If you’re like most executives, you scrutinize every dollar your organization spends. Value is critical, and how you’re treated as a client by vendors and partners can make the difference between doing business with someone and seeking more hospitable options.
But customer service goes beyond treating those you partner with well; it means treating your employees with the same level of internal service that you expect them to deliver outside your organization’s walls.
This is why Smart Business is proud to recognize 20 organizations that have demonstrated their commitment to delivering world-class customer service—both internally and externally.
They understand how to go above and beyond for customers, clients and vendors, essentially rendering price irrelevant. They have systems in place that ensure consistency with every encounter. And they know how to make their employees—as well as customers and vendors—feel valued, not awkward.
In good times and bad, your customer service experience is every bit as important as price points and merchandise quality. Those who deliver service well will reap the benefits.
Simply put, this class of 2018 has cracked the code on how to develop company cultures where delivering top-notch service isn’t just an idea, it’s a promise woven directly into the corporate fabric.
Blue Technologies Inc.
Paul Hanna, president
Blue Technologies Inc. provides solutions to help customers run their businesses. Everything the company sells requires maintenance and most products are directly tied to the client work environment. No two networks are identical, so each time one of the company’s technicians walks into a client’s office, they need to quickly familiarize themselves with enterprise resource planning and other software programs that need to be integrated to communicate with Blue Technologies’ solutions and equipment.
Since the company, led by President Paul Hanna, utilizes various software solutions for specific client business initiatives, its technicians must have a wide variety of exposures, skills and experience.
One customer, a financial organization, upgraded its entire fleet with Blue Technologies. This included 27 devices. In most competitive upgrade situations, the incumbent is not always willing to assist with the replacement of their account. Therefore, to perform a flawless installation, Blue Technologies assigned a technician to visit each site after hours to secure all 827 user credentials, fax numbers and account settings from the existing devices.
The company pre-programmed the new equipment so that it was able to immediately utilize the equipment at installation. The technician was not formally trained on the competitive equipment, but was committed to making certain the transition was seamless. The customer had rave reviews when he returned three weeks later, independent of any assigned service call, to ensure the transition was a smooth one.
John Fenn, co-founder and CEO
Established in 2009, Budget Dumpster exists to provide excellent customer service to an underserved market of do-it-yourselfers and others with a one-time need for a dumpster rental. Intentionally overstaffed, Budget Dumpster works to connect customers to a live person in seconds.
To further improve customer service, team members work within a proprietary mapping software that allows them to deliver information and pricing to customers based on location as quickly as possible.
Over the last two years, Budget Dumpster’s customer service team has grown by more than 350 percent to stay ahead of company growth projections and exceed customer expectations. Revenue has grown by more than 428 percent over the last five years. The company is led by co-Founder and CEO John Fenn.
Qualified team members receive more than 40 hours of training before speaking to a customer. In 2018, the customer service team evolved into four specialized departments to better meet client needs in a timely manner. By creating specialized divisions within the department, Budget Dumpster has reduced wait times to an average of 18 seconds, decreased the number of transfers required per call and shortened call times to an average of two minutes per call.
To further increase customer contact in 2018, Budget Dumpster added a text messaging feature to improve communication with customers who may not be able to answer phone calls or check their email.
Dr. Tom Mihaljevic, president and CEO
All Cleveland Clinic employees — from the shuttle bus driver to the president and CEO, Dr. Tom Mihaljevic — identify themselves as “caregivers.” Being a caregiver describes the company’s united behavior. The credo at the Cleveland Clinic is that every life deserves world-class care. This encompasses not just the care provided to patients, but the care everyone in the organization shows to each other. Being a caregiver signifies that every team member shares and embraces the same mission, which drives the clinic’s competitive advantage.
The clinic believes people perform their best in a workplace where they are valued, nurtured and encouraged to achieve their very best.
Its model of care has been cited by government officials and thought leaders as a model for the future. Former President Barack Obama called Cleveland Clinic “one of the best health care systems in the world.” President Donald Trump sought out former CEO Dr. Toby Cosgrove’s advice on health care issues and asked Cosgrove to serve as a health care adviser. Cleveland Clinic also has been a leader in developing the electronic medical record and was one of the first hospitals in the country to implement the EMR. Diversity and inclusion are top priorities as the clinic aims to build a workforce that represents the patients and communities it serves.
Equity Trust Co.
Mike Dea, president, executive administrator
Equity Trust Co. is a leading provider of self-directed IRAs and 401(k)s. Richard Desich founded the company to create tax-free wealth through true investment diversification, dependable account custody, easy-to-use services and investor education.
To deliver this service, Equity Trust has five foundational pillars that drive the decision-making process within the company. The central pillar is “deliver a superior client experience.” Delivering this experience has required Equity Trust to hire dedicated employees, listen to the clients and anticipate their investment needs. The 2018 client initiatives were to launch the new online client portal, set up a department to listen and react to client feedback, improve the average speed to answer incoming client calls, simplify the call-in experience, create an easier automated payment process and give clients the ability to invest in digital currency.
Under the leadership of President and Executive Administrator Mike Dea, the people of Equity Trust enable the company to deliver exemplary service, create the tools clients use to invest, execute on the business plan of the company and be the custodian of choice that clients are proud to do business with.
An investment liaison is assigned to each client to walk him or her through the investment process and ensure everything goes smoothly. This starts with accountability at every client touchpoint and every process. The company works relentlessly to create a work environment that employees want to work in.
EYE Lighting International
Greg R. Barry, president and COO
Customer service is the nucleus of EYE Lighting International. Each year, the company makes enhancements to its procedures that have helped flush out any issues within its operations system, as well as anticipate new demand while never missing a shipping deadline.
For instance, if a client order is rushed and EYE Lighting missed the final shipping pickup for the day, employees will personally take the order to a shipping center after hours to ensure the client will receive their order the next day. It is this philosophy for getting the job done that leads to world-class customer service.
EYE Lighting is led by President and COO Greg R. Barry. When customers visit, they are always impressed by the friendliness of employees at all levels. This supportive environment makes employees feel as though they are part of something special at EYE Lighting. It is also the key element in employee retention with nearly half of the company’s employees having been with the organization for more than 15 years.
From manufacturing to sales, to marketing and forecasting, EYE Lighting’s customer service department is directly connected to all other departments each and every day. This process enables the company to anticipate increased demand from new orders and to adjust operations and manufacturing schedules to meet the needs of all its customers.
Fred Ode, chairman and CEO
For Foundation Software and its sister company, Payroll4Construction.com, honesty, integrity and approachability in everything they do is king. Founded in 1985 by Chairman and CEO Fred Ode, Foundation Software has always been family-owned and instilled with a corporate culture that strongly reflects Ode’s personality and principles.
Among the most prominent of its values is a commitment to honesty and a focus on building long-term relationships with clients, both of which play a significant role in creating and maintaining a world-class customer service experience.
Foundation Software’s core product, Foundation®, is a job-cost accounting and project management software that is specifically tailored to the needs of the construction industry. Contractors often face complex payrolls — their crews can work in multiple states/counties in the same day, each with different tax regulations, and they regularly grapple with strict government reporting requirements.
Foundation Software and Payroll4Construction.com were founded on the understanding that their software and services are not a perfect fit for everyone. The companies are candid about that in the sales process from the start. They understand not all businesses’ needs are the same and strive to learn as much as they can about a prospective client’s business to ensure success, even if that means recommending another company’s product that might be a better fit, or suggesting they stay with their existing product, which has been done time and time again.
Fox 8 Cleveland
Paul Perozeni, vice president and general manager
Fox 8 Cleveland has been partnering with and serving the Northeast Ohio business community for more than 60 years. The company, led by Paul Perozeni, who serves as vice president and general manager, shares a passion and a purpose that guides its commitment to its viewers and business partners each and every day.
Fox 8 Cleveland’s mission is to inspire creative individuals and connect with innovative local businesses to share their stories, achievements and community service through Fox 8 TV, community sponsorships, Fox8.com and Fox 8’s social media platforms.
This special bond between Fox 8 Cleveland and the community it calls home was demonstrated when a member of the Fox 8 family who died was honored in a very special way. Emmy-winning reporter and anchor Kathleen Cochrane DePiero passed away suddenly last winter after contracting the flu virus in December.
Family, friends and colleagues from Fox 8 gathered in September at St. Albert the Great School for an emotional ceremony dedicating a new studio in her memory. The DePiero’s two small children, Blake and Hadley, are students at the school and took part in the ceremony.
“After Kathleen’s unfortunate passing, the family wanted to do something that was impactful in the community, but also honor her memory in the appropriate way,” said Dean DePiero. “She loved this school, she loved broadcasting, she loved journalism and we felt this was a very appropriate way to do it.”
Geis Hospitality Group
Tony Quintal, COO and VP of finance
Geis Hospitality Group is a full-service hospitality management company that oversees hotels, bars and restaurants in and around the Cleveland area. Earlier this year, Tony Quintal, the company’s COO and vice president of finance, received a call from Anthony, a newly promoted assistant kitchen manager for the new Wild Eagle Steak and Saloon in Broadview Heights.
There had been a fire at Anthony’s home. Thankfully, he and his family were able to escape from the house in time to avoid any injuries, but they lost everything they had. Knowing he needed his job now more than ever, Anthony told Quintal he planned to still come in for his scheduled shift that day.
Quintal reassured Anthony that he needed to take the time away to focus on his family. He reserved space at Geis Hospitality Group’s hotel, The Metropolitan at The 9, for Anthony and his family to stay while they worked out the details of the situation.
Quintal took it upon himself to go to Walmart and purchase things the family would need right away. He gave Anthony a $500 gift card to cover costs and teamed up with the rest of his employees to start an employee collection fund to help support Anthony in his time of need. With the help of Quintal and the team at Wild Eagle Steak and Saloon, Anthony and his family are now back on their feet.
Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield Park
Mark Birtha, president
Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield Park’s commitment to superior customer service as a competitive advantage starts at the top of the company and permeates the entire organization. The company’s founding mottos, “All is One,” “Love All — Serve All,” “Take Time to Be Kind,” and “Save the Planet” provide unwavering direction, preference and unity to successfully fulfill this commitment.
Hard Rock’s mission is to “create authentic experiences that rock” and the vehicle used to make that happen is amplified service. Amplified service means that every employee is held accountable for going above and beyond what is expected with every guest interaction. In doing so, the company collectively turns up the volume of a typical guest interaction by making it a unique, personalized and unforgettable moment.
The company can’t have any hope of delivering exceptional customer service if it can’t get the basics right. That’s why Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield Park has mandatory training programs designed to ensure everyone has the fundamentals of great customer interaction and is technically strong in the consistent execution of exemplary guest service standards and procedures.
It’s not just about understanding what the mottos are, but about living them in day-to-day behaviors. Knowing what needs to be done as a business imperative and how to do it according to those brand mottos is the foundation of amplified guest service.
Sam Falletta, CEO
Incept is a contact center partner that has supported co-sourced customer service conversations for some of the country’s most recognizable brands, including Microsoft, Serta, AARP, Stamps.com and the American Red Cross. Some of these conversations have helped companies save millions of dollars through the retention and acquisition of customers, while others have literally saved lives.
More than 20 million conversations on behalf of Incept clients have led to industry-leading results. However it’s the company’s attention to individual conversations and the lasting relationships they form between clients and their customers which has etched out Incept’s competitive advantage in the marketplace.
There are several key ways that Incept ensures it is able to provide superior customer service on behalf of its clients. The first step is cause-based hiring. Instead of looking for candidates that meet Incept’s minimum competency requirements, the company started looking for candidates that aligned with client causes. This shift has not only led to a higher employee retention rate for Incept, but better individual conversations with the clients’ customers.
Under the leadership of CEO Sam Falletta, Incept has also looked at conversational training, alignment to client culture, employee engagement and forward-thinking service as ways to make its customer service even stronger. It all leads to a commitment to results that has helped Incept earn a 94 percent satisfactory partner rating, with the large majority willing to recommend Incept to someone else.
JACK Entertainment of Northeast Ohio
Mark Tricano, senior VP of Northeast Ohio operations for JACK Entertainment
As the premier entertainment destination in Northeast Ohio offering both JACK Cleveland Casino and JACK Thistledown Racino, JACK knows that guests come for the entertainment, but they choose to come back based on the experience and the service they have received. Guest loyalty to JACK is a direct result of excellent customer service and that is why JACK makes it a top priority.
All team members who begin a career with JACK receive industry-leading training, offering insight on the world of gaming, as well as best practices in hospitality and customer service. JACK team members are encouraged to go above and beyond for all guests and to challenge the status quo to make memorable guest experiences. For team members, every interaction is seen as an opportunity to have a positive impact on guests.
JACK Entertainment of Northeast Ohio is led by Mark Tricano, senior VP of Northeast Ohio operations for JACK Entertainment.
In addition to investing time into its team members, JACK invests in the newest technology to ensure an unmatched guest experience. Examples include the BEV system and the Virtual Players Card by GT Connect. BEV allows guests to order drinks and track the progress of their order right from their gaming machine, without having to wait for a beverage server. Virtual Players Card by GT Connect was developed by JACK to create a more thoughtful and convenient guest experience.
Nick DeTomaso, CEO
Jakprints takes customer service to places it’s never gone before. “Happiness Guaranteed” isn’t just a blurb at the bottom of the Jakprints website; the company sees it as a promise. Led by CEO Nick DeTomaso, Jakprints strives to provide top-notch customer service from beginning to end with friendly, helpful representatives answering the phone to satisfaction checks once an order is complete. Sarah Rodgers, Jessica Jalowiec and Lindsey Gore are the three masterminds behind the company’s top-rated customer service team.
Jalowiec is a customer service specialist who has earned her title with seven years of Jakprints customer service experience. She is a pro at handling any and all inquiries and has proven her expertise. Was there a problem with an order? Jalowiec will work with her production team members to make it right.
Rodgers, the company’s customer service manager, keeps a close eye on orders coming through and has a close working relationship with all members of the production staff. She’s known to sing praises for a job well done with frequent shoutouts on Workplace, the company’s internal communication system. She’s a customer service role model with eight years of customer service excellence at Jakprints.
Gore is a customer service representative who handles media outreach, another critical piece to effectively positioning the company’s brand in the market. The trio has combined to take Jakprints to a level of unparalleled customer service.
MidWest Materials Inc.
Brian Robbins, CEO
For more than 65 years, MidWest Materials Inc. has constantly been committed to meeting and exceeding the expectations of its customers. One thing MidWest Materials knows is the worst thing that can happen to a customer is to have a production line shut down due to a late delivery.
For this reason, the company maintains a 240,000-square-foot warehouse to stock backup inventory for all major customers. The company, which is led by CEO Brian Robbins, also has a fleet of nine trucks to deliver the steel as required.
Great Dane Trailers, a long-time customer and leading manufacturer of truck trailers, named MidWest Materials as its Supplier of the Year in 2016. This was a great honor shared by the entire MidWest Materials team: sales, production and delivery. Having the steel on hand is not enough, however.
MidWest Materials must make sure that the quality of the steel meets the customers’ demands. For this purpose, the company is among the few steel service centers nationally that have a quality control lab in the warehouse.
Great Dane Trailers is just one example of the many customers the company services daily with just-in-time delivery and top-quality steel. The company also benefits from having a group of employees that average over 20 years with MidWest Materials and a dedicated management team, providing valuable experience in responding to customer needs.
National Interstate Insurance
Tony Mercurio, president and CEO
National Interstate Insurance continues to be innovative in the way it engages customers. Led by President and CEO Tony Mercurio, National Interstate seeks to customize and tailor programs to meet the unique needs of its clients.
The company’s focus on providing world-class customer service has allowed National Interstate to set itself apart from competitors and truly build an insurance experience around its customers powered by a talented and engaged workforce.
National Interstate has invested significantly in technology to engage and support customers, both insureds and agents, on a daily basis. While telematics (the transmission of data) may be relatively new to personal auto, commercial vehicles have been using the technology for more than 20 years. The size of the North American commercial vehicle telematics market will be approximately 9 million by 2020 with medium and heavy commercial vehicles exhibiting about 30 percent market penetration.
National Interstate is in the pilot phase of leveraging its customers’ vehicle data from devices they currently use to help identify driver risks and loss trends, and then provide appropriate risk management tools to better predict and protect their outcomes. Because many commercial transportation fleets do not employ data analyst teams to analyze the telematics data output to realize maximum ROI, leveraging the National Interstate team can not only improve safety outcomes, but also overall operational efficiency.
Adam DeFrancesco, owner and CEO
OMNI Systems is one of the largest privately owned label converters in the United States. In fact, OMNI Systems is now the largest consumer of thermal media from the nation’s leading raw material supplier. Companies such as Amazon, DHL, Starbucks and other leading Fortune 500 companies all rely on
OMNI Systems for their thermal media label requirements. Service is one of the three core tenets of OMNI’s mission, which include price, quality and service. Under the guidance of owner and CEO Adam DeFrancesco, the company works with customers to ensure they have the right products exactly when they need them, offering fast turnaround and expert service.
Each account has a dedicated, experienced account representative as well as access to the customer service team. Service doesn’t stop after the purchase, as OMNI Systems offers customers access to a nationwide network of certified technicians.
OMNI Systems’ low scrap rate (less than 1 percent) and 80 percent run efficiency have helped the company to achieve 5.3 percent profitability growth, while growing revenue by 12.6 percent and maintaining 98 percent fill rates. In fact, high fill rates are a key customer satisfaction metric, which is tracked over time. These accomplishments become very difficult to achieve in a company that is not committed to outstanding customer service, which isn’t a problem at OMNI Systems.
Rock The House
Matt Radicelli, founder and CEO
Superior customer service is at the heart of Rock The House’s mission to, “Do it right. Make it ROCK.” As professionals in the live events industry, the company is dedicated to providing innovative production elements, the latest entertainment options and a range of equipment and services. But in the end, what it all boils down to is people.
It is about partnering with clients to bring their vision to life and creating lifelong memories for their families, friends, co-workers and guests. Led by founder and CEO Matt Radicelli, Rock The House approaches clients as valued and respected partners. This is a mindset that informs the team’s every interaction — from the receptionist’s greeting to the thoughtful, professional work of on-site teams, all the way to how the company handles those atypical times when it falls short of a client’s expectations.
Team members are empowered to enact the money back guarantee at any time, whether Rock The House is solely accountable or not. For example, if a wireless microphone has interference issues during a meeting, RTH team members would, first and foremost, fix the problem to the best of their ability in the moment. Second, they would communicate to the team and advocate on behalf of the client for a refund. Empowering team members to advocate for the customer relieves stress for everyone involved and lowers any level of future confrontation.
Corey Head, president
Superior customer service at Sky Quest starts with having a willing attitude to serve and the ability to execute. Having a willing attitude to put customers’ needs first, especially when it’s inconvenient or there is a very tough problem to handle, requires employees have a heart that wants to help people solve their logistic travel problems.
Superior customer service is often required at inconvenient times and may disrupt personal time outside of work. Led by President Corey Head, the attitude of employees at Sky Quest is to go above and beyond. Assisting clients with emergencies and problems at all hours of the night is why the company has built a competitive advantage.
Clients have many resources available to them and they have the option to fly with other companies. Many continue to use Sky Quest because the company helps solve tough travel problems for them with a great attitude, even when it’s one of those inconvenient times. The customers’ problems become Sky Quest’s problems — and customers have learned to expect that Sky Quest will do whatever it takes to solve them.
Finally, one of the critical points to building an environment and a company that provides superior customer service is having team members who not only have a great attitude, but also have the ability to execute.
The Habegger Corp.
Ken Habegger, regional manager
The Habegger Corp. has been committed to putting customers first since the company launched in 1952. Customer service is not something to be taught or organized at a company level.
Rather, it is a value that an organization should be proud to uphold and demonstrate on a daily basis. The Habegger Corp. has a territory that spans 38 locations across eight states: Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. The company is led by Regional Manager Ken Habegger.
There are numerous examples of times when customers have been caught in tumultuous situations and The Habegger Corp. has gone the extra mile to do the right thing and provide outstanding customer service. Whether it be opening up a store after hours for an emergency situation with a customer, or going to a jobsite to troubleshoot an issue with a customer, these are just a few of the ongoing examples of the company going above and beyond to help people in need.
Extra deliveries, phone calls and follow up and working through tough situations are all just a normal part of the customer service experience with The Habegger Corp. Serving customers first isn’t just a phrase. It’s a philosophy that Fred Habegger Sr., established when he started the business. And it’s been maintained and built upon in the years since.
Jim Kandrac, founder and president
UCG Technologies was founded on the belief that combining state-of-the-art technology with obsessive commitment to exceeding customer expectations would support a sustainable and growing business.
More than 30 years later, the company still embraces those principles. With a 98 percent customer renewal rate, the numbers would indicate that clients agree. Founder and President Jim Kandrac, who launched the company when he was just 26, put everything he had into the business.
Over the years, UCG has grown organically by reinvesting and listening closely to its customers. The company has partnerships with 22 data centers across the U.S. and Canada. In 2018, UCG acquired Contract Guardian Inc., a leader in automated health care contract management, along with its intellectual property.
It is a natural fit because it plays in markets that UCG sees increasing: health care, software as a service, cloud, privacy law compliance and contract management. The company has made numerous other deals and partnerships to continue to strengthen its service.
From the company’s humble beginnings as a value-added reseller, UCG has evolved into a full-service data protection company with corporate clients in 44 states, Canada, the Caribbean, Europe and Latin America. The business continues to grow at a controlled rate of more than 20 percent per year. UCG sees itself as a partner in helping customers focus on the success of their businesses without worrying about disruption to their operations.
Western Reserve Hospital
Robert Kent, DO, FACOI, president and CEO
At Western Reserve Hospital, excellent customer service begins and ends with culture. Led by President and CEO Robert Kent, DO, FACOI, there are various ways the hospital 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 this patient-centered culture begins with non-negotiable standards that are taught and must be followed by all employees.
Employees are expected to wear their name badges above the waist at all times. Employees who forget their badge must go home or make a name label to wear. Next, a smile is part of the uniform. Employees are expected to make eye contact when within 10 feet of others and greet people when within five feet of others.
When answering the telephone, employees must state their name and department. When assisting visitors with directions, employees should take them to their destination rather than pointing directions. Parking close to the hospital entrances should be saved for patients and visitors. Employees should park in the correct designated areas.
Finally, employees must communicate with dignity and respect. Patients should always be addressed by name and employees should communicate in a polite manner with everyone they have contact with.
Adhering to these standards and delivering a 100 percent patient-centered experience is the core philosophy which inspires everything that Western Reserve Hospital does.