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customer service

Credit where due…

I’m becoming increasingly impressed with the degree to which some public and private organisations are using social media to improve customer service.

Case in point: the hydro pole in my elderly neighbour’s back yard had begun to tilt dramatically over the past year or so. So much so that my cable and phone lines were only about 7 feet off the ground. I was waiting for my neighbour to call about it, but when that didn’t happen (honestly, I don’t think he even noticed it or remembered after I chatted with him about it last fall) I figgered I’d give the utility a buzz.

So, I go on their site to find which of the numerous emails and phone numbers I should use, when I noticed they were on Twitter. So, what the hell, I like to see now and then if organisations actually use their SM accounts and don’t just have them to show that they’re hip.

I Tweet the problem late Saturday afternoon and what do ya know, I receive a Tweet back Monday morning asking me to DM (that’s direct message, for those not in “the know”) them with the address. I complied and what do ya know (again), my daughter calls me on Tuesday morning (in a panicky voice cuz the poor girl cannot imagine a house without electricity) to say that a Hydro Ottawa guy came to the door saying that the power will be out for a half hour or so while they fix the pole.

Sent Tweet on Saturday, April 13. Receive Tweet back on Monday, fixed on Tuesday.

Now THAT’S how to use SM to improve customer service…


Public transportation…

Taxi version… Ottawa versus Barbados. Based on recent experience.

1) Lots of baggage and taxis, Barbados. Part One.

Driver cheerfully picks up from Granley Adams Airport and carefully sets our 5 heavy suitcases carefully down in the back of the minivan. Smile on face, he talks us up on the way from the airport, telling us about what to see and do. The agreed upon and reasonable fare is paid and an arrangement is made for him to pick us up on the day of our departure.

2) Lots of baggage and taxis, Ottawa. Part One.

Blue Line taxi is called the night before for a 4:30 pick-up. I tell the dispatcher that we are a party of 4 with 5 pieces of luggage and 4 carry-ons. I am assured that this won’t be a problem. At 4:40 the on the appointed morning, an undersized car shows up. No apologies for being late. Shrugging his shoulders, the driver crams as much luggage as possible into a trunk and front seat while the four of us are crammed into the back. Only the 2 kids wearing seatbelts, and I with a 40 lb suitcase on my lap.

Good times.

3) Lots of baggage and taxis, Barbados. Part Two.

Driver shows up dead on the minute. Won’t let me touch the bags. He loads everything on. Makes sure the kids are in the cab safely. Nice convo about the politics of Barbados… this is a smart and informed guy. Waits for other cars to move so he can debark us right in front of the Air Canada check-in desk. He thanks us profusely for hiring him and gives me biz cards to give out to any other friends or colleagues who may visit the island.

Note: if you plan on visiting Barbados, email me.

4) Lots of baggage and taxis, Ottawa. Part Two.

Bags drop off belt around midnight. I’m tired. the kids are tired. Want and need smooth sailing from here on in… should be safe, right?

Go outside to stand in the taxi queue. The taxi stand organizer is A-one ( the only bright part of this tale this side of the 13th parallel) and has C and the kids stand in his heated office while we wait for a vehicle large enough to accommodate our bags. It wasn’t a long wait. The taxi herder says to me: “heads-up… he’s gonna ding you for and extra $10 because you have an extra bag”. Nice of him to tell me and I’m too tired at this point to make a fuss.

Mini-van pulls up. Driver tosses and stuffs bags in. No words of friendly conversation. Arrive at our house around midnight and upon I handing over the fare, the driver grumbles: “that’s an extra $10 for the bags.” I say: “But, this is a van. There’s no biggy for you.”

He says : “Ten dollars.”

I downwardly adjust the tip accordingly. I take the bags out myself. Stack them at the end of the driveway while C gets the freezing kids into the house. Then I drag them up the drive and into the house myself. The cab clips one of the bags upon backing out of the driveway.

Welcome back to Ottawa.

Gotta love the customer service, eh? Pathetic. And this is the nation’s capital.

Tomorrow: Barbados buses versus OCTranspo.



To get away from the political blah-blah for a moment

I thought I would mention something about customer service; two instances of really good attention to services and one not-so-good.

As a general comment, there is a sense in our society that civility, as a whole, is taking a head-first dive into the dumpster. As a corollary to this is a diminished sense of service to the public by those who directly interact with other folks on a regular basis. It is the paid job of some Canadians to provide a service to others; be they as servers in a restaurant, cashiers at a store or entrepreneurs that provide a specific service directly for the public.

I’m not going to go on about surly servers (there are many), indifferent cashiers or floor personnel in a store (they may outnumber the surly servers). Rather, I have two examples of different levels of service.

1)  Good example #1: I had to get a tree removed from my property as well as a bit of hedge work. I received a few estimates and decided to go with Ottawa Tree Surgeons. The staff were pleasant and professional and kept to their word – right from the lady who booked my appointment over the phone to the young guys who came to my door at  7 am to let me know they were starting so as to surprise a potentially sleeping bald guy. The work was done when they said it would be and on budget.  I highly recommend this firm.

2) Bad example #1: We have decided a while back to replace our 1980’s style countertops and flooring in the kitchen. They were getting pretty disgusting and we set the end of the summer as the end date for the project, this freeing up the rest of the fall for outside stuff. We did our research and found a countertop that we liked at IKEA. The price was right and the style was right along the lines we were considering… not a granite top or anything fancy-schmancy like that but just a plain ol’ laminate.

So I measured the top – VERY carefully – and dropped into the Ottawa IKEA to place an order. “No problem” was the word from the IKEA custom countertop dude. “You should have them within a few weeks as we contract out this work to a local firm.

“Great!” we said and sure enough, the counters arrived more or less on time and I began the deconstruction phase of the project.  After taking off the first two – smaller – tops I was full of hope that nothing had gone wrong. But when I tried on one of the longer tops for size, it was a full inch too short. And the other long piece was one inch too long.

Call IKEA.

Not our fault. Must have been the countertop company that we contract out to (1).

Called the countertop folks.

Not us. We went with the dimensions that were supplied to us by IKEA.

Numerous phone calls went back and forth between the three parties. All of them initiated by me or by the countertop company. Seemed like IKEA thought that if they left it alone long enough that we would go away.

Turns out that IKEA – for whatever reason – changed the dimensions without taking to me and getting my OK to do so. In the end, the countertop folks came out to my place, measure the kitchen and said, “yup, IKEA screwed up”. The company said they would fax in the dimensions to IKEA and all would be well. True to their word, the countertop company truck rolled up to my garage a few days later and loaded up the old – not fitting- tops and took them away.

Fast forward 2 weeks. I had again made lots of calls to IKEA wondering what was up. But to no avail. I finally got pissed off and sent an email to their corporate address – a note saying that if this was not resolved in 24 hours, I would file a complaint with the BBB and spout off about their horrific service on FB, Twitter, my blog and sky-writing.

One and a half hours later, I get a call for the countertop folks saying that they had just received the go-ahead form IKEA and that the countertops would be ready the next week – which they were. And that they would fit – which they did (well, save for a minor glitch which was not a fault of there’s but rather of the moron who had initially installed the cabinets… that’s another rant).

Anyhow – lesson learned – don’t buy something that is a custom order from a place that sells goods that require assembly… the karma just ain’t there.

Now if only I could find a way to blame Harper for all of this!