July 2, 2010

If you continue to love and recognize great customer service but still want to highlight the bad and neglectful, please checkout the new, prettier home of The Upsell. We moved a while ago and I’m sorry if I didn’t let you in on the change. I promise the same amount of insight, sarcasm and snarkyness. It’s what I do.


Please bookmark, RSS, email subscribe or whatever you do from that site. I look forward to the discussion.


QUALITY CHECK: Guest Blog from Tall Tales Books

May 26, 2010

My blog has always been about the world of customer service through the consumer’s eyes (usually mine). Whether they have been reviews or pet peeves or “The Tip” of the week, it’s really been from one side of the fence. Well I’m peeking over that fence and putting a few of my questions to businesses on their customer service. This is the QUALITY CHECK.

For my “first out of the gate” entry, I asked Tall Tales Books, a children’s book store located on Fort Street in Victoria B.C., about their idea of customer service and what bugs them.

1) In one or two sentences, define good customer service according to Tall Tales Books.

When a customer leaves Tall Tales Books, we want them to feel satisfied with their experience, that we gave them the attention that they deserved, and that we had done everything in our power to help them. Our goal is to assist our customers in finding the books they are looking for, make suggestions and recommendations, answer questions, and resolve problems all with courtesy, respect, and kindness.

2) What do you do to stand out through customer service?

Whether the customer turns out to be a long-term repeat customer or is here for a single transaction, we try to build relationships with our customers. It doesn’t matter if the customer is spending $5 or if they are spending $100, it is important to us that each individual feels that we value their business and are interested in what their needs are. One of our strengths as an independent family owned and operated business is that we are able to develop relationships with our customers and their families and get to know their reading interests wherever possible. We know our business lives or dies by our customers’ satisfaction with our store.

3) From a retail perspective, what’s one of your customer service pet peeves?

Every sale is important to a business and they should treat it as such. Many retail stores in town, including many independently owned businesses, worry too much about the next person in the till lineup and not about making each customer’s experience a pleasant and positive one. When we buy something from you, smile, listen to us, and at least pretend that you care that we are standing in front of you. If we walk away feeling that we are valued customers, chances are that we will come back one day soon. We could even go so far as to say that every time an independent business is indifferent to their customers, it diminishes the value of all independent retailers in the area. Why bother going to a local independent store when you can get the same service from one of the large chains or big-box stores?

The UpSOLD! (courtesy of @TallTalesBooks)

I recently stopped in at Legends Comics on Johnson St. in search of an out-of-print Spider-Man hardcover collection. They didn’t have it in stock, but went to extra lengths to source out a copy for me. They checked with their suppliers, they looked it up on some used book websites for me, and Gareth (one of the owners) even offered to sell me his own private copy (I declined – I couldn’t do that to a fellow collector)! Even though in the end they were unable to help me with this particular book, they have now ensured that they will get 100% of my comic buying business from now on! Thank you Legends!

I recently had the opportunity to connect with Kate Nasser (@KateNasser on Twitter) who is a “people-skills coach” from the U.S.  She’s helping those on the business side work with and connect with their customers for the benefit of the business and the customer experience. Who the hell wouldn’t want a bit of that?

I recommend checking out Kate’s blog as she has some really good tips and observations on the world of customer service.

Here’s a blog link she recently provided me in my comments section: Customer Service Loyalty – The Connection!

Westjet: Guest Blog from @shaezg

May 19, 2010

There was a time (harkened back to on television’s Mad Men) when air travel was a luxury; when sailing through the clouds was more than just a way of getting somewhere, but was an adventure. Nowadays, there’s little romanticism left in air travel, especially for those of us confined to coach after being forced to remove our shoes and belts at the checkpoints. Sometimes it seems as if there’s no way to add any more stress to air travel – until you have to fly home for a funeral.

After receiving a phone call informing me that my grandfather would be passing away imminently, I immediately began preparations for my trip home. My father suggested that I talk to WestJet, confident that they would be the most flexible and cooperative. After all – as their commercials and advertising boasts – owners care.

Until that time, my only experience with bereavement fares was an episode of Seinfeld that dealt with the issue. I was still waiting for details from my family, but decided to call WestJet to inquire about how it all worked.

When I called WestJet and explained the situation, the first thing that struck me was that the agent on the other end of the phone seemed completely unfazed by the revelation that my grandfather was about to pass. No condolences, no “sorry to hear that,” nothing… When I asked about flying back, she cheerfully explained that until he actually passed away, there were no discounts available. I inquired about purchasing a full-priced ticket (starting at over $300-dollars before taxes and fees) and having it retroactively reduced after the funeral, but was told that was not an option. When she finished the call by asking if there was anything else she could do for me, I felt my blood pressure spike.

Feeling very let down and frustrated, I sent off an email to WestJet detailing my experiences. In a matter of minutes, I had received a response from the company, as well as receiving a response from a company representative who had read about my experiences on Twitter. They apologized, offered their condolences and offered me the same retroactive reimbursement that I had proposed to the agent over the phone.

Their representative explained that bereavement fares are not priced as a percentage of regular fares, but are priced individually per route – in this case, a maximum of $299-dollars plus taxes and fees each way. Having flown home only a week prior on a sale fare of half the price, I was unimpressed with the policy, but it’s no different on Air Canada. When the agent charged me $329-dollars each way, I spoke with the same agent and he refunded me the difference between what he had quoted and what I had paid.


2nd Date – I’ll Give You A Second Chance: The hassle I went through was the last thing I wanted while dealing with the passing of a loved one. I’m still not a fan of the policy, however it’s no different than Air Canada’s, and WestJet’s willingness to stand behind their word and eliminate any memories of a bad customer service experience speaks volumes. Being offered a $100-dollar travel voucher after I returned home – while a small gesture – was a welcomed surprise and will ensure that WestJet is the first airline I turn to in the future, no matter the purpose of my flights. (find @shaezg on Twitter and his blog, Shaecation)

Service Rating System:

Friend Zone – I just don’t like you in “that way.”
Booty Call – If I don’t have anything else better going on, I’ll stop by.
2nd Date – I’ll give you a second chance.
Going steady – This could be the beginning of something major.

THE UpSOLD! (courtesy of @trevorturnball)
As an extension of Shae’s story, I thought I’d include another Westjet experience a fellow Twitterer pointed me to.

My Westjet Experience (his not mine)

This week, I’m letting other people do the talking for me. It’s not lazy, I just know how to delegate…and other people have had different experience than me so they’d like to be heard too.

How good is your business’s customer service? You think you know but truthfully, your opinion doesn’t matter much. It’s your customers that rate you. And rate they do.

“MSN Money asked Zogby International to conduct an online national survey in which 3,012 randomly chosen respondents rated customer service at 150 companies from 15 industries.”

Here’s the article and lists. I just want to say, “do better.”

Pet Peeves Round 3: Talk to Me with Courtesy, Not Like an Ex

May 13, 2010

Ding. Ding. Ding. Round three. Every few months or so, I like to do a “pet peeve recap” of some things that are really bothering me with customer service. I didn’t want to do one so soon but after a recent trip to Seattle, but I felt I must. Honestly, it actually surprised me a bit. I’ve often heard the States have a much better record for customer service than our side of the border. Happier, available, accommodating…you know, doing their jobs. But this trip highlighted a few too many issues I’ve long had problems with.

So much so, this is a two-parter. That’s right, a second helping is coming. But that is for another week. For now: ROUND THREE

Pet Peeve #1 – If you have a personality, make sure it’s a good one.
How many times have you gone to a store or restaurant only to encounter an employee with an obnoxious attitude and an inappropriate sense of humour? If you’re thinking more than once, that’s too much. I like personable people, I really do. But before opening your mouth, making sure you’re charming enough not to piss me off.

Example: At Cherry Street Coffee House, we asked if they took Visa. The bean-jockey’s response, “Was that a question?” WAS THAT A QUESTION? Either Grade 3 English let him down or, um…jerk?

Pet Peeve #2 –
Sorry, kitchen’s closed. Then why did you seat me?
At 8:00pm on a Sunday, I was hungry. I don’t eat with the “typical” people do. The stomach wants what the stomach wants. I made my way to F.X. McRory’s Steak Chop & Oyster Bar for drinks and dinner. Walked up the stairs, was told by the hostess to seat myself, was watched by 2 waitresses, one of which gave me two menus. We sat. We waited. Five minutes in we go to the bar to get a drink. So far, not so good. Finally our waitress comes by to tell me how busy they’ve been and they’re pretty much out of everything. Idle chit chat that is kind of bothering me considering she hasn’t taken my order yet. Oh wait, their kitchen just closed.

Steam exit ears. Communication is key. Guess which restaurant I now will not only not go to, but will tell my friends AND write a blog about. Tada.

Catch up with my other Pet Peeves: Round 1, Round 2.

(contributed by @SheldonKJohnson)
Last night I was in need of delicious local fare with unique personal flare. Brasserie L’ecole provided what I was looking for and more. Fantastic French cuisine with the perfect service touch…attentive without being overbearing and casual while professional. For example, our waiter would consistently monitor tables for eye contact. If contact was made he maintained just long enough to be sure there was nothing that you needed. Takes very little time but shows extra attention that reflected in his tip.

Hate being on hold? I’d love it if you said yes. Of course you hate it. Would it be nice if you could have them call you when their available? Shaw Cable does it and now, through this website, everyone does: LucyPhone

Just press ** every time they put you on hold and stop wasting time. Unfortunately this is a substitute for good customer service from the company but at least it saves you the headache of sad, slow, painful elevator muzak.

Ambrosio Market and Deli: Deli-cious in James Bay…Yes, I’m Punny

May 7, 2010

When I want a sandwich. I make one. If I don’t do that, I generally go to Subway. I know the menu, I know what I like, it’s cheap (sorry, “inexpensive”). With the amount of service out there, you would think I would mix it up a bit more…well, you’re right. On a recommendation for a co-worker, I was directed to Ambrosio Market and Deli. Haven’t heard of it? Maybe it’s time you did.

Located on Menzies in James Bay (or at least the branch I visited), Ambrosio is a delicatessen filled with a little bit of everything – cheeses, meats, ice cream…you know, a deli. At the back of the store is a high counter where they take your orders for paninis or Portuguese sandwiches. Picking your “sambo” is a little different. After selecting your meat, you’re given a checklist that includes condiments and specialty items. (i.e. sundried tomatoes, pesto, etc.). Once you check off the little boxes and hand it to the lady behind the counter, they get to work. Voila, yummy sandwich.

The first thing that stood out to me was the smiles The two ladies that helped me genuinely seemed to be happy to be there and to see me. (Note: if you’re faking, I don’t care. Nicely done). They were helpful with the process of picking a sandwich, which I had never done there before, by walking me through it and answering questions as I went along. “Does pesto cost more?” (it didn’t). “How many items can I check off?” (lots). And they didn’t make me feel like an idiot for asking. Very important!

There was a little friendly banter which didn’t seem forced. And after just a few minutes…though I was only one of two customers they were helping…my sandwich was ready. If I had one issue with the whole experience was that the debit machine brought up that automatic tip function when I’m getting counter service. But you know what? I was so happy with the place I didn’t mind dropping a dollar (find tip for a $5 purchase).

Going steady – This could be the beginning of something major. Ambrosio Market and Deli in James Bay is definitely a place to consider instead of the usual chains and food courts. Great stop for a summer sambo (I really like that pseudo-word).

Service Rating System:

Friend Zone – I just don’t like you in “that way.”
Booty Call – If I don’t have anything else better going on, I’ll stop by.
2nd Date – I’ll give you a second chance.
Going steady – This could be the beginning of something major.

The UpSOLD! (contributed by @actoner)
A staff member at the IRIS eye clinic in downtown Victoria (707 View St.) made me feel like a rock star. I didn’t even buy anything. I redeemed a coupon for 20 free AirMiles and when I handed over my brand new Gold AirMiles card she started oohing and ahing and generally made a big fuss. It made me feel special. I’ll be returning to the store for sure.

You know what one of the biggest steps towards good customer service is? It is sometimes overlooked. Sometimes it’s missed entirely.

BE OPEN…please. And answer your phone.

I’m not asking for 24/7 service. I get that you have to go home but, if I walk by your store and it always seems to be closed, I’m going to assume it always is. I live in a smaller city (Victoria – metro pop. 330,000) so I can’t really expect places to be open at my whim but I would like to go to your restaurant what you would assume is peak times.

And I should clarify this is generally the case with restaurants, not any other business. Or as far as my experience has been. There’s a couple of Thai places that come to mind.

Am I wrong? Have you had a similar experience?

Comment here and/or join the discussion on Facebook.

Pacific Coach Lines: Happy Fun Bus or Highway to Hell?

April 28, 2010

I live on an island. There’s no getting around that, especially when I need to visit my parents, friends, work on the mainland. It’s a big chunk of my day when I travel so the experience better be a good one. Did I mention I also don’t have a car? Generally my routine involves Pacific Coach Line bus – BC Ferry – Mommy/Daddy picking me up.
The trip is done in reverse on the way back. The customer service I get from the parents is top notch (Hey, I don’t bite the hand that feeds or gives birth) and I’ve already reviewed BC Ferry. Sooooo, you’re up PCL.

I first go to the bus depot on Douglas where I pick up my ticket. It’s a pretty straight forward, get in line process where you can get an open ended ticket to Tsawwassen, the Vancouver Airport or Vancouver. From there, with ticket in hand, you get in line for your bus about 15 min before departure. Big bags go under and smaller bags are carryon. Once the bus makes its way to the ferry and boards, I’m pretty much done with them until I come back to Victoria.

The return trip is only different in that you have to buy tickets on the ferry, board the bus there and get off closest to your street. The whole process is down to a science with no variation. Which is good because you do want to get where you’re going.

The bus depot is nothing to look at. But then, have you seen one that was? No frills, no comfy seats and a cashier that keeps people moving with little fanfare or eye contact. To be honest, there usually isn’t time (though eye contact would be nice) as that place is always busy and on the clock. The bus driver who sells the tickets on the ferry is much more personable. There definitely is a sense of routine to how he tells you where to go and which bus to catch on the ferry but there is definitely some personality there. It’s quite the opposite experience because you almost feel he could hurry up a bit more.

The bus ride itself was fine. A major bus line getting its passengers from Point A to Point B. What really stood out for me was the ride from Schwartz Bay to Victoria. The bus driver made a point to make sure we told him when we wanted to get off at our various destinations. And when we did? He thanked us for taking Pacific Coach Lines. HE THANKED US! When the hell can you remember being thanked for your patronage? I’m having a think right now and I can remember it happening just not when or from whom. I’ve heard, “have a great day” or “bye” but not many “thank yous”. Which is really kind of sad.

Pacific Coach Line Conclusion:

2nd Date – I’ll give you a second chance. I’d rate them higher but it is the nature of the business to be no frills efficient…which sadly means that extra step of personality and customer service is taken down a notch. However, the service of getting us to where we need to be and that added appreciation for my business makes me want to take a ride on PCL.

Service Rating System:

Friend Zone – I just don’t like you in “that way.”
Booty Call – If I don’t have anything else better going on, I’ll stop by.
2nd Date – I’ll give you a second chance.
Going steady – This could be the beginning of something major.

The Tip:
Something was brought to my attention in last week’s blog comments. Is cost a factor in service? Should you let bad service slide if you’re not paying top dollar?

Personally, I believe good service is good service. Yes, if I’m paying $300 for dinner I should get a shoe shine but overall, great customer service should be the standard across the board. It is about building a relationship long-term with the customer. There are a million fast food/coffee shops/gas stations/retail stores…I’ll just go to the ones that make the effort. So I don’t care what BIG BUSINESS has to do to teach some of their employees not to say “What did you say?” but rather, “Excuse me, I didn’t quite hear that.” (You catch the difference Yates Starbucks kid?

What do you think?

I welcome comments and discussion. And remember you can join the conversation on Facebook. Click here to join The Upsell group.

ALDO vs. The Bay: Who’s Putting Their Best Foot Forward?

April 22, 2010

Every once in a while a man needs shoes. It’s not often. It’s not rare. But it does happen. And I mean nice shoes, not those $30 or less type. We can accept that as males that there are occasions to look a little prettier…and that’s the situation I found myself in. I hadn’t gone to ALDO or The Bay for a while but on this particular day, I found myself at both.

First, I made my way to ALDO at the Bay Centre. I can’t tell you the last time I’ve been to ALDO, and I’ve definitely never been to the one in Victoria. I was looking for some trendyish canvass shoes and there they were. The store was fairly busy and I only saw two people working initially (two more came later…must have been on a break). A guy with a British accent helped me as much as he could, and actually did quite well under the busy circumstances. I tried on two types of shoes, in three sizes. I thankfully found the ones I wanted and left.

The Bay was the next stop. There was a pair of dress shoes I had bought months ago for $100 and they were now down to $60. Old ones were done so new ones were needed. I found them, found a cashier, found my size and found my way out of there.The usual steps to shoe shopping.

ALDO: A couple of things really stood out for me with the store. I was impressed at how helpful the staff was regardless of how busy the store was. He couldn’t give me his undivided attention but I understood that. He still was able to help me and make suggestions enough that I didn’t feel I was being ignored at all. Also, the style of shoe I wanted…they didn’t have the colour I wanted. This is where that “suggestion” thing comes in. He got me to try on the same shoe, different colour, and had the shoe ordered in. Two days later, I got a call to say my shoes were in. Well done and you made it easy for me to spend my money there than some where else.

The Bay: Oh sure I found my shoe. The cashier? No where to be found. Actually that’s not fair. When I first went into the shoe department, she was moving shoe displays a few inches to the left and right. I looked at her a few times…no eye contact at all. No acknowledgement nothing. I would have made a game out of how long it took her but she left to go to the back again. When I finally had the shoe I wanted, it took me some sweet time to find her again…and when I did, and asked for my size…get this, sheasked if I wanted to try them on.  Wuh? When has any shoe fit the same way? OF COURSE I WANT TO TRY THEM ON. I may actually want what I pay for. I’m funny like that. And you’ve given me nothing that even remotely looks like customer service, don’t blow the one chance you have to provide some. Thankfully the shoes fit and I didn’t really need her for anything further.

ALDO Conclusion:

Going steady
– This could be the beginning of something major.
You gave me just enough attention to keep me interested. And when what I wanted wasn’t exactly there, you still made sure I left happy…even if I had to return. You and me? Oh, we’re good.

The Bay Conclusion:

Booty Call – If I don’t have anything else better going on, I’ll stop by. Sorry, you’re just not there when I need you. Are you off talking with a better-looking, younger customer? I don’t know. And when I finally get some time with you, you go through the motions with no effort. I think this is going to have to be an open relationship.

Service Rating System:

Friend Zone – I just don’t like you in “that way.”
Booty Call – If I don’t have anything else better going on, I’ll stop by.
2nd Date – I’ll give you a second chance.
Going steady – This could be the beginning of something major.

The Tip:

There’s a saying my dad introduced me to that I’ve brought up on my blog in the past and I thought it bared repeating. It’s a direction that all businesses should be very aware of.

Make it easy for me to spend my money.”

Put enough staff on the floor to help me. Make your website user-friendly. Give me suggestions that could guide me to spend more money.

This isn’t rocket science (though sometimes I think it might be). I’m a person that’s walked into your store or gone online with the express purpose of handing over my wages to you Mr./Mrs./Ms. Businessperson (cover all my sexist bases). Do not be the reason I don’t spend my money. I’m already there, just show me how to spend.