Tag Archives: customer service

My favourite: Extraordinary Customer Service

The other day we watched Paddington, the movie, and I hauled out my Paddington Bear which I purchased at Hamley’s of Regent Street (London, UK) in 1978 only to discover that poor bear’s hat is in shocking condition.  I also purchased one for my sister, Catherine – hope her hat’s in better shape.

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So I emailed customer service at Hamley’s to see if I could get a new hat. Imagine my surprise when the phone rang a few minutes ago and it was Libby from Hamley’s responding to my query! Unfortunately, her best suggestion is to find someone who can make me a new hat as Paddington is no longer made in the UK – as mine was.

Now THAT is extraordinary customer service!

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Happy Anniversary to me! 10 years in business today.

Wow, where has the last 10 years gone?  It seems like only yesterday that I walked through the doors of the Toronto Business Development Centre to apply for the Self Employment Assistance Program.  We were told to turn our phones off but Siobhan was expecting to give birth to Jaden any second so I refused and put mine on vibrate.  Two very important things happening at the same time!

Fast forward 6 weeks and I started the program.  It was a blur of information and on October 24th I graduated and The Virtual Alternative was born.  It was a very scary day but the TBDC took us out to lunch at a local Portuguese restaurant and Joe, not yet my husband, picked me up and whisked me off…somewhere,,, (funny the details we remember and the details we don’t).

There have been a lot of highs and lows since then…applied for my HST number at the end of 2005 – not bad going for 2 years in business – then suffered from a pretty bad low.  But here I am, 8 years after that, still going strong and loving being self-employed.

I have some terrific clients that I enjoy working with and every day is a new adventure.  Despite some days being at the computer at 5:45 a.m. and still at the computer past midnight, I would rather stick pins in my eyes than go back to working for someone else.  I’ve made some terrific friends, worked with some terrific colleagues and wouldn’t trade the last 10 years for anything.

So, to all my clients, friends and family, thank you for your support, it’s been a pleasure working and playing with you over the last 10 years and I look forward to another 10+.

Liz

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Customer Service par Excellence!

Some time ago, I blogged about an example of customer service that stood above the crowd:  when Jennifer of Oust-A-Mouse offered me a second unit, “on loan”, to help battle my cottage mouse problem.  Well, I am extremely happy to report that I have not seen any evidence of mice…no actual critters, no tell tale droppings, nothing.

And that, despite continuing to find new spots that we never cleaned in the first place.  Needless to say, those spots are being cleaned and bleached as they are found but still no new critters have made their way inside.

We even had renovations done to our fireplace hearth and the workman took the hearth out and left the inside wide open to the outside.  Still no critters!

Many years ago when I was newly in business, I had a client named Graham who gave me a fairly small job to do and for whatever reason, it just went wrong at every turn.  When I finally completed the tasks assigned, I was incredibly frustrated with myself that a fairly straightforward job had gone so awry.  I eventually handed Graham the finished job and never sent him an invoice.   Years later he came back to me with a $3500 project, which I was able to complete on time and on budget; a project I never would have seen had I billed him for the $100 job years earlier.

In the case of Oust-A-Mouse, it wasn’t that the product didn’t work, it was that I had so many mice, I needed two units to do the job properly.

In my opinion, anyone who stands as firmly behind a product as Jennifer does should be applauded and promoted.  In this day and age of disposable everything and an attitude of buyer beware, it’s truly refreshing to find a company like Oust-A-Mouse and an owner like Jennifer who offer an exceptional product and exceptional customer service.  I hope that at The Virtual Alternative we always strive to live up to Jennifer’s example.

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Another example of great customer service: Paragon Travel

I write a lot about good customer service because it so often goes unnoticed in our busy world.  Paragon Travel deserves recognition.

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Thursday I flew to St. John’s, Newfoundland for my annual trip to visit our property manager.  On June 21st I had the major surgery on both feet (as you know).  I was led to believe I would be substantially more recovered than I am, however Wednesday when I was doing some “running” around, I realized that there was no way I was going to be able to stand in lines at the airport…or walk substantial distances to my Gate (which in my life I knew would be at the far end of the airport).

So at 4:50 p.m. Wednesday I emailed Paul at Paragon Travel and said “Paul, is it way too late to try to organize a wheelchair for tomorrow?”  My flight was at 8 a.m. so I figured he would laugh at me.

Nope, no laughing, he got on the phone and sat on hold for an hour…and got me wheelchairs in both airports both coming and going!  Now Paul’s shift is over at 5:30 but he stuck it out until he had accomplished what he set out to do.

Paul could have completely ignored by email, pretended he didn’t see it, but that is not the service that Paragon Travel provides.  in the beginning, Paul worked with me to make sure I got flights that worked for me, getting me to St. John’s as early as possible and back from St. John’s early enough to actually still make it to the cottage on Friday.  I couldn’t find them when doing the research myself.  This final request was above and beyond and ridiculously last minute of me.

But once again, Paul and Paragon Travel came through for me.  As someone who has never used a travel agent before, I now completely understand the value of using a travel agent and will highly recommend them to anyone needing travel assistance and a pleasant experience.

Way to go Paragon Travel!

 

 

 

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Water or Mice: opening the cottage 2013

What a glorious weekend for opening the cottage!  Sunny, temperature in the 20’s, no bugs to speak of and ridiculously high water levels.  Apparently it’s a 100 year high water level.

one of 2 government docks under water

one of 2 government docks under water

The road from town to the cottage is actually closed unless you’re “local” which everyone out here is because it’s the only road in and out of town.

While running around taking pictures for Facebook so my kids could see how crazy the water is, I met the new neighbour, Dave.  He lives in the Pride of Muskoka house and works at Pride of Lake of Bays.  Seems like a very nice guy.  For the record, Pride of Muskoka is substantially under water.

The cottage however was completely untouched by the high water levels as we’re on a hill so we’re lucky that way.

Last fall Jennifer at Oust-a-Mouse loaned me a second O-a-M unit to see if we could get the mouse population under control so it was with great oustamouseanticipation that I started on a mouse poop expedition.  Since we didn’t install it until the week between Xmas and New Year’s it’s hard to say for sure – at this point – whether it helped but, Jennifer had said “bleach everything” so I started cleaning – with bleach – so that I could get the fridge up and running, etc.

Turns out it was a good thing that I was cleaning with bleach instead of water because on day 3 (Sunday a.m.) we still have no running water.  We do have a lot of very clean surfaces though.  Unfortunately, have not been able to move the fridge single handed to bleach under/behind it and check the wiring – that will have to wait until water is running.

As husband, Joe, struggles on with the water situation (I’m staying out of the way as he’s agitated), I’m trying to find more areas to bleach and enjoying watching the bird that’s building it’s nest under the eave again, right outside the kitchen window.

So, this week will be the real test – will there be mouse poop next week?  Fingers crossed that the answer is a resounding NO!!!

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Swimming Lessons Shouldn’t be Dangerous! by Liz Saunders

A few years ago, Daughter Olivia moved into the complex known as Crescent Town.  At the time, I was worried because when I was her age, Crescent Town was not a place I would have even gone, let alone lived.  But she’s been very happy there and she’s never been mugged.

So last fall, after having difficulties with Toronto Parks and Recreation’s swimming programs for Jaden, I was surprised to find that Crescent Town Community Centre offered private swimming lessons for $90 for 5 and that they were available to the public.  I never would have considered it if Olivia hadn’t lived in the complex – unharmed.

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Off Jaden and I went to swimming.  Jaden is a special child and suffers from severe anxiety in certain circumstances and impulsivity at the best of times.  Sending him into the men’s changing room alone was just not an option.  From the first day, Jaden had instructions to keep his eyes down and to stick close to me, while I found a quiet corner where I could use his towel not just as a shield for him but also from him.   There’s no family changing room so that was about the best I could do.

On one of the first occasions, there was a woman in the change room who totally freaked out on me for having Jaden in the room.   Not much I could do.  She was extremely aggressive, rude, loud and in my face but I carried on, continuing to instruct Jaden to be respectful of the fact that he was in foreign territory.  Funny, when I left that day my house keys were no longer in my jacket pocket.

The second time this happened (different woman), I asked his swimming instructor if there was an alternative.   She said, “don’t worry about it, I’ll make sure it’s okay”.  I thought that would be the end of it.

Last night, as we approached the door of the change room, Jaden said to me “eyes down, right grandma?” and we went to our corner and he changed.   Imagine my surprise when an employee followed us into the shower saying “people are complaining about him being in here”.  I said “this has been taken care of, tell them to complain at the desk”.  She repeated herself, I repeated myself, she repeated herself…you get the picture.  When we got into the pool, I told the swimming instructor about it and she said “that shouldn’t happen”.

In any event, I left Jaden in Niv’s care – not without a major wobble on Jaden’s part about me leaving – to go and pay for 5 more lessons (including the one he was about to have).  As I waited at the counter I was aware that another woman had also come to stand near me.  When the pool employee finally came to the counter, rather than speak to me, although I was there first, he spoke to her.    She raised her arm, pointed at me and started shrieking that I had a 9 year old boy in the woman’s change room.  I turned and looked at her realizing it was the same woman who had shrieked at me on the previous occasion.

Things escalated and when I turned my back on her in disgust she shoved me, hard enough that she hurt me and, although I didn’t back down, frankly frightened me.    Thanks goodness she did it in front of the pool employee!

So now I had a dilemma – am I going to be able to bring Jaden for more lessons?  Do I bother buying more?  How do I get him out of the pool, showered and dressed after his lesson other than using the Women’s?  The pool employee was very good, calmed me down and suggested I lay a complaint against the woman.  He assured me that the pool staff would be able to determine who she is because the whole event was videotaped!

When Jaden and I returned home and told Joe about it, there was no doubt in his mind that I needed to call the police about the assault.  I was reluctant at first but then realized that as this was not an isolated incident but the second encounter with this woman and things had escalated.  I was also reluctant to go back to the pool because of it.  Sure signs of dealing with a bully.

Toronto’s Finest were called; I requested that charges not be laid at this time but that the woman be found and cautioned.  Fortunately, as a special child, Jaden has the right to access facilities like this pool and either they must find accommodation for us or they must ensure that we have a safe environment and women like her must leave us alone.

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No Pictures Allowed! by Liz Saunders

Have you ever taken a picture in a grocery store so that you could remember something, possibly research it, or in my case call a friend and say “what the heck is this and how do you cook it?”?

I’ve done it lots of times.  I used to drive my friend Bruce buggy because I figured he should know what to do with bok choy…being oriental and all.  But no, Bruce was born in Canada and doesn’t have any more idea what to do with pigs feet than I do.

IMAG0088So imagine my surprise today when I went to check out a relatively new store in my ‘hood called either A-1 Premium or Al Premium (owner’s name could be Al, I suppose) and found some stuff that I thought grandson Jaden would love to see, although frankly it was making me a little queasy.   In fact, I commented to husband Joe that I felt like I’d walked into another country, the food was so varied and different.  Next thing I know I’ve got some goon following me around yelling at me “no pictures…no pictures”.   Husband Joe of course jumped to my defence before I had a chance to open my mouth.  “Why can’t she take pictures?” he asked.  “They’re just to show to our grandson”.

“No pictures!”  insisted our goon.  “You talk to Manager”, pointing to the very front of the store (we were at the very back).  “Nope”, said Joe.  “You want us to talk to the manager, you go get him”.  Well this deteriorated into “you do it” “no, you do it” and we walked away – with a goon shadow.  Next thing we know we’re being followed by our goon and a man in a red jacket who finally approached us and said “you no take pictures in store”.  And then he said something about the pictures ending up on the internet (of course, I thought “hey, great idea” – that had never been my intention).

Joe again explained they were only for our grandson – as I plotted Facebook and a blog – and red jacket walked away smiling.

As we finished our shopping – still under the watchful eye of goon – I started wondering if the fuss was about illegal aliens as employees.  What else could the big deal have been?

Still in this day and age of instant communication (have you seen the commercial where the man falls off the treadmill?) where a story of poor communication and therefore poor customer service can be spread in a heartbeat, this was very, very poorly handled.  Joe reckons we may be barred from the store for life.  I’ll have to check that out later this week.

And what was all the fuss about?  Well, here are the infamous pictures:

 

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Oust-A-Mouse Bait House Exemplifies Exceptional Customer Service by Liz Saunders

Back in the fall, our friends, Wendie and Hugh, came down to Toronto and we went to the Cottage Life Show.   While we were wandering around, I saw a booth displaying various types of insulation and I stopped to chat.  One of my questions was:  is your insulation mouse proof?  The response:  Are you kidding?  Nothing’s mouse proof.  They will eat anything…wood…steel wool…insulation laced with arsenic.  Nothing keeps mice out.  But there will be a presentation at 3:30 pm over there about how to mouse proof your cottage.

Fabulous, I thought and wandered “over there” at the appropriate time.  To my surprise, the presentation was by Jennifer Cambray, the President of JNC Innovations and she was talking about Oust-A-Mouse Bait House.  I say surprise because I had already had an Oust-A-Mouse Bait House at my cottage for a few years and I couldn’t say that it had really helped.  I still had mice everywhere I’d ever had them.  Jennifer’s presentation was both very interesting and quiet scary (Deer mice, Hantavirus) and she was fielding questions as the expert she is.

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One woman was being quite rude in her challenges to Jennifer and Jennifer handled it like a pro.  Never having been one for confrontation, I decided to wander over to the Oust-A-Mouse booth and speak to her quietly.  She was held up for some time after her talk so I spoke to her husband who gave me Jennifer’s card and suggested I contact her directly.

This is where the incredible customer service comes in.  I contacted Jennifer a couple of days later (after the Cottage Life Show was done and she was home).  I told her that we had seen no appreciable difference after using an Oust-A-Mouse for a number of years and going through copious amounts of poison.  After a discussion of where it was, how I was using it, how much poison, etc., her response:  Then you probably have such a large infestation that you need another bait house which I will send to you free of charge.  If it works, you can pay me for it!

But that wasn’t all.  As she visits Bracebridge regularly, she dropped the bait house off at Wendie and Hugh’s for me.  She also included some rat poison – just to make sure I was using the right stuff –  and gave me instructions on exactly where to put it.

Now this is where it gets even crazier:  If I’m not mistaken, she also offered to drop by the cottage in the spring to help me make sure I had everything set up right and make sure I had bleached everything that needed to be bleached, stopped up holes, etc.   I was already so blown away by her offer to send me a bait house without payment in advance that I could have misunderstood that part.

In any event, between Xmas and New Years off we went to the cottage with our 2nd bait house to place under the bathroom.   Topped up the poison in Oust-A-Mouse bait house number 1 while we were there and then couldn’t get out of the driveway (a whole other story).

So, the days are getting longer and it’s only a matter now of a few weeks (okay, maybe 7 or 8) and we’ll be able to go see how the mice did over the winter.

But in the meantime, I have Jennifer’s card on my desk as a constant reminder of what truly exceptional customer service (not to mention standing behind your product) is all about and I strive daily to give the same to my clients.

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I’ve been instructed to be creative!

Where has the month gone?  I can’t believe I actually managed to type a blog back on January 5th, what with my hand still being really sore from surgery but I guess being pissed off helped.  Thanks to Witchy and some homeopathic remedies, I’m healing well and will be back into the blogging chair soon.

Since then, I’ve had a blog running around in my head about a company that displays customer service that is the antithesis of my recent bad experience with Pizza Pizza but have not written it yet as I’m trying not to strain my wrist more than I have to.

However, I saw my dear friend Witchy yesterday and my new instructions (aside from increase this dosage, keep doing the other, rub castor oil on your arm, etc.) include:  stop for a bit every day and either call a friend, write a blog or do something creative …well, I guess writing a blog can be creative but she meant draw a picture or do something artsy.

Well, I would love to pick up a pencil or piece of charcoal or conte and do just that, butluc studio-Entrance-150x150 I am intimidated.  I don’t have a problem using a pencil to try to draw an image of a person, but that’s not what Witchy wants.  She wants me to be expressive and uninhibited and boldly creative and I am, to quote the title of an art course at Luc Studio, a “terrified beginner”.   Therefore, starting in March, I am signed up for the course “Drawing & Painting for the Terrified Beginners“.

It’s funny that I’m so intimidated as I come up with creative solutions for my clients all the time, but pick up a piece of charcoal and apply to paper….shudder.  So for now, I will call a friend or write a blog …or possibly just journal and keep my thoughts to myself.

But as sooustamouseon as I feel able, you will receive my blog about Oust-a-Mouse and it’s incredible President, Jennifer Cambray.    I hope I emulate Jennifer’s level of customer service at The Virtual Alternative, but I’m not sure that’s even possible.  More on this soon, but for now, back to fixing a database.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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ACANAC…Don’t trust them and don’t sign up with them! by Liz Saunders

We moved to our condo a year and a half ago.  At that time, I took the opportunity to switch from Rogers (who I had always hated dealing with) to Distributel DSL.  Turned out that Distributel was no better (ISP-wise) but they were nicer to deal with.  So in October, out of desperation to get my VOIP phones working, I tried again…with Acanac.  They were advertising a great price and their “line” was that everyone else inflated their prices and it really wasn’t necessary.  They sounded like the Little Engine that Could.  So I took a chance.

Bad move.  I failed to read the small print which indicated that they would bill me for a year up front.  Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m not going to pay a year up front to an untried and true source.  So, the day I signed up, I cancelled the contract (they have a 30 day no fault cancellation clause).

And then the fun began.   Rather than cancelling the order immediately, they said “oh no, we have to charge your credit card but we will refund the money within 30 days”.  Right!  When I called the credit card company to challenge the non-reimbursed charge, they wouldn’t talk to me because I’m not the primary card holder (I still haven’t managed to get hubby dearest to call them).

So I kept nagging Acanac.  On December 1st, I finally got an email from them saying they had reimbursed the money – 2.5 months later!!!  Needless to say, the credit card company has charged us interest on the outstanding amount.  I have emailed Acanac repeatedly saying that in my opinion, that interest would not have been charged except for their actions (there’s nothing else outstanding on the card) therefore I want to be reimbursed for the cost of their unauthorized loan but nope, they maintain it’s not their fault.   I’m not sure whose fault they think it is, but they were the ones that had the use of my money for 2.5 months.

At the end of this week, post surgery, I will get hubby dearest on the phone to the credit card company to challenge the charge if I have to nag him the same way I nagged Acanac.  And if Acanac thinks they are finished here, they are wrong.  I will make sure everyone I know finds out about their disgraceful behaviour and attitude.

This is the antithesis of good customer service.  Had they never charged my card or reversed the charge immediately, I might have good things to say…as I did with Advantage Car Rentals.

At the Virtual Alternative, if a customer isn’t happy, work is redone – free of charge; money is refunded – even if not really necessary; money paid in advance for work that is subsequently not done, even if it’s the customer that calls a halt to the work – is returned.

For Acanac to have held my money so long that it cost me money is unconcionable and just plain bad business.

And for the record, I ended up with Tek Savvy but that has been worse than the DSL, so I’m looking for an ISP that will work …again.

 

A QUICK UPDATE:  Acanac finally refunded our money on December 1st after 2.5 months of nagging and interest being charged on my credit card which they would not cover.  Shame on you Acanac!

 

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