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Case Study – Robert F. Thomas Foundation

April 30, 2014
Robert F. Thomas, a doctor in Sevier County, Tennessee, is said to have made as many as 1,000 house calls in a single year. He was a doctor, a minister and, maybe most crucially, a member of his community, one concerned with making sure that everyone, rich and poor, had access to healthcare.

Since his passing in 1980, the Robert F. Thomas Foundation has continued to build on Thomas’ concern, raising money to help provide health services to everyone. The organization has had help from, among others, Thomas’ most famous patient; he was the doctor who helped deliver one Dolly Parton into the world, and she has repaid him for the service by helping to raise funds and keep his dream alive.

But not even Dolly can do it alone.

“Dolly Parton is a huge part of what we do, but she’s not the sole person who funds us,” said Amy Woods of the Thomas Foundation. “We have a lot to bring in, a lot to do. Our biggest fundraiser that we do is the ‘Evening of Elegance,’ and that’s where I started using [Mitch-Stuart].”

Mitch-Stuart has provided auction-ready travel experiences for the Thomas Foundation’s major and smaller fundraising events. Donors have gone to Canada and the Caribbean, New York and Napa Valley, and everywhere in between. While the experiences have varied wildly, Woods said that the experience working with Mitch-Stuart has remained the same.

“I love the fact that I call and can ask, ‘what should I be looking at this year?’” she said. “They’ve never let me down.”

After a few times working with Mitch-Stuart, providing trips to vacations spots nearby and far-flung, Woods has started to see donors even requesting the availability of certain destination packages for upcoming auctions; trips involving culinary tours are popular, as are excursions to New York City.

“I’ll have people call and say, ‘Do you have any trips this year? Because I would like to go to...and if I’m going to go there anyway, I’d rather buy it from you and help the foundation,’” she said.

Those trip packages, which have attracted a fan base that includes a local mayor, have combined with other auction items like cars and, at one special event, even an Egyptian Arabian stallion to make the “Evening of Elegance” the county’s must-attend social event, meaning big funds for an incredibly important cause.

“It’s really nice to know that every year, no matter what our other items are, we’re always able to go and pick out whatever I want from anywhere in the world out of Mitch-Stuart’s catalog,” Woods said.

Thanks to Amy Woods of the Robert F. Thomas Foundation for taking the time to speak with us! For more information on the organization and its important work, visit it on the web and on Facebook.

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The Importance Of Being Different

April 10, 2013
In some countries, they call it “tall poppy syndrome” — you’re different, you’ve achieved a lot and sometimes it breeds some jealousy. But in the business world, standing out because you do something different (and successfully) just makes you a leader in your “field.”

At Mitch Stuart, what sets us apart is our customer service. Of course most companies see themselves as providing excellent customer service. But we feel our brand of customer “care” goes beyond and as we spend a few days at the industry AFP conference seeing many of our long-time clients, we thought we’d take a moment to talk about our customer service differences.

First, let’s identify what creates good customer service. MSN Money which awards top customer service providers every year has isolated three traits which comprise “winners”

  • Good service starts at the top. Companies with great service have chief executives who make it their mission. They're not afraid to spend money, hire experts and structure the corporation around the goal of sterling service.
  • Service is seen as a continual challenge. Companies with outstanding customer service are more eager to talk about their continuing efforts than to accept praise for a job well done.
  • These are companies where people want to work. Companies that excel at customer service are often also known for providing relatively good pay and benefits. They trust their employees to make decisions, then routinely stand behind those decisions.

At Mitch Stuart we are pleased to be able to say we meet the above criteria and we would like to share some of our examples.

We have never been afraid to spend money and structure our business around “sterling service.” While other packaged trip providers offer travel which include blackout dates and restrictions for the folks who have purchased them, at a cost-savings to the provider but often a hassle and extra work for the purchaser.

“That’s not a vacation!” says MSI co-founder Michelle Cohen. “We went into business with the idea of providing a perfect, well-planned and nothing left-to-chance experience for our customers, and have done so for 20 years.”

A client visiting our booth this morning said it best, "Wow, that is so major that your packages allow our donors to travel from any airport and during holidays — and not be limited to only one airline and its major hub airports. That's HUGE!!! We really like your flexibility!"

But, at Mitch Stuart, we don’t believe in “laurel-resting” we confer with our clients regularly to see where we can fine-tune service to meet their needs. Our clients have told us that many travelers, in their excitement to  support an organization buy a trip to a destination even if it isn’t somewhere they really want to visit. We work with clients to accommodate them and allow them to trade their package for another destination.

Retaining top talent in any business is an ongoing challenge. At MSI we can report that most of our employees have been with us for an average of 8 years. We attribute some of the company loyalty to ways we have found to help keep employees working even when their lives have changed, by offering telecommuting and other flex scheduling.

But nothing speaks louder than client referrals and client repeat business. In those categories, MSI is humbled to be able to report that between 85 and 90% of our business is repeat.

What do your customers say about your customer service? Let us know in the comments.

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