Service Superheroes: Creating Forever Customers

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Delivering superb customer service requires a particular set of skills: patience, resourcefulness, organization and relentless dedication to making the customer’s life easier. Ask anyone who has experienced top-notch customer service and they will likely remember someone who is also kind and reassuring, whose sole focus is on exceeding customer expectations. 

Providing great customer service in a typical year is challenging enough—but add in the demands caused by the pandemic, inventory shortages and global shipping delays and the difficulties are multiplied. 

Earlier this fall, PPB set out to find some of the best examples of extraordinary service for our annual feature on Service Superheroes. Even in today’s demanding business environment, there were many worthy individuals to consider. Those profiled on the following pages were among more than 60 people nominated by their co-workers and clients for this honor, and these 12 were selected by an in-house panel based on the accolades and examples provided.

Read on to learn more about how they deliver remarkable and memorable customer experiences.

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Senior Account Manager 
The Book Company 
Delray Beach, Florida 

Ten years ago, Debbie Braunstein joined supplier The Book Company after spending 13 years with another industry supplier. She has invested a total of 39 years in the promo industry. “Debbie is a quiet powerhouse,” says her nominator Roni Wright, MAS, VP at The Book Company. “She is never in your face, never disrespectful, never boastful or looking to take credit. She just really, really cares about servicing her customer accounts.”

Wright, who hired Braunstein immediately after receiving her resume, says, “The level of service Debbie provides, whether for an actual order or even for submission of a great idea, is beyond superhero … it’s service with a genuine investment in every distributor’s success.” Wright explains that Braunstein takes on every customer interaction as a personal mission, acting as an advocate to successfully fill every request, solve every problem, answer every phone call and follow-up on every sample and order.

It’s a responsibility that has become even more important but difficult to achieve following the pandemic as the publishers the company purchases books and other products from struggle with deliveries from overseas and domestic sources. “I communicate honestly with our customers, offer solutions for the products that their clients may have requested but may not be able to get. I put on my creative thinking cap and offer alternative solutions, so our client looks great in the end,” says Braunstein. 

What inspires you to go above and beyond what customers expect? I always put myself in their shoes. I know that the suggestions and information that I give the client helps put money in their pocket, a smile on their face and gives them a feeling of accomplishment. It gives me great pride to be able to help our clients succeed.

What’s your best advice for others wanting to improve their customer service skills? Listen. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Give concise information that’s easily understood and search out information if you don’t know the answer. Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know.” And then follow through and follow up.

What’s an example of the best service you’ve received, why was it impressive and how did it make you feel? The best customer service experience that I have been on the receiving end of was during Hurricane Matthew in 2016. Just prior to the hurricane, we had an outside electrical outlet installed on our patio wall. As Hurricane Matthew was quickly approaching, we started installing our hurricane shutters but found that the electrical outlet that had been installed was too close to the window, making it impossible for us to install the shutters. I quickly called the electrical contractor and told him of the problem. He said he would be at our home within the hour. Thirty minutes later with wind blowing and rain coming down, he pulled into our driveway as promised. He not only repaired the position of the outlet, but also installed the hurricane shutters for us as well. What an amazing company run by an amazing person! I have since recommended his company to many neighbors. 

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Customer Service 
Hit Promotional Products 
Haddonfield, New Jersey

Darlene D’Agostino is known for taking care of the people around her. That includes her clients, of course, but she also takes care of her teammates, and together they make magic happen for the company’s clients. Nominator Taylor Borst, director of marketing, special events and public relations at distributor American Solutions for Business, is one of D’Agostino’s clients and on several occasions, Borst has frantically reached out to D’Agostino to solve problems and expedite orders. 

“One time, I remember her telling me that our timeline was too tight but that she had just taken one of the team members out to get her nails done and she pulled in a favor from that person for me,” says Borst. “It was so funny at the time, but that’s such a good example of how Darlene takes care of the people around her and takes time to invest in relationships. She’s able to ask for favors because she’s well-liked and respected by the people around her.” 

Borst also likes the way D’Agostino puts her at ease when problems arise and in today’s business environment, it’s a skill that gets plenty of practice, especially with D’Agostino’s workload. On a typical day, she not only handles her own accounts and orders but also supervises a team of 11 other customer service reps helping them troubleshoot problems and manage their workflow and capacity. 

D’Agostino came to work in the promo industry nine years ago when she joined former supplier Admints and Zagabor as accounting manager. When the company was later acquired by Hit, she moved into her current customer service role. 

What inspires you to go above and beyond what customers expect? I personally find self-satisfaction and self-value on providing the best customer service to our customers. When they are happy, I am happy. 

What’s your best advice for others wanting to improve their customer service skills? Try to put yourself in the customer’s shoes and provide them the same level of service and attention to detail you would expect to receive as if it was your own order.

What’s an example of the best service you’ve received, why was it impressive and how did it make you feel? I have recently switched over to eating keto. My husband and I went to a restaurant that was able to accommodate our food restrictions by making us a custom keto meal for our wedding anniversary, including dessert. It was so thoughtful, accommodating and delicious. It made us feel very special and appreciated as a customer. We are now loyal customers and feel as if the restaurant truly cared in providing us the best customer experience possible. 

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Customer Loyalty Advisor 
Incentive Concepts 
St. Louis, Missouri

Those who bring sunshine into the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves.” British playwright James M. Barrie’s quote encapsulates what makes Regina Garofalo’s service so memorable—it’s her attitude. Forty years ago this month, Garofalo started working in the promo industry; she’s been with Incentive Concepts for four and a half years. 

“Regina is the brightest light in the office,” says her nominator Kristi Woods, operations manager. “She has amazing energy and is truly excited to come to work every day. Regina is also the first to jump in and help when needed and has become a mentor to new staff members, taking them under her wing and leading by example.”

Woods explains that recent supply chain issues have made it difficult to confirm product availability. “Regardless, Regina immediately identifies problems, works with our brand partners to develop solutions and presents alternatives to our customers. While we bombard Regina with countless requests, she finds ways to salvage orders using creativity and out-of-the-box thinking.” 

Garofalo’s flexibility is also key to her success. “In the current climate, we may start out with Plan A, but by the time we execute, the plan has been revised to Plan B, C or D … or even a hybrid plan so that we can deliver what is being requested. Being flexible, compassionate and having a sense of humor helps everyone during these unusual and challenging times,” says Garofalo. However, the challenges never affect how she sees the client.

“Without a doubt, Regina’s greatest asset is her attitude. She is so positive and has an ‘I want to help you’ mentality that can’t be taught,” adds Woods. 

What inspires you to go above and beyond what customers expect? It absolutely breaks my heart when anyone is disappointed—ever. I want to help all our customers win. It takes everyone on the Incentive Concepts team to do their part every day to help me succeed. When I succeed, my customers succeed. When my customers succeed, their clients succeed. Hopefully, our customers recognize this and will return in the future. This drives my passion for being the best I can be.

What’s your best advice for others wanting to improve their customer service skills? Daily exercise before work; it gets your blood pumping and clears your head, so you are ready for the day ahead. Be positive; get creative, adapt to situations as they arise and provide alternative solutions. When time permits, organize fun team-building activities with your co-workers. A little fun goes a long way, provides needed distractions and strengthens the entire team. View issues and obstacles as opportunities and challenges and be a customer service ninja. 

What’s an example of the best service you’ve received, why was it impressive and how did it make you feel? My husband and I recently bought a house, and our loan officer and the bank were amazing. Debbie (our loan officer) was efficient, engaged and kept us in the loop throughout the entire process. She quickly became my new BFF and I actually miss her! While I hope I am done buying houses, I will recommend Debbie to anyone searching for a mortgage lender. She exceeded our expectations.

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Senior Account Specialist 
Victorinox Swiss Army
Monroe, Connecticut

“Michael is the epitome of a service professional. He goes above and beyond making sure that every facet of my orders is handled in the most proficient and effective way,” says Mary Durocher, managing member of distributor Forte Gifts, LLC, and one of four nominators. “He never loses his cool, and we have had orders that, once in production, have gone sideways. He always has a cheery and positive attitude no matter the stress involved.”

Kinner has always been keenly focused on his customer—even when his role didn’t seem too customer-centric. Before joining the promo industry 15 years ago (he’s been with Victorinox for 12 years and in his current position for three), he was a visual manager for Macy’s. “What most people are unaware of regarding a visual manager is that the role was as much about the customer as it was about the displays,” Kinner explains. 

Another nominator, Stephanie Sage, senior specialist inside sales, works closely with him every day. “Michael expresses empathy and compassion in every interaction he has with our customers. His genuine concern has created an emotional connection with so many of our distributors. Michael is a huge part of why so many distributors continue to work with us.”

Nominator Janet L. Jones, senior regional sales manager, agrees. “Michael always finds a way to ‘get it done,’ through his expertise or creativity. His follow-through is superb and he’s the most consistently positive person in the division.”

What inspires you to go above and beyond what customers expect? My customers. They are the best part of my job, and they continue to inspire me.

What’s your best advice for others wanting to improve their customer service skills? Make authentic connections. Those connections will motivate and sustain you. 

What’s an example of the best service you’ve received, why was it impressive and how did it make you feel? The Apple Store. I dropped my phone and the screen cracked. I could see and hear incoming calls but was unable to pick it up. Annoyed, I made my way down to purchase a new phone. The location was busy, loud and chaotic, however, getting my new phone up and running seemed to be my rep’s only priority. The care, patience and professionalism of my rep at Apple absolutely blew me away. 

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Account Executive 
Cap America 
Fredericktown, Missouri 

Rhiannon (Rhi) Marquis joined supplier Cap America in January 2015 in order entry and was promoted to sales coordinator and then to her current position. In that time, she’s seen and learned a great deal about what customers want and need and in today’s business environment, her skills as a problem-solver have made her even more valued by her clients. 

“Supply chain problems are a worldwide issue and if you are able to advise your customer on possible issues or delays before they happen, it is always a plus,” she says. “I have used these challenges as an opportunity to educate customers on things like online tools we offer, programs they weren’t using before, and the way things are processed. Knowledge is power and the more you know, the easier it is to do your best.” 

Marquis has always been drawn to care for others. Before coming to Cap America, she was a certified nursing assistant and a waitress—both roles where compassion and care are essential to delivering a high level of service. At Cap America, these characteristics are an important differentiator.

“There simply is nobody better than Rhi,” says Kevin Scharnek, president of distributor 14 West and one of her clients and nominators. “Her communication is incredible, her follow up is reliable and over the top and she is always available when needed. We send hundreds of orders and spec orders to Cap America and she manages every single one of them flawlessly.”

Another nominator, Liz Capone, director of customer relations at Cap America and Marquis’ direct supervisor, says, “Rhi is a problem-solver and she’s not afraid to pick up the phone to get answers and solutions (as opposed to solely using email which isn’t always as efficient). She’s well-liked by her peers and works extremely well with other departments, making her an even more effective customer service rep for her customers.”

What inspires you to go above and beyond what customers expect? My inspiration for going above and beyond is pretty simple: happiness. I like to be happy and I like the people I work with to be happy. When I am able to successfully help someone with a project, issue or question, I have achieved making them happy and feel like I have a pretty good purpose. 

What’s your best advice for others wanting to improve their customer service skills? Be silly; people can hear a smile in your voice. Be honest; when you mess up, learn to take responsibility and do your very best to fix your mistake. Be kind; no matter what happens, at the end of the day, we are all human.  

What’s an example of the best service you’ve received, why was it impressive and how did it make you feel? The very best customer service I have witnessed would have to be within the company I work for. Our owners and management team went well above and beyond for a customer on an emergency personal project and the customer was so touched. It made me happy to work here and be a part of a company that could make such a difference in someone’s life with just a bit of teamwork. 

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Program Manager
Image Source  
Houston, Texas 

When Victoria Melchor went to work for distributor Image Source four years ago as an account coordinator, she brought along customer service skills honed by working for one of the most customer service-focused companies on Earth—The Walt Disney Company. “I had the amazing opportunity to work at Walt Disney World as an event coordinator where great customer service was key in creating magic for the clients,” she says. “My department produced corporate and private events. My No. 1 goal going into work each day was to make sure the clients were happy.”

Her nominator Cindy Tsuji, senior account executive, is on the receiving end of that customer service and their tempo as a team is especially critical because Melchor is in Houston and Tsuji is in Seattle. “She starts early and stays late,” says Tsuji. “She has the best demeanor with our clients, and they love her. She was born with a sense of urgency and commitment. I have the easy part of just doing the selling. She has the toughest job of following up to ensure everything is delivered to the client as expected. Service can be taught as a skill but when it is embedded within your DNA, it is priceless.”

With today’s inventory and shipping delays, Melchor says she has to pay even closer attention to production times as well as product availability when sending quotes to a customer. She believes it is crucial to be transparent with customers on the supply chain challenges to set expectations. “I have seen many estimated restock dates being pushed out. In these instances, it’s important to have backup options to present to the customer so that, in the end, they will have the items needed in time,” she says.

What inspires you to go above and beyond what customers expect? Finding the right promotional product is not something we want our customers to worry about as this is what we do. My goal and my team’s goal is to make this part of our customer’s job as easy as possible for them. The customers look to us to come up with ideation, and I strive to learn our customers’ stories, what they do and what their intentions are for the products, so that we can customize what they are looking for and suggest something useful and meaningful. 

What’s your best advice for others wanting to improve their customer service skills? Make your customers a priority and have patience. Sometimes they may not know what they want or even know what they are looking for. It is important to educate your customers on the process because this will eliminate any miscommunication or misunderstanding. Most importantly, always put yourself in the customers’ shoes and view everything from their perspective. How would you want to be treated if the roles were reversed? 

What’s an example of the best service you’ve received, why was it impressive and how did it make you feel? When I traveled to Japan with my husband, we were at a restaurant in Shizuoka where the server brought us the wrong drink. We drank it anyway, but she was extremely apologetic about it. She reordered the correct drink and brought it to us. On top of doing that, she also gave us a free bag of cookies for the inconvenience. We were very appreciative of our server for going above and beyond to make the situation right. It is an exchange I will never forget and the next time we visit, we will definitely be repeat customers. 

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Senior Customer Service Representative
Pacesetter Awards
Chicago, Illinois

Bianca Miller came to work at Pacesetter Awards five years ago after honing her service skills in one of the most demanding customer environments—retail. “This year has definitely been rough with the supply chain issues across the board,” she says. “I’m lucky our customers have been so understanding. More than before, I’ve had to help our customers find different products than what they originally wanted that would work for their events.”

Her customer-centric approach has easily won over her team members and customers. “We have worked together long enough and have a system that works,” says her nominator and supervisor Terry Goudie, Pacesetter’s customer service manager. “We cover each other, resulting in seamless communication and service to our customers. I couldn’t do the things I do without her. She is a giver, not a taker and all companies need to surround themselves with these types of people.”

Goudie adds, “We hear raving compliments on how she is so attentive, responsive, a pleasure to work with and how important she is to what they do with us. She’s always a ray of sunshine. Words really cannot justify the importance of Bianca and what she brings to the table.”

What inspires you to go above and beyond what customers expect? I think my approach is I treat people the way I would like to be treated. I try my best to listen and respond to each customer I work with. This lets them know I care about each order, no matter how big or small and this will hopefully keep them coming back.

What’s your best advice for others wanting to improve their customer service skills? Be patient and listen to the customer's needs. Be as responsive as possible.

What’s an example of the best service you’ve received, why was it impressive and how did it make you feel? In my personal time, I love to read. I am subscribed to a book subscription service and had a major issue with a shipment. The company resolved the issue quickly and was very responsive. They left me with a very good impression on how the company interacts with their customers and only makes me want to continue supporting them.

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Founder and President 
College Hill 
Pullman, Washington 

In 2004, while in college, Tony Poston sold custom apparel. After graduation, he worked in the music industry (managing bands, a screen-print shop and a small record label) for two years before launching his own distributorship from his bedroom in 2011. He credits all those experiences with helping him sharpen his customer service skills. 

“I feel like everything you do has a customer service aspect to it,” he says. Managing bands—those musicians are your customers/clients and you need to make sure their experience with you is remarkable. Their careers were in my hands, just like in the promo industry, people’s orders are in our hands. Everyone has a story tied to their order, and when we started out, many of our orders were tied to collegiate events.”

As president of a small company, he’s deeply involved in all aspects, but his favorite part of the day is interacting with his team and clients. “I love client phone calls and meetings to hear about their needs and how College Hill can help. I still love to hand-deliver orders, write thank you cards, take clients out to coffee or lunch and hear their story,” he says. This summer, he hand- delivered ice cream in branded coolies during a heat wave and regularly invites clients to football games in his hometown with free tickets, food and drink. These small touches have a big impact and are unexpected among company CEOs, even those at small companies. 

Poston’s focus on customer service also extends to his community, say his nominators, President Jen Gangwish and Senior Account Manager Gabi Gebauer. For example, when he learned his hometown school district’s food pantry program that provided at-home meals for children in need distributed the meals in brown paper sacks, he knew he could help. The paper sacks made the children stand out from their peers and others often bullied them. Poston had his team source sporty cinch packs decorated with one of the school’s mascots and donated them to the school district to use in place of the paper sacks. “Whether it helped them blend in or stand out in a good way, it was a small gesture with a life-altering impact,” say his nominators, who call Poston a role model for the entire team.

What inspires you to go above and beyond what customers expect? I really love people and want to make sure they have a great experience with my company. Word-of-mouth has been such a great sales tool for us and when we deliver an exceptional experience, people talk. That inspires me, obviously, as it benefits my business. But what really inspires me is building a relationship with my customers and being their “go-to” guy. I found something that I love to do and always strive to be their best option.

What’s your best advice for others wanting to improve their customer service skills? I don’t think it’s something you can teach if people don’t want to naturally please others. You have to genuinely want to make people’s day better, and that can come in the form of a check-in email (not a sales email), a thank-you card or small gift, or a “great experience working with you.” Work hard to generate a smile on your customers face at least once every time you interact with them.

What’s an example of the best service you’ve received, why was it impressive and how did it make you feel? I recently refinanced my home and was working with a loan officer (who happens to be a client now). He is the principal of his branch and I know he has a lot of bigger deals going, but he handled my small re-finance himself, always calling and checking in with updates. When we were closing, he drove 275 miles to get me the documents because we were on a tight deadline. I’ll never forget that and have since referred dozens of clients his way because I know he’d do the same for them.

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Director of Administration 
Artina Promotional Products 
Powell, Ohio

Anna Ruska started her career in banking, as a teller and brand manager, both customer service-related roles, which she says helped make her a stronger leader and able to pitch in whenever needed. She joined Artina 14 years ago as a temp in customer service and then was asked to join the team full time. Most of her day is spent managing the support team and helping them prioritize their workload. “Our support team is cross-trained which allows me to pull in non-CSR employees to help keep our orders as current as possible and our team running smoothly,” she says. 

“Anna understands the importance of managing an order from start to finish, keeping the client informed along the way and does everything in her power to avoid surprises,” says President Matina Zenios, one of five nominators. “She builds good relationships with clients and suppliers for a common goal, leads our service providers and is a great mentor/coach to them. She doesn’t just tell people what to do or how to do it, she explains why and is extremely patient. She’s also not afraid, on any day at any hour (and I mean any hour), to pull up her sleeves and get involved. She is an amazing leader and an amazing service provider. We are so lucky to have her.”

Another nominator, Jennifer Tipple, VP of finance and operations, adds, “Another great example of Anna’s superior service is the way she tries to find the best possible solution for our clients and our company as well. She always thinks outside of the box when it comes to dealing with order errors that can take up the majority of a day, laying out all possible scenarios to come to a solution to benefit everyone.” 

What inspires you to go above and beyond what customers expect? My inspiration is to maintain and strengthen the relationships we have built with our customers and to maintain the strong partnership between our CSRs and sales reps. I want the customer to know and be assured that they are our focus and I always strive to deliver their order on time or ahead of schedule. 

What’s your best advice for others wanting to improve their customer service skills? Always put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Be proactive, especially when delivering disappointing news to them. Provide options, whether it is to change an item that is out of stock, ship short, expedite the freight method or to wait for stock with an ETA date to the customer. Be transparent and honest upfront with the customer on the current supply chain challenges we are facing every day. We need to be ahead of the order and try to anticipate any issues that may arise and address our follow-ups accordingly.

What’s an example of the best service you’ve received, why was it impressive and how did it make you feel? Any customer service where empathy is shown to me, and I am offered options on how to proceed with the situation, makes me feel that I am in control of the outcome. The customer service rep delivering the news to me is not the one who caused the issue with my order. However, when they show a personal interest for my situation, and want to make it better, shows they work for a company that values their customers. 

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VP of Sales Administration
Starline USA 
Grand Island, New York

Nicole Tasca joined the New York-based supplier 19 years ago after a stint as a volunteer coordinator at a nonprofit agency where she trained and scheduled volunteers who handled child custody and divorce mediation. At Starline, she immediately found her niche and moved up in the company from a business development coordinator through sales roles to her current position. Along the way, her dedication and enthusiasm for customer service has set her apart. 

“She always finds the solution rather than concentrating on what caused the problem,” says nominator and client H.A. Gross, sales manager at distributor Plaza Printers. “She provides us with the resources we need to increase sales and is the one person in the industry I can call on and know I will get a ‘yes!’ If I had more people like Nicole in my corner, I could get more sales done. This industry needs more Nicoles!”

Nominator Brian Porter, senior VP of sales and marketing at Starline, says Tasca runs his inside sales department, as well juggles territories that are open, and handles some of the industry’s largest national accounts. “She’s an absolute hero to not only Starline and its sales team, but also to her clients. Not a day goes by that I don’t say a prayer of thanks for who she is and what she does. In a world where it’s hard to find someone who wants to work one job, she works sometimes up to four and five and does so with a smile.”

What inspires you to go above and beyond what customers expect? I go back to the old saying, “Treat people the way you want to be treated.” I want to be treated with respect and honesty and that is how I treat our customers.  

What’s your best advice for others wanting to improve their customer service skills? Stay in touch, be honest and genuine. Even if you don’t have the answer right now, let your customer know you are working on it. Even if you don’t have the answer they want, be honest. People just want to know they are not being ignored. People also want to know that you genuinely care about them and their situation, so make sure they know you do. Always bring solutions. 

What’s an example of the best service you’ve received, why was it impressive and how did it make you feel? I recently went to a restaurant with my family on a Saturday evening. It was a casual dinner, but the restaurant was extremely busy. Our waiter had the most amazing personality and treated us like we were his only customers. After talking to him a bit, we learned he was at the end of a 12-hour shift but based on the way he treated us, you would have thought he just started his day. Making people feel special, and like they are your only customer, goes a long way.

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Account Executive 
LogoSpeed 
Lewis Center, Ohio

Kelly Vessells first learned the lasting value of patience and empathy when she worked in a doctor’s office who specialized in foot and ankle problems. She helped fit patients for their braces and orthotics and helped them shop for shoes after seeing the doctor. “I have always put a strong emphasis on customer service,” she says. “It’s important to always be pleasant and kind when working with customers, because they feed off the energy you put out, so I always try to remain positive in everything I do.”

She found the promo industry four-and-a-half years ago when she joined supplier LogoSpeed as an inside sales rep and then became the inside sales manager. About a year and a half ago, she moved to outside sales, which was the right move because she says she loves getting out and meeting with customers face to face. In the past year, her relationships with customers have become even more valuable. “I think the most important thing is being open with customers and providing a realistic view of what is going on,” she says. “I never want to overpromise anything to a customer if there’s uncertainty about hitting their date. I would rather be honest and upfront about the situation than overcommit to something. I think that is what keeps customers around long-term—the honesty and trust built between the two of us.”

“There is literally no one better in our industry,” says Owner Scot A. Schreiber, who nominated Vessells. “Kelly receives compliments on a daily basis from every customer she works with, at all levels of the organization, including CMOs, CEOs and presidents. And in addition to an exceptional level of customer service, she is one of the most pleasant people, consistently, whom you will ever meet.” 

Another of her five nominators, Chris Brooks, managing partner, shares two examples of the service she routinely provides. “A new client recently requested samples of several items and Kelly took the time to clearly number and label each item to make it insanely easy for the client to differentiate each sample. Then, she included a note with each item giving her thoughts on why each was a winner. She also studies her clients’ brand guidelines and develops a keen understanding of how they like to promote them. Her clients love that her product ideas are always in line with their brand direction.”

What inspires you to go above and beyond what customers expect? I love my customers! I think building a personal relationship with them and getting to know more about them helps me grow closer and want to go over and above for them. My customers become my friends, and I’d do anything for my friends. I want my customers to be thrilled with their entire experience from start to finish. 

What’s your best advice for others wanting to improve their customer service skills? Always try to have a positive attitude. Be as genuine and transparent as you can because I know my customers appreciate that. It’s not about selling something to them, it’s about creating long-term relationships and trust with those you work with—both internally and externally.

What’s an example of the best service you’ve received, why was it impressive and how did it make you feel? I think the most positive experiences I have had have actually been the result of a negative experience. It’s the company apologizing and acknowledging the mistake. It’s their willingness to help find a solution to resolve it and make me, a customer, happy. When a company goes above and beyond to take care of an unsatisfied customer, it has the ability to turn a negative experience into a positive one. That is what keeps me coming back—to feel that they truly care about me as a customer. It all circles back to exceptional customer experience, which is one of our core values at LogoSpeed and what I strive to provide to my customers.” 

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Customer Service Manager 
Crystal D  
Saint Paul, Minnesota 

One of Eric Wiberg’s seven nominators and a former client, Jeff Ziering, owner of distributor ADvance Promotions, considers the awards segment of the promo industry the most stressful for several reasons. “With awards, everybody needs it yesterday,” he says. “And then, after they receive their proofs for approval, inevitably there is always a change. Eric never panics—he is cool, calm and collected, a stabilizing force. He would assure me that the order would ship on time. His last words to me on most orders were, “I will take care of it.” I knew, when I placed an order with Eric, that I could sleep at night.” Ziering worked directly with Wiberg for five years before he was promoted to customer service manager. “I gained more respect for this guy than any other individual in my 34 years in this industry,” Ziering adds.

Wiberg started out in order entry with Crystal D five-and-a-half years ago and was promoted to territory order manager. He’s now in charge of customer service, a role he excelled in before, when he was in the retail and hospitality industries prior to joining Crystal D. “My role as the customer service manager now is to support my team not just in their day-to-day, but also in their own growth,” says Wiberg. “The supply chain challenges have hit the industry hard for sure, but I feel that my team and I have come into any challenges with empathetic hearts and solutions.” 

Another nominator, Kari Hurtis, VP of operations, says one of Wiberg’s many strengths is his empathy. “Eric has spent countless hours over the past several weeks coming through for a customer who made a mistake and placed the wrong year on over 150 awards. Eric has worked with our artists and production teams to offer solutions at little to no additional cost so that our customer does not lose the order. He understands that mistakes happen, and his only focus has been on making this right for our customer and the end-user.”

What inspires you to go above and beyond what customers expect? I treat others the way I want to be treated. It’s one of our core values at Crystal D. I treat every customer interaction the way I would want to be treated if the roles were reversed. 

What’s your best advice for others wanting to improve their customer service skills? Listen! Put yourself in your customer’s shoes and be empathetic to their situation. That will go a long way in customer service.

What’s an example of the best service you’ve received, why was it impressive and how did it make you feel? There is a small mom-and-pop grocery store near where I live and it’s all of the little things they do, from a kind and warm greeting, to the recommendations they make and the bagging of groceries. They are a bit more expensive than the big chain stores, but they make me feel like part of the family. All of the little things they do add up to a great customer experience every time and keep me coming back.  

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Tina Berres Filipski is editor of PPB.

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