Today is Thursday, which means it’s a very good time to create a Thursday Thirteen post – and the topic this week is 13 facts about The Urban Daddy.
I’ve been writing this blog since 2004. That makes for a very old blog, eh?
I have written 1,434 Blog posts for The Urban Daddy
I have a tax blog -for my real job – called inTAXicating, which I started in early 2008 and I have written 369 Canadian Tax posts for that site.
10. I used to work in the Federal Government, in the Canada Revenue Agency, for almost 11-years before resigning to take a managerial position in the private sector. The change was long overdue.
9. In the CRA, I collected taxes, trained employees, took 3-years of my accounting designation and then completed my MBA.
8. I don’t play many online games – after my wife freed me from my Cityville addition – I only play Tap Baseball, Clash of Clans and Tiny Tower Vegas.
7. I live near one of the most affluent neighbourhoods, in the largest city in Canada – the 5th largest in North America, Toronto
6. I ran for student council president of my university only to lose to some guy named Jian Ghomeshi It was a half-assed attempt, but fun nonetheless. I vaguely remember meeting him and his campaign manager in the main hall and one, or both of them, telling me that they were going to tear down my campaign posters and threatened me about something. I was wearing my cowboy boots (don’t judge me) at the time, and with them stood about 6 foot 2. I was NOT intimidated.
5. I’m fiscally conservative but hate guns, racism and drugs. I love common sense, saving money, and being upfront and honest.
I’m a rule follower. Clear your sidewalks. Don’t throw snow in the street. Don’t disrupt others. Live and let live.
3. I’m learning as I get older things I should have learned much younger. Foods, anxiety, ADD, how to treat those you love…
2. I love being a Dad. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE. Love attending events and being there for the kids. Something I either didn’t have or don’t remember. It was a different time back then, but still.
1. I ran a left-handed students association at my university – the school gave us an office, and money to find areas where lefties were being discriminated against. Our main beef was that some of the largest lecture halls had no left-handed desks, or if they did, the desks were on the far-left side of the lecture hall. Not cool if you’re vision sucks like mine does.
Now it’s your turn.
What are 13 facts about you that make you who you are?
What in the world has happened to customer service?
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.
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.
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?
Here is what was going through my head April 2007.
Former Conservative politician, until she crossed the floor to become a cabinet minister for the Liberal party, Belinda Stronach is not seeking re-election in the next election. HA HA HA. I knew (and probably blogged) that once she became a traitor and left the conservative party, crossing the floor to join the corrupt liberals for a cabinet post, that she would be going nowhere in politics. Clearly I was incorrect. She is going somewhere… out! Bye bye Belinda, you turncoat, and take Tie Domi with you. That former Toronto Maple Leaf pugilist, who was married when you an him hooked up and you deserve each other. Opportunists. Besides, Tie’s segment “Win, Lose and Tie” on TSN is brutal. I turn the channel when it comes on. It’s painful.
In other thoughts… It looks like rain outside… I don’t have an umbrella.
I’m really jacked that the Raptors are in the playoffs – but I hate that they are playing Vince Carter and the NJ Nets because I’ll be REALLY upset if we lose to “them”. Ever since “Wince” left the Raptors, I have always wished him to lose or get hurt, flop on the floor like he did in Toronto and please continue to tip off the opposition on plays in NJ like to did in TO.
I received my grades for my two most recent business graduate school classes… both A’s. Only 4 more classes to go then I’ll have my MBA and can use it to get out of the government. YAY.
Happy to report that my wife and I have something new in common, besides our kids, marriage, house, etc. I love to garden and she does too. And she is quite good at it too. We have seedlings now sitting in the living room soon to be headed in the garden, of all these funky heirloom fruits and veggies. She picked them, she planted the seeds, we watch them grow. Fun, fun, fun!
Need sleep… I am painting the basement – kids playroom… It had to happen sooner or later. We bought some red, blue and green paint – bright kids colours and I am painting the entire space they use to play in. Part of the wall is going to be a magnetic chalk board. Wondering how to get the red paint out of the carpet and I dropped the tin and of course it opened on the carpet.. A lot!. It is fire truck red. OY.
So let’s recap… Baby up at 5am, I leave for work at 7am, get home before 6pm, bathe and book the kids to bed, then after chatting with my wife and taking care of classes, I set out around midnight to paint until 1 or 2am and then do it all again the next night.
No? Good idea. We’re not hiring right now, plus, we’d probably only want to hire contract staff for our proxy season.
I’m sure you would probably want something in your field, not taxation, right?
Well as soon as those folks at the government found out that I had resigned – so about 10 days, I have had 5 people – 5 honest to goodness people – call and email me asking for jobs. They want to work for me.
In the 10 plus years that I worked in the public service I witnessed only a few people leave to jump back into the private sector and not one comes to mind that was there as long as I was. The transition really was not that difficult – I studied how to manage in graduate school since I couldn’t get any hands on experience there. I really wanted to manage, they really didn’t want me to. I always thought I would be a great manager and I owe it to all the shitty managers I had in the government. They taught me how not to manage and my studies taught me how to manage.
Now I have 10 staff under me, and probably 3-5 more within the next few weeks, with a potential for 6 more by the end of June. I guess those brainiacs at the government were right afterall. Why would they want a competent manager working for or with them?!? It would throw off the mix…
It has been almost 2 months since I got up from my desk at the government after almost 11-years of working there, walked out and took a role in the private sector. Many of my former colleagues still do not know I have left, and some probably think I am on vacation. I spent a lot of time in that role getting to know the staff in the building and I’m proud to say that I know the names of, and a fact about, almost every one of the 1100 employees there, but it was time to move on.
So how am I doing in the scary private sector? I love it! I love my job and the people that I work with and who work for me. And no matter how weird it feels to think or even say that, I really do. I like the responsibility – I manage 8 people now (I hired one and have interviewed 3 others for 2 more vacancies) and I like the corporate talk that goes on at the Managerial level – something I had little access to at the huge government. I currently don’t have any team leaders to look after – I manage my staff directly – but if I get my way that will be changing soon because my department is critical to the success of the organization and I fully expect it to grow!
I like being able to work from home if need be, and that if I have to work late that I am able to and for as long as I want. I like working between offices in the city and up in the burbs and I’m really fond of being able to display my MBA designation after my name and title on my business cards and not feel embarrassed to have it. It just fits for me.
As is customary when leaving a public service job, I have applied for and was granted a leave from my position, which means if I wanted to go back there I could for up to a year unless my leave changed (ie/ paternity, disability, etc.) But I am never going back, I know that now, which means I am so looking forward to doing something so out of character for me that I’m almost giddy at the thought. I am going to withdraw from a team leader pool at my former job. The same place that I begged them to let me work at that level – with or without pay, on a project or not, in any division… anything to keep me from being bored and to learn. The place where I thought I would be able to use my MBA to get a team leader position, which never happened because they don’t recognize MBA’s.
But now I’m going to withdraw after completing almost all of the requirements. It’s basically at the interview stage. I smile every time I think about the look of the face of the hiring manager as he reads it. <giggle>
I’m just happy to have gotten out and now I can turn my brain back on and work my ass off to support my family who have supported me while I was on the government payroll.
In other news, my Wii tells me that I have gained 2.8lbs in the last week. Damn Halloween. I realized that I eat too much, of the bad stuff, at bad times. I always seem to be hungry late at night and instead of going to bed earlier, I got in the habit of being up late to do work from graduate school, so I stay up and then I eat, Of course, eating makes me feel guilty and that stress makes me eat more. Dumb, eh? I actually went for a run tonight (Sunday night) and I lasted 30 minutes. The main problem I had – besides being tired – was that my track pants kept falling down and every few minutes I’d have to yank them up. I must have looked hilarous. I really need proper running clothes including equipment to be seen at night so I don’t get run over!
Did I mention that every morning Stewie freaks out when he looks at the control panel for the house alarm – on our bedroom wall? He calls for me and asks; “Daddy, turn the red light off please.” So while watching me, punch in the code, he waits for the red light to turn green before he says, “thank you!” with a sigh of relief in his voice. If I don’t get to it soon after he arrives in our room in the morning, he’ll just keep asking for me it turn it off. LOL. He’s crazy.