We may be underselling this celebration. Given its title, assuming the Better Business Bureau Torch Awards for Ethics is simply a recognition of business ethics is, well, completely understandable. There’s more to it than that, though.
Make no mistake, we are honoring businesses and charities that prioritize operational ethics. But you can’t have that conversation without praising what those practices produce: relationships.
When an organization places ethics and integrity at the forefront of its operations, some truly compelling connections arise as a result. Dedicated employees, repeat customers, appreciative communities – they’re what every organization wants but only the most honorable achieve.
So, what we’re also acknowledging in 2021 are those bonds, and the organizations that prioritize them.
This year, Better Business Bureau Great West + Pacific is proud to spotlight 31 businesses and charities based across our eight-state region for their successful efforts building and maintaining meaningful marketplace relationships. They thrive because they empower their employees, act on customer feedback, and communicate clearly and consistently.
Actions that emphasize and encourage positive interactions are areas where each of these winning businesses and charities excel.
Building better customer relationships.
For Island Windows & Doors, winners of the 2021 Spark Award in Hawaii, their approach to creating lasting customer relationships is built on agility. Supporting clients means meeting them where they are, even if that means meeting in a parking lot.
“Our customer-oriented programs start with our mobile showrooms,” shared Paul Nobbe, co-owner of Island Windows and Doors. “These allow us to meet our clients wherever they may be, at whatever time best suits their needs. We’ve gone to meet clients within 20 minutes in a Lowe’s parking lot!”
After those get-togethers, regardless of where they may take place, Nobbe said his team is tasked with identifying and resolving any issues that pop up along the way.
“During each point of interaction – getting final measurements, throughout the shipping/delivery process, installation of the products, and our Service & Maintenance program – all employees have been trained to ask if there are any issues and how best we can fix them to our client’s satisfaction. These client interactions are followed up on a team group chat so that we can begin working to address issues as quickly as possible.”
And those follow-ups, they pair well with a little forecasting, too. Proactively resolving issues that customers may not expect and communicating solutions beforehand shows a level of empathy that can breed strong bonds. Especially if those issues are connected to someone’s dream home.
“Halfway through every construction phase, we have the project’s superintendent give a gift card for a local restaurant to the client,” said Bonnie Kelley, marketing director with Renaissance Remodeling, this year’s Medium Business of the Year Torch Awards winner in Idaho.
“It gives the superintendent the opportunity to check in with the customer and say, ‘Hey, we know the construction phase can be loud and sometimes hectic, but the finish line to your dream home is in sight! Go enjoy some dinner or drinks on us and hang in there.’”
Those are gestures that ultimately make the customer feel special, like the organization’s primary concern is their individual needs. Just ask Heartline Ministries, Washington state’s Charity of the Year Torch Awards winner. Their non-profit, which specializes in supporting Haitian families, implements customer touch points that are intentionally personal.
“Monthly recurring donors are included in a specialized newsletter uniquely for them that comes from a Heartline employee living the mission on the ground in Haiti,” explained Dave Kless, Heartline’s director of operations and communications. “Each month, the monthly donor hears from a new team member. We call the monthly donor program ‘Fanmi Ansanm,’ which translates from Haitian Creole to ‘Family Together.’ The importance of a healthy recurring monthly donor program for any non-profit cannot be underestimated.”
Maintaining trust during uncertainty.
It’s likely the concept of family has taken on some added importance this year. When circumstances seem uncertain – and the marketplace has certainly felt its share of ambiguity – customers’ reliance on trustworthy relationships becomes greater. The first places they turn are organizations they can count on.
Cementing that status as a business or charity in 2021 has required an increased commitment to innovation, transparency, and communication. Along with health considerations, supply chain snags and hiring holdups have made it more difficult for organizations to deliver when needed. This year’s Torch Awards winners each proved they were up for that challenge.
“We were selected, based on our honesty and integrity, to manage the estate of a descendent who had family residing in Michigan,” shared Abigail McLagan, marketing director and auction manager for Alaska Premier Auctions and Appraisals, LLC, the Small Business of the Year winner in Alaska. “Since the family was unable to travel, we provided all services virtually to aid in a smooth transition. This meant virtual meetings, walk-throughs, electronic contract signing, and more to facilitate the sale of all personal property in addition to the real estate.”
Newman’s team live streamed its auction of the family’s real estate and took bids using an online tool. It was a modern approach that ultimately upped their notoriety within the auction industry, both locally and nationally. They aren’t alone in leveraging virtual options to better serve their customers either.
Help Elevate Learning Processing, Inc., winner of Oregon’s Small Business of the Year Torch Award, specializes in testing, evaluating, and treating children and adults with learning problems and processing weaknesses. With in-person sessions difficult to host during a pandemic, they’ve shifted many of their services online for an improved connection with their customers.
“The continued benefits of virtual meetings are that there were more available instructors for long distance and out-of-state clientele,” said Charlene Smith, assistant director of Help Elevate Learning Processing, Inc. “Help now can reach more people in other states that cannot drive to the office for in-person sessions.”
Similarly, REACH Community Development, Oregon’s Charity of the Year Torch Awards winner, acted on their understanding that an inability to gather physically shouldn’t mean important needs go unmet.
“Due to limited resources and staff capacity, residents living in our outlying communities did not have the same equitable access to our financial education programs,” explained REACH Fundraising and PR Manager Lauren Schmidt. “REACH recognized the disparities of equitable access based on geographic distance and was actively addressing this issue, but we had not considered a virtual learning environment until the pandemic.”
“Through this online option, we have offered five virtual (and recorded) budgeting workshops for residents across our housing portfolio to attend together or whenever it’s convenient in their schedule.”
But some needs can’t be as easily addressed in a virtual environment, especially if they’re urgent. Food, for example, is a necessity that needs immediate attention.
Biscuits and Berries Catering Company, Central Colorado’s Large Business of the Year Torch Awards winner, utilized their in-house resources and called on relationships they’ve forged with their community to supply nourishment to those who needed it to keep going at the height of the pandemic.
“In April, we started a grassroots campaign called Feed the Frontlines Denver where individuals and companies could donate money to feed frontline workers,” shared Derek Schnepf, general manager of Biscuits and Berries. “This effort raised over $27,000 and allowed us to feed over 1,600 essential workers in what was a very dark time for the healthcare industry.”
Businesses and charities honored as 2021 BBB Torch Awards winners are certified relationship builders within their respective communities. Take some time to see which organizations near you were recognized for their efforts.
If you’re interested in earning a spot on next year’s list, or maybe you know a business that deserves to be included, stay tuned. Applications for 2022 open next spring.