeded products or services. Customers can count on them to be honest and fair and are made to feel appreciated, as if they’re visiting a friend or family.

Matt Radicelli
Founder and CEO
Rock The House
Rock The House, led by Founder and CEO Matt Radicelli, makes superior customer service its competitive advantage by leveraging its money back guarantee.
The production and entertainment industries are highly subjective, so a money back guarantee is uncommon. If a Rock The House product or service doesn’t meet the client’s needs, it’s free. Rock The House is proud that less than half of 1 percent of its gross revenues were paid out as refunds last year. Its team knows that they’re empowered to enact the guarantee at any time, whether the company is solely accountable or not.
On the social events and entertainment side of the business, if a DJ accidentally plays an instrumental during the first dance at a wedding, a Rock The House team member would immediately advocate for the customer and recommend a refund. On the corporate events and production side of the business, if a wireless microphone has unrecoverable interference issues during a meeting, Rock The House would enact its money back guarantee and fix the problem.
Empowering Rock The House team members to advocate for the customer relieves stress for everyone involved. Everyone makes mistakes, but when Rock The House makes mistakes, customers know it’s going to do right by them every time.

Seth Uhrman
State Industrial Products
State Industrial Products manufactures many unique products that bring great value to its customers. However, its true differentiator is the level of service that is provided after a sale.
The company’s sales and service teams located throughout North America serve roughly 20,000 customers each year through what’s known as the Circle of Service™ program. Understanding that customers constantly face new challenges, State Industrial Products answers with the innovation of new solutions and products, and an unrelenting commitment to customer service.
Led by CEO Seth Uhrman, the company has a field team of 500 account managers who strive to understand each customer’s unique facility and operation. They work with customers to identify opportunities for improvement through a survey of their facility.
Based on their findings, the account manager then suggests products and systems that solve the customer’s needs and problems. The sales team goes the extra mile by installing new systems and training customers and end-users on how to use their new equipment.
Products at State Industrial Products are equipped with the latest advancements in technology and account managers train customers to apply these products with maximum effectiveness. One of the most important attributes of superior customer service is the level of trust that customers have in a provider.

Matt Hlavin
A manufacturer is not typically the first type of business you think of when you discuss superior customer service.
The team at Thogus, led by CEO Matt Hlavin, wants to change that. The company offers white-glove service and has a mission to “build and sustain relationships that identify and satisfy clients’ known and unmet needs.” This mission is accomplished by basing actions on being transparent and creating trust in order to provide value.
While Thogus has always put the customer first, there was a time when the company wasn’t always meeting their needs. It would take on programs that weren’t the right fit for its business model. In other instances, processes were not clearly communicated and customer expectations were not fully understood.
With a sales cycle that typically lasts 12 to 18 months, transparency is critical. When a potential customer comes to Thogus looking to have a part made, the part requirements are evaluated to determine the cost. Customers get more than the price, however.
Thogus shows them all the costing parameters so they know exactly how that price was determined. There are no secrets and the price won’t suddenly increase in a year. It establishes a foundation of trust and honesty in the relationship.

Robert Kent, CO, FACOI
President and CEO
Western Reserve Hospital
At Western Reserve Hospital, excellent customer service begins and ends with culture. There are various ways that the organization has created and sustained a culture centered on providing excellent care to patients, excellent service to each other and a strong commitment to the community.
The foundation of Western Reserve Hospital’s patient-centered culture is non-negotiable standards, which are taught that way and must be followed by all employees to ensure a positive, consistent experience for all patients, employees and visitors.
Employees must wear name badges at all times and are expected to smile, make eye contact and greet others when they are in close proximity. When they answer the phone, employees must state their name and department. If a visitor needs help with directions, the employee is expected to take the visitor to their destination rather than just point the way.
When it comes to parking, locations near the hospital entrances are reserved for patients and visitors. Employees are directed to park in designated areas. Finally, employees must communicate with dignity and respect.
Patients should always be addressed by name and employees are expected to communicate in a polite manner with everyone who they have contact with at the hospital, which is led by President and CEO Robert Kent, DO, FACOI.