Customer service excellence saluted

Duane Hicks

Recognizing excellence in customer service amongst district businesses, the Rainy River Future Development Corp. unveiled the winners of its 2010 Customer Service Champion awards last Wednesday.
This year’s top 10 champions, named during the Fort Frances Chamber of Commerce’s “Business After Hours” deck party at La Place Rendez-Vous, were (in alphabetical order) Boston Pizza, Cloverleaf Family Foods (Emo), Fort Frances General Supply, Kreger Sales & Service (Rainy River), Northern Lights Credit Union (Rainy River branch), Northwoods Gallery & Gifts, Service Ontario (Fort Frances), Super 8 Motel, The UPS Store, and Warehouse One–The Jean Store.
Bill Gushulak of Fort Frances General Supply said his businesses has participated in the program every year, and he still finds it “reassuring “ to be among the top 10.
“It’s something that we do not get tired of receiving,” he remarked. “We’re very proud to have received it again.
“We’ve spent a lot of time, energy, and money to encourage customers to come and see us, and we feel we can repay them with good customer service,” added Gushulak.
“If people are still happy with what we’re doing, we’re pleased to hear that.”
As of this year, Fort Frances General Supply has received a Customer Service Champion five times in a row.
“We’re quite proud and pleased with that,” Gushulak reiterated.
“We compliment our staff for doing a good job and keeping the people that walk in the door happy.”
While they had participated in the challenge back in 2008, this was the first time The UPS Store was named a Customer Service Champion.
Franchisee Lillian Gerley said she was proud to be named among the top 10.
“It means we’ve improved in the way we do things,” she noted, adding the point of signing up for the challenge this year was to see if they had improved, and if they hadn’t, get feedback to see where they needed to step up their performance.
“It’s really important. It’s a great tool for businesses to use,” Gerley said.
She stressed customer service is key to doing business at The UPS Store.
“We advertise, but we also rely on customer satisfaction,” she explained. “We treat each customer as a unique individual—their needs are unique.
“It’s important to have a conversation with them, and find out what it is exactly they’re looking to get and make sure that they’re satisfied when they leave the store, because we want them to come back—and tell their friends.”
Honourable mentions went to the Fort Frances Clinic Dispensary, Norlund Oil (Emo), The Ear Clinic, the Fort Frances Enhanced Hearing Centre, and Vianet Internet Solutions.
Plaques and certificates were handed out by RRFDC director George Emes.
“Judging from the strong customer service culture in each of these businesses, they realize that serving the customer is the most important part of their business and that if they don’t take care of their customers, someone else will,” Emes remarked.
“We congratulate both the owners and the employees in reaching the level of customer service you have achieved,” he added.
“To win this means that you have gone the extra mile in immersing yourselves in serving your customer. You have shown that customer service is your organization’s number-one priority.”
This is the seventh year for the Customer Service Challenge, which RRFDC office manager Cynde Milette said was first started “as a way to celebrate, and encourage, exemplary customer service in local businesses.”
“We continue with this program today because high-impact customer service is necessary to survive in today’s competitive marketplace,” she stressed.
“Happy customers are repeat customers and free advertising.
“Business sustainability and growth are powerful incentives to provide the highest standard of customer care possible.”
Milette extended congratulations to all 25 businesses that signed up for this year’s Customer Service Challenge.
“It is evident that you are all aiming for excellence by having the motivation to participate in having your customer service evaluated,” she noted.
“The quality of customer service in these 25 businesses is reflected well in the fact that many of the scores were very, very close.”
Consultant Wanda Botsford again co-ordinated the challenge, which she called “an opportunity for you [businesses] to find out what your customers are thinking—things they don’t necessarily tell you unless you ask.”
Botsford said mystery shoppers were asked to evaluate more than 50 aspects of the customer service within the participating businesses.
“They evaluated your on-site and telephone customer service,” she noted. “For those businesses where a website is important, they evaluated your website customer service.
“Where possible, they sent you e-mails and tracked how long it took you to reply.”
Botsford added the participants will be receiving copies of their evaluations by mail so they can examine them more closely.
“We hope you can recognize the well-deserved compliments and share them with your staff,” she remarked. “We also hope any suggested improvements can help you to grow your business.
“Many past participants tell us that they like to win, and they like the resulting free publicity, but what they really value are the comments and suggestions,” said Botsford.
“This gives them something to go back to their employees with so they can collectively improve their customer service culture.
“In this way, all participating businesses win.”
Botsford added the RRFDC welcomes feedback to let them know how they can make the Customer Service Challenge more relevant and helpful to businesses in coming years.
In related news, the next Chamber of Commerce mix-and-mingle will take place in the Shaw Communications room at the new Fort Frances Technology Centre on Tuesday, June 22 from 5-7 p.m.
Guest speakers will be Wendy Newman and Dr. Kelly Lyons from the University of Toronto, who will talk about business applications of the technological capabilities at the new facility.
There will be appetizers, draws, and a cash bar.