Extra mile and an extra smile

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Carol Ritter
Carol Ritter

Flexibility. Solutions. Extra mile.

These are the main principles of extreme customer service, a concept that Carol Ritter teaches to businesses in the Greater Lehigh Valley.

As the co-owner of Caroltalks in Bethlehem, Carol Ritter’s company slogan is “Grow UR Biz.” She has helped hundreds of businesses in the last 20 years as a speaker, coach and consultant on extreme customer service, a method for businesspeople to intentionally change the way they do business – to go above and beyond a customer’s expectations.

Ritter uses her enthusiasm to deliver her extreme customer service message in a three-part education series she designed and named Recharge. This month, she brought the series to the Nazareth Business Council, a division of the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce.

“Our greatest need as human beings is to feel important,” Ritter said. “People will pay a higher price in order to be respected and treated right.”

Ritter noted the superior customer service efforts of a client, the Apollo Grill restaurant in downtown Bethlehem.

Before each work shift every day, the entire staff meets to review customer service guidelines. In addition, the restaurant soon will launch a charity event to celebrate its 15th anniversary: “15 years, 15 days, 15 charities” – a way for the restaurant to reward its customers.

“It’s the highest level of customer service,” Ritter said.

More than 20 years ago, Ritter worked as the marketing director for a motivational speaker in the investment industry. Over time, she took the motivational tactics she learned on the job and carried them into the nonprofit sector, including in parent-teacher association meetings at her children’s schools and into board meetings at other organizations.

Ritter continued consulting the schools and nonprofits on how to grow more members, more money and better leaders. She did this on a volunteer basis, though.

After a few years, Ritter decided that she could make money by establishing a company that provides these same services, including to for-profit businesses. In 1994, Ritter partnered with her neighbor-friend, and fellow PTA mom, Laurel Mikovitz, to launch Caroltalks.

“Good customer service can often take the place of advertising,” Mikovitz said. “Carol is the face of Caroltalks because she has an expertise and a gift in delivering this message.”

One of Caroltalks’ biggest clients is the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce. The chamber created the Nazareth Business Council two years ago and hired Ritter and Mikovitz as consultants to direct it in an effort to help promote and grow local businesses.

The pair works out of the council’s office on Main Street in Bethlehem and provides classes, networking events and other services to the community throughout the year.

Because several local businesses came to the council and asked for help in strengthening their customer service skills, Ritter designed the Recharge program.

“We are driven by our members and the community,” Mikovitz said. “If they express a need, we do our best to provide it for them.”

Ritter designed the three-part Recharge series of classes, for members and nonmembers of the Nazareth Business Council, to provide tactics on extreme customer service, marketing and social media. Local businesspeople gathered last week to listen to Ritter speak at the extreme customer service portion of the Recharge program, an early morning class in a conference room at Moravian Hall Square in Nazareth. Those in attendance all shared a common purpose on what brought them to the class.

“Of all the products we offer at our bank, I want to make customer service our No. 1 product,” said Mary Kositz, manager of ESSA Bank & Trust’s Bath branch and an attendee of the extreme customer service class.

Along with an enthusiastic approach to the attendees of her classes, Ritter uses a PowerPoint slide show presentation to convey the main concepts and tactics involved with extreme customer service. She concludes her presentation with a picture of an “extreme customer service wheel” – essentially a map of what a company’s extreme customer service should look like.

“The key is differentiating your company and setting yourself apart,” said Dave Seiple, sales representative for Graphic Imaging in Pipersville and also an attendee of last week’s class.

Highlighted on the top of the extreme customer service wheel is the golden rule: to treat others as you wish to be treated. Among the other wheel’s parts are having high impact leadership, creating a fun environment and being visible in the community. In the class, Ritter also teaches the importance of listening, first impressions and telephone etiquette.

Ritter is a firm believer that all of the concepts in her extreme customer service class should be partnered with company leaders constantly educating themselves and their staff on customer service, while maintaining a constant flow of communication.

Ultimately, Ritter teaches the importance for businesspeople to always be flexible in an ever-changing economy, always find a solution to a problem and always go the extra mile for a customer to make him or her feel special.

“Leaders who believe in lifelong learning and commit to continuously improving themselves are the ones that will be successful,” Ritter said. “We aren’t here to show businesses what they are doing wrong, but how they can do it better.”

Jennifer Glose

Jennifer Glose

Reporter Jennifer Glose covers health care, Berks County and other topics. She can be reached at jenniferg@lvb.com or 610-807-9619, ext. 111. Follow her on Twitter @jenniferg_LVB and read her blog, “Networking,” at http://www.lvb.com/section/networking-blog.

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