What in the World has Happened to Customer Service?

What in the world has happened to customer service?

Customers are Ignoring You
Customers are Ignoring You (Photo credit: ronploof)

It used to be a high priority for the service industry to ensure that customers were satisfied with products and services in order to ensure they would come back.  Nowadays it seems that businesses have thrown away the mantra that the customer is always right and instead are content if each interaction between customer and customer service representative ended in conflict.I think customer service representative are going that extra mile to prove they are right, instead of taking a step back, hearing what the customer has to say – removing them if there is a scene being made – and resolving the issue.

In times of recession, especially now that we really have a global economy, it’s even more crucial for businesses to retain customers instead of trying to get more of them.

I have 2 recent examples of horrible customer service which I will outline, then I will describe how I feel it should have played out, according to my beliefs and experiences and according to how we were taught in graduate school.

Example 1)

I was standing in line at Old Navy in the Promenade mall with about 8 other people waiting to pay – there were two cashiers – and an obvious delay.  The manager arrived and suddenly the line went quiet to listen to an exchange that went something like this;

Manager: “What seems to be the problem?”

Customer: “I’m trying to return these items I bought at Old Navy in the States”.

Manager: “We don’t accept items bought in the United States!”

Customer: “When I bought them, I specifically asked if they could be returned or exchanged in Canada and the cashier said yes they could.”

Manager: “They can’t.  We don’t.  We cannot sell items bought in the US”

Customer: “Well, then can you please exchange them.”

Manager: “No.  It doesn’t matter if we take them back or exchange them, it still results in us taking in products which were bought in the US and we cannot sell them, so no, we cannot accept these items.”

Customer: “But I would not have bought them if I knew that was the case.”

Manager: “Well, they shouldn’t have told you that…”

Customer: “So you expect me to go back to the US to return these or leave the store with them and never come back?”

Manager: “You know.  I’ll take them this time only.  But items bought in the US can never be returned or exchanged in Canada.  They should not have told you that…”

Manager now walking away: “… and it says so on the bottom of the receipt!”.

So now after this played out in the store in front of a good 20 customers I wondered the following.

1) Would it have hurt for the manager to accept the items before irritating the customer and explaining that it is not policy to accept items from the US.

2) Once it escalated why didn’t the manager take the customer to a different station so as to not draw attention to this conflict.

3) Why was it necessary to add – when walking away – that it said so on the bottom of the receipt.  That was a low blow and very unnecessary.  Instead of having to prove herself right this manager should have ended with something along the lines of; “Sorry for the inconvenience”, or “Sorry for the misunderstanding”.

How many people in that line up left the store wondering if they should be coming back?  I’ll bet there was more than one of them and that is one too many when there is so much choice for the consumers dollar.

Example 2)

The Pickle Barrel at Yonge and Eglinton.

We had an early dinner with family and family friends at the Pickle Barrel and Berry and Linus really wanted the chicken fingers and fries.  (Since I know you wanted to know – Stewie ate an adult hamburger which he felt was overcooked, dry, and all his fries, his Grandpa’s egg and then his sister’s chicken fingers).

After a couple of bites of her first chicken finger, 2-year-old Berry held it up to her mummy and said, “spicy”.

We sluffed that off as meaning hot, as in temperature hot.

She took another bite, drank some water, ate her fries, nibbled a little more, then started peeling the batter off and trying to eat the chicken.

With 3 children, we assumed she was just playing, she was not complaining and we finished dinner.  We also saw that she ate very little so we figured we would have to feed her at home, as happens quite often with her and Linus.

But Linus, still hungry, wanted to finish her food, and he took one bite and said, “Wow.  This is spicy”.

I took a bite and my wife took a bite and were overwhelmed with the taste of black pepper and the longer the food was in my mouth the spicier it got.

Whew!  My tongue was tingling.

We called over the manager, and explained to her that we did not feel that chicken fingers from the children’s menu should be laced with black pepper and we asked her to remove these items from our bill.

The first thing out of her mouth was “I’m sorry”, which we appreciate, but then she said, “I’m not sure I understand.  No other kids complained that they were spicy and none of the other orders of chicken fingers were returned tonight.”

I think she was calling us liars…

“You can go to the kitchen and try one for yourself”, I said.

“Well, I will go back and talk to the chef”, she said.

“And take it off our bill” my wife reminded her.

Here’s my issue here…

We told her they were super peppery and that the kids couldn’t eat them, and that we tried it too, so we had 5 people taste these and they were still sitting on the plate.  It’s not like we were making this up and yes, she should have taken away the plate without question, brought it into the kitchen and asked the Chef to try it before passing judgement.  She was apologetic, but too little too late.  It left a very bad taste in our mouths, especially in light of the fact we told her we would need to feed the kids again as soon as we got home and they were exhausted and really needed to go to sleep.  She dismissed that and wanted to make the point that no one else returned their chicken fingers.

The whole concept of customer service is to provide the best possible service to your customers so they will return, tell others and tip well.  IT’s getting lost on people in the service industry who do not know how their actions impact the organization as a whole.  If each person in a customer service role were able to see the dollars attached to their actions they might react differently, I believe.

This hits home to me, as I personally feel giving quality customer service is one of the most important things an organization can do to stand out from their competitors.   I often find there is a fine line between explaining and making excuses and when someone is asking you to explain your decision or actions they cannot accuse you of making excuses.  Making excuses is telling a customer that the other store should not have told you that information or that no one else returned their chicken fingers.  Explaining is what customers are asking of customer service representatives when they are met with resistance trying to do what should be a normal transaction.

I recall many years ago making a decision on how to solve a problem dealing with the government and my manager asked me to explain why I took the path I did, and I began to explain in detail what I was thinking.  I was interrupted and asked why I was making excuses, when in fact I was just responding to the question about how I came to this thought process.  Yes, I admit the desired actions were not met, and I was hoping that by explaining my thought process that I would learn a different way and succeed on my future attempts.  If I were making excuses I would be blaming others and not takingresponsibility for my actions.

All I wanted was to provide the best customer service possible… Something I think is a lost art nowadays.

How do you feel about customer service?  Does exceptional customer service change your mind about an organization.  Does it even exist?


A Thursday Thirteen on Saturday? Who? The Who, That’s Who. Read Why…

The Who - Baba O'Riley, Hard Drums 98% 5 Star
The Who – Baba O’Riley, Hard Drums 98% 5 Star (Photo credit: robad0b)

I delayed this week’s Thursday Thirteen for a very plausible reason.  My wife and I are heading out for dinner Saturday night with friends of ours and I just learned through a mutual friend that the husband is a HUGE fan of the 1960’s and 1970’s band The Who.

So I decided to impress him with my knowledge of the band and quiz him with 13 tricky questions about the band.  I hear he’s an “expert” so I pulled up some challenging questions.  If you’re also a big fan of the band ask someone else to quiz you since I put the answer right under the question.

So put on your ear plugs, hide the explosives and throw out those drugs so you can be ready to participate and learn about the legendary band The Who;

Here we go!

13. Which Song did Roger Daltrey refuse to sing and why?

A:  He refused to sing, “However much I Booze”.  It was written by Pete Townshend when he was struggling with alcohol. Roger found it’s lyrics too personal so he refused to sing it.

12. What year was the who’s “Live in Toronto” released?  How long was the show and what was the significance?

A:  The show was released in 1984. It ran for 1h53 minutes.  It was the last tour date of the band before the stopped touring (at that time) because of Pete Townshend’s drug and alcohol problems.  Roger Daltrey said the band would stop touring and break up in order to save Pete’s life, in 1981.  Pete was off drugs and alcohol by 1982.

11. Who played the Acid Queen in the Who’s Tommy?

A:  Tina Turner

10. Which other famous celeb appeared in Tommy and what was his / her role?

A:  Jack Nicolson played A. Quackson, Mental Health Specialist.

9. Elton John sung “Pinball Wizard” but what was his character’s name according to the billboard?

A:  “The Champ”

8. Ann-Margaret was nominated for an Academy Award in 1975 for her role in Tommy. Did she win? If not, who did she lose to?

A:  She lost to Louise Fletcher from “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”.

7. Who is Baba O’Riley and why was a song mainly referred to as “Teenage Wasteland” called that?

A:  The actual name of “Baba O’Riley” was chosen in tribute to famed spiritual leader, Meher Baba, and musician Terry Riley, who provided the philosophical and musical influences for the song itself.  Meher Baba, the famed Indian spiritual guru and the self-proclaimed reincarnation of God, refused to speak for 44 years, stating that when he did speak it would be to convey the message of G-d.  He died before he spoke.   Terry Riley was simply a minimalist musician and classical composer that Pete Townshend admired a great deal.  Riley’s music also heavily influenced the composition of the song Baba O’Riley itself, particularly the keyboard riffs.

6. What is “Quadrophenia?  Go…

A: The 6th studio album from the band, released in 1973.  Its story involves social, musical and psychological happenings from an English teenage perspective, set in London and Brighton in 1964 and ’65.  The name is a variation on the popular (and misnomered) usage of the medical diagnostic term schizophrenia as dissociative identity disorder to reflect the four distinct personalities of Jimmy, the opera’s protagonist – each said to represent the personality of one member of The Who.  At the same time, the title is a play on the term quadraphonic sound, then a recent invention.

5.  What happened in 1981 to Pete Townshend as he performed solo with an acoustic guitar at a benefit for Amnesty International called the Policemen’s Secret Ball?

A:  He fell asleep onstage which was the first public sign of his deepening  drug addiction.

4.  What was the slogan of the Who, coined in their early years?

A: Maximum R&B.

3.  Who is drummer Zak Starkey‘s famous daddy?

A: Ringo Starr.

2.  What year was the band inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?

A: 1990.

1. What award did Pete Townshend win in 1994 for the 1993 stage production of Tommy..

A: A Tony award.

So?  I think he will get 7 out of the 13.  What do you think and how did you do on the quiz?

Details to follow!  Dinnier is in 27 minute.

Breaking Down Barriers: Toronto’s Neshama Playground Officially Opened In Oriole Park.

On July 21st, we happened to be at a previously unnamed playground in Toronto’s Oriole Park community when we came across the ceremonial opening of this fantastic all-inclusive park, now named the Neshama Playground.

Since I love municipal politics, we joined the festivities.

We saw The Honourable David C. Onley, former City-TV broadcaster, current Lieutenant Governor of Ontario as well as Councillor Norm Kelly (Ward 40 Scarborough Agincourt), who is the Chair of the Parks and Environment Committee, and Councillor Josh Matlow (Ward 22 St. Paul’s).  There were a ton of community members which told me this project had the full support of the community and it showed.  I knew there were some delays in completing this project which I’m pretty sure began in 2010, but it was well worth the wait.

The Neshama Playground features a water play area, sensory musical features for kids with autism, Braille panels for the seeing impaired, an enclosed climbing merry-go-round and bounce pad, accessible swings and play structures, and colourful, cork / rubber springy surfacing to allow for wheelchairs.  There was a great swing for children in wheelchairs which I had seen before and made me wonder at that time why our parks are not fully accessible to all children.  Have we been living in caves?

On the placard it made reference to “A bunch of guys” as being key donors and I had to find out more.  It turns out that this project was initially the brainchild of Thomas Caldwell from Caldwell Financial, and Toronto lawyer Steven Skurka.  They went to the community and recruited Theo and Brendan Caldwell, friends and associates who became known as “A Bunch of Guys.”  Collectively, they raised over $700,000.

Neshama Playground is the first of its kind in Toronto and is consistent with the City’s policy direction for universal accessibility.  Whether physically challenged, mentally challenged or able-bodied, all children love to play. Now they can.  Here.

I read that the idea for this playground was inspired by one just like it in Maryland.  I also read that a group called “Friends of Jeff Healey”, – Healey a legendary Canadian musician who, when he was one-year-old, lost his sight due to retinoblastoma, a rare cancer of the eyes.  He passed away in 2008 at the very young age of 41 due to cancer – are already raising funds to retrofit a west-end playground in the Humber Bay area, named in memory of the Canadian jazz and blues legend, to become more accessible.

Yet another innovative park, called Toronto’s Underpass Park, officially opened earlier this month.  This park makes use of what was wasted public space and it provides a public space to all members of the community downtown.

If this is the start of a trend in Toronto, I hope that all community members will contribute their thoughts, suggestions, recommendations and money to help bring all Toronto parks up to grade in order to be accessible to all members in the community.  congratulations to Thomas Caldwell and the Bunch of Guys for this project and hopefully in 5 years you will see the how you changed Toronto for good!

As for the ceremony itself, it was fantastic and if you can find video of the unveiling or of kids playing in the park, you are sure to find this Urban Daddy watching the ceremony, sneaking in on the official picture and pushing his daughter Berry on the swing for 25 minutes.

IVF Part 2. Provincial Funding of IVF and Infertility are needed. Addressing Reader Emails.

English: Causes of infertility, data compiled ...
English: Causes of infertility, data compiled in the United Kingdom 2009. Reference: Regulated fertility services: a commissioning aid – June 2009, from the Department of Health UK (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As a follow-up to my earlier piece on IVF, and the need for provincial governments in Canada to fund it for humanistic and financial reasons, I wanted to address some of the comments I received via email.  I found it odd that no one had posted comments on my blog, but when I logged into my email, I saw that people felt more comfortable emailing me from a fake email address and under the name “anonymous”.

The tone of the emails centred around a belief – by many – that the reasons for infertility and the recent focus around IVF treatment – and request to have taxpayers fund it, comes from a belief infertility issues are created by woman who are choosingtheir careers over their responsibility to bear children.  This waiting is causing less fertile eggs and hence problems conceiving and thus, it has been pointed out to me, the obvious solution is to not play G-d, but for woman to start having babies earlier in life.  Problem solved.



So to be clear and to address that belief, I scoured the Internet for hours, days, weeks and months in order to find some supporting data on which to make this assertion.

First off, this is not just a “Western” issue with woman wanting careers first, then babies, and when they cannot conceive they know they have this expensive not-guaranteed treatment in their back pocket.  In fact, the rate of infertile couples is on the rise both in developed and developing countries.  Infertility is a cause of great suffering for those involved and their legitimate desire to have a child / children, requires the attention of society.  With that, it must be stated that modern lifestyle patterns do play an important role in the problem of infertility.

But infertility needs to be addressed – IVF aside as it is one possible treatment for the greater problem.  Infertility is caused by multiple factors and, consequently, necessitates a broader response from prospective parents, doctors, scientists and government than just looking to find a possible solution after infertility has been diagnosed, by turning to research in artificial reproductive treatment.

I think those people who sent me the anonymous messages are familiar with the work of a scholar named Hans Rudolf Tinneberg, who teaches at the Justus-Liebig University in Germany because he feels that “the true challenge is that of changing the mental attitude of people so that they procreate when it is biologically the optimal age to do that, between 21 and 23 years old”.


This changes everything, right?  To suggest that woman place procreation at the top of their list at such a young age, when they are still in University / College, just getting started in the work force and find their way would appear to be a backward statement on a forward thinking society.  Yes, it makes sense to bring attention to being healthy from that age forward, but to do anything else would be met with great resistance and so it should.

This is, after all an “expert” speaking from a scientific perspective on what the most effective solution to infertility would be!  Surely, this statement should not be taken completely out of context, right?  When referring to lifestyle playing an important part in infertility, it’s not just couples waiting to have children, but also it depends on social and economic structures that lead people to marry and decide to have children at an older age.  Not everyone wants to wait until they are in their late 30’s to have children and not every family can afford to have children in their early 20’s.

So now we find that there is a role which must be filled by government in order to combat infertility and that is through education.  Eating disorders like anorexia, obesity, excessive body exercise and stress, need to be mentioned at an early age and the acknowledgement that there is a negative impact of environmental pollution on fertility and the harmful consequences of active and passive smoking to female and male infertility.  Not that a 15-year-old is going to understand that when trying to fit into a size zero prom dress like her friends can and like they do on TV.

There also needs to be some discussion around infertility beyond just the science of it, to include spirituality, psychology and environmental impacts because the problem of infertility is not just a medical issue.

Until the government comes up with a plan to combat rising infertility for all people, then it should provide assistance for those wanting to have children by funding IVF.  The savings on the healthcare system have already been clearly documented – the aftercare for multiple births is very expensive and paid for by taxpayers and multiple births are caused by the fact that IVF is expensive and couples (and doctors) are attempting to fertilize multiple eggs at once hoping one birth will stick.  This process is clearly broken.

What we can find comfort in, is that all experts concurred on the fact that IVF is not the only solution to infertility and should not be presented as such when infertile couples call upon family doctors, gynaecologists and fertility specialists for help.  Moreover, it is evident from empirical research that IVF does not address the causes of infertility and it is statistically proven that, since its outcome, it didn’t solve the problem of infertility. The problem is still there.

I could not find Canadian-specific numbers but studies conducted in the US, showed that  99.5% of couple with infertility issues were not able to conceive through IVF, in the US, and in addition often IVF is presented as the sole solution.  Without diagnostic investigation patients are left  unaware about the true cause of their infertility and with a lot less money as a result of the cost of this procedure.  I’m not even sure the year from which this data came, but you get the point.  This process is broken and available to those who have money or who wish to risk everything for the chance to bear their own children.

Everyone who emailed me agrees that it would be questionable to fully fund IVF without spending the time and money to research the problems of infertility and make progress to tackle its roots at the same time.  This would also be a perfect time to study whether infertile couples were being correctly diagnosed, keeping in mind the multi factors of infertility, and eventually have access, if it is the case, to easier and cheaper treatments other than IVF, but this is still very much down the road.

Until provincial governments like Ontario and Alberta are able to address infertility growth, then they should do the right things and help these families, help all families, get equal access to IVF treatment, save taxpayers dollars, then research infertility on a bigger scale and let’s get this broken process fixed.

Infertility is a serious problem and needs to be tackled accordingly.  NOW.

UK’s IVF funding effort ‘feeble’ (bbc.co.uk)

Have You Heard About the C.C. Mixed & Ready Canadian Cover Challenge?

English: Logo of whisky.

Let me first get something off my chest.

I love Canadian music!

There.  I said it.  From Platinum Blonde to Colin James, Bryan Adams to Shania Twain, Alanis Morisette to Amanda Marshall.  Old, new… Headstones, Nickleback, Andrew Scott, Tragically Hip, Gowan, Our Lady Peace, rock, pop, country, jazz… I love Canadian music and support the artists where possible by buying their music on iTunes and in the olden days, buying their CD’s (and even older their records and 45’s).

So when the Canadian Club, C.C.® Mixed & Ready Cover Challenge launched June 29th, I jumped at the opportunity to participate in this wonderful event which provides a platform for undiscovered Canadian talent to cover one of 5 unique Canadian songs and compete to be noticed for doing the best cover.

I checked out the uploads last week and I have to be honest, these bands are fantastic!   It’s going to be a great contest!

The songs being covered are;

  • Steal my Sunshine by Len
  • Superman’s dead by Our Lady Peace
  • Striptease by Hawksley Workman
  • Fat Lip by Sum 41
  • Pullin’ Punches by the Arkells.

Here is how the C.C. Mixed & Ready Cover Challenge works:

Beginning June 28th, 2012, Canadian bands are invited to submit their covers on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/CanadianClubCanada).  They have until August 27, 2012 for the chance to win an opportunity to have three of their demo songs recorded, mixed and mastered in Toronto, plus $3,000 for band gear and / or transit to Toronto for the recording session.

Winners will be selected based on a combination of Facebook voting (25%) and C.C. Mixed & Ready’s judging panel (75%), consisting of music industry experts and brand representatives of which I will proudly be involved.

The winning submission will be announced by September 15, 2012.

The Canadian Club Canada’s Facebook page will contain, in addition to the clips, comments on the bands, feedback, tweets on the event by Canadian Club insiders and the general public, as well as information about some C.C. Mixed & Ready live music events being held in Ontario and Alberta in August featuring some great Canadian bands.

C.C. Mixed & Ready Music Events:


  • Thursday, August 16th to Sunday, August 19th: The Havelock Country Jamboree, featuring Creedence Clearwater Revival and Lynyrd Skynyrd –  Havelock, Ontario
  • Saturday, September 1st and Sunday, September 2nd: Saugeen Summer Nights featuring Hawksley Workman – Clifford Ball Park Arena, Clifford, Ontario


  • Thursday, August 2nd to Sunday, August 5th: Big Valley Jamboree, featuring Blake Shelton , Toby Keith and Rascall Flatts, Camrose, Alberta
  • Saturday, September 1st: X-Fest, featuring fun., Silversun Pickups, MuteMath, Incubus, Young the Giant, The Joy Formidable, Linkin Park and more, Calgary, Alberta
  • Sunday, September 2nd: Sonic Boom featuring fun., Silversun Pickups, MuteMath, Incubus, Young the Giant, The Joy Formidable, Linkin Park and more, Edmonton, Alberta

C.C. Mixed & Ready will wrap the summer at a special concert event in Toronto, headlined by an exciting Canadian band.  Details on this concert to be revealed in late-July.

About the Product:

As a bonus to being involved in this contest I received a care package from the fine folks at Matchsticks.ca which contained a product I have never heard of, the Canadian Club’s new C.C. Mixed & Ready drink, designed to expand Canadian whisky into the ready-to-drink market and capture interest from consumers who are new to the world of whisky.    The brand focused on the most popular mixes – Ginger Ale and Cola – to create a convenient, refreshing ready-to-drink option.  CC and Ale happens to be my go to drink, so this was a welcomed treat and a fantastic product considering Ready-to-drink beverages are becoming increasingly popular, having risen in volume by almost 4% globally in 2011 over 2010.

In case you are wondering how you missed this product, Canada, it’s because it was test-marketed in Alberta in 2011 and is currently available in Ontario and Alberta in 473 mL cans for approximately $2.95 and 355 mL 6-packs for approximately $12.95.

Feel free to join and follow the conversation: #mixedandready.

The Fine Print:

C.C. Mixed & Ready Cover Challenge contest is open to residents of Canada (not including Quebec) who are of legal drinking age, of course.

So if you are interested in uploading a song, you had better get moving!   And if you appreciate Canadian music and wish to check out some up and coming bands and lend some support and encouraging words, come by.