By Hannah Wallace July 31, 2009

Philip Mancini

Co-proprietor, Michael’s On East

I always try to treat our clients like personal friends. After being in business for as long as Michael’s On East has been, 90 percent of our clientele have become friends and family to us. This approach to catering has allowed me to establish a level of comfort with people. I encourage our employees to get to know our clients as well, because every client is different. The success of the catering company is linked to customizing our services. I write a personal schedule for each catering event. We pair employees with certain clients who work well together. Building relationships with clients over the years has allowed me to anticipate their requests before they even arrive to schedule an event.

Ryan Hilton

Safari specialist and wildlife photographer, Admiral Travel Gallery

Good communication during pre-departure enables me to customize my services to meet our clients’ needs. Admiral Travel is in constant contact with all of our travelers electronically and over the phone. We try to meet with our local clients at least five times prior to departure, spending at least an hour and a half assessing their travel goals. I never start with a standard itinerary. Each trip begins with all the options that the continent has to offer, and is formulated based on the natural history, wildlife, cultural and financial interests of the client.  I often recommend television programs that are relevant to their trips to Africa. As part of their safari preparation, I use a model safari bag as a visual aid to help them properly pack.

Sharon Petrik

Executive manager, Serendipity Country Club

For better personal service, we have adopted the “above and beyond” philosophy of exceeding the expectations of every customer by catering to their specific needs. We train our employees to respond to members’ requests with smiling faces and to help them in any way possible. Even if their concerns relate to a different area of the club, we instruct our employees to follow through with the appropriate department. This “can-do” attitude carried out at the smallest level will bring a business many rewards, such as referrals from satisfied members.

David Jackson

Co-owner, New Balance of Sarasota

Making an effort to connect with your customers in the beginning is vital to selling a product. When a customer comes in to buy a pair of shoes, we begin an interview process to better understand them and their situation. Our staff is trained to give customers one-on-one service. We want to know more about our clients than their shoe preferences, such as who they are and where they are from. This helps us build relationships that will lead to more repeat business in the future. We encourage our staff to engage in conversations with our customers to make them feel more comfortable. New Balance recently opened a “green” location on University Parkway that is constructed mostly of recycled materials and environmentally friendly paint. We hope that our green store will provide us with another opportunity to connect with our customers and will spark conversation.

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