Changing customer needs was identified as a top local challenge in the 2016 Central Ohio CEO Survey by Capital University for Columbus CEO. Here is how some past CEO of the Year honorees are addressing it.

Ryan Vesler, Chief T-Shirt Officer, HOMAGE

When it comes to changing customer needs and expectations, I think one of the biggest shifts in retail has to do with customer experience.

With the “Amazon Effect,” customers are starting to expect things like free shipping, free returns and a true omni-channel experience. Amazon has streamlined the ordering process down to one click, so retailers are challenged by the scale, speed and efficiency of the e-commerce giant!Brands can no longer get by with *just* great product ... experience matters now more than ever.

HOMAGE is responding with an effort to provide a richer customer experience that emphasizes storytelling, personality and a sense of community. As legacy retail contracts, merchants that offer experience and authenticity will find themselves better suited.

Dave Rigo, Co-owner, Watershed Distillery

I believe it is important to understand customers' expectations and do everything in your power to exceed them. Watershed was built on this philosophy.

Nobody talks about a product or service when expectations have been met. People only talk about you when you have fallen short of their expectations or exceeded them. Now that we have a restaurant, that is even more important.

In both our businesses, we find ways to better understand our customers' needs. We do this on the distillery side with boots on the ground so we are in constant communication with our customers.

With the restaurant, we try to touch every table with an owner or manager so we make sure everyone is having a great experience. In our opinion, this builds both brand advocates and loyalty, which is key to our long-term success.

Rachel Finney, Executive Director, Capital Area Humane Society

Now, more than ever, pets are family—not possessions (hooray!).Increasingly, clients want helpkeepingtheir beloved pets or assistance re-homing a stray.They want more options and better results.

One-size-fits-all programming doesn't cut it. Three years ago, the Capital Area Humane Society expanded our programs to help families earlier in the process of care. We still serve as a safety net for people and pets in immediate crisis, but we shifted our primary focus from “last resort” to “first resource” in order to keep more pets in homes.

That meant thinking creatively to help families avoid surrender of the pets they love due to limited access to veterinary care, supplies, equipment or behavioral guidance.

As a result, we've reduced euthanasia by 70 percent and kept more than 800 animals with their loving families.

Darla King,President, King Business Interiors Inc.

We all know in business that without a customer, you don't have a business! The customer is always right, and if we lose sight of that fact, you will feel it in your business growth.

Listening to the customers as they share their pain points is what drives our business solutions. It could be a move, acquisition, adding employees, upgrading their image, or rightsizing their staff; these elements trigger our interactions with them.

Success comes when both parties have a trusting relationship to share the needs and resolve the pain points together. This collaboration leads to the win-win we are all striving to achieve in business!

Sometimes companies get deep into their own process and expect the customer to adjust to their business. That is so wrong on every level. Love your customers and listen to them.

Brian Ross, President & CEO, Experience Columbus

We are committed to making sure every Columbus visitor has the best experience possible—whether they're here for conventions or meetings or just to have fun.

As a part of our strategic plan to grow the visitor economy, we're leading a collaborative initiative for the Columbus region to enhance the visitor experience. Since 2013, Experience Columbus and the Greater Columbus Sports Commission have participated in theExperience

DedicatedTMDestinationprogram and trained more than 2,200 active Certified Tourism Ambassadors.

Recently, the success of our city's ongoing dedication to providing a quality visitor experience was validated when Columbus was ranked “Highest in Visitor Satisfaction in the Midwest” by J.D. Power in the 2016 Destination Experience Satisfaction Study.

Central Ohio corporate and nonprofit executives can provide contact information to participate in the 2017 CEO Survey at

capital.edu/ceo-survey. The survey will be available in August.