Welcome to SQM Picks!

We are very excited to announce the launch of SQM Picks… a feature about the businesses that SQM has grown to know and love. Our President, David Lipton, has years of experience in a variety of industries, and is very passionate about customer service. He is always coming across great businesses, and he believes that they should get the credit that they deserve. SQM Picks will be posted every Wednesday, so be sure to keep an eye out for our latest picks and some of the President’s top recommendations.

Do you know of a business that deserves a standing ovation and a mention in SQM Picks?  We’re always on the lookout for great businesses, and would love to hear about any that you feel should be featured in one of our articles. You can follow us and tweet us at @SQMInc, follow us and send us a message on Facebook at Sensors Quality Management – Mystery Shopping, or email us at sqm@sqm.ca

We hope that you enjoy what SQM Picks has to offer. What are you waiting for? Take your pick!

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Sky High Customer Service

Recently Southwest Airlines was named as one of the Top Ten Most Admired Companies in the World, by Fortune Magazine. With that being said, I believe Southwest Airlines is a great company and I would like to share my recent travel experience with you. For transparency purposes, SQM does do business with Southwest Airlines and I know people who work for the company.

Years ago I started flying with Southwest Airlines because they had a reputation of being a low-cost carrier. Even though they aren’t always considered low cost, these days, I believe that the company still has a great reputation! Today they are known for providing travelers with very good customer service, empathetic employees who genuinely care about their customers and front-line workers who enjoy serving the public.

A few weeks ago I experienced Southwest Airlines recipe for success when my daughter and I became stranded at the Orlando International Airport due to bad weather. While we were waiting in line to speak with a Southwest employee, I noticed the staff made it a point to ensure that every customer was taken care of before the employees left the gate area. Considering we were all tired and upset, the employees did a great job ensuring each customer received the time and attention he / she deserved.

When I reached the front of the line, the employees made me feel like they cared about my situation and wanted to help. Together, the employees came up with a solution to get myself and my daughter to where the rest of my family was located (Buffalo). In addition to rebooking my flight as early as possible, they went above and beyond the call, to help me find a hotel for the night when they learned I was having difficulty finding one and noticed that my daughter was exhausted and upset. Within a few minutes they provided me with some contact information and I spoke to someone who gave us a very nice room and a special “stranded traveler’s” rate.

While there are many times in business where a customer is left feeling like they are just another number, I really felt like the Southwest employees added the personal touch to this difficult situation, making me feel valued and appreciated.

For those of you living in Canada, close to the border, I truly believe it is worth a short drive to the US to fly with Southwest Airlines. Southwest is a great company to fly with and I am confident that you will enjoy your travels.

Southwest Airlines
1-800-I-FLY-SWA
www.southwest.com

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How Starbucks Became my “Third Place”

Starbucks Secret Menu

When it comes to my caffeine fix, I will admit that I love Tim Hortons and always go there for my morning coffee. The coffee tastes great and I find it less expensive than many coffee shops.

That said, in more recent times, my visits to Starbucks have become more regular, since my wife and daughter enjoy a number of their drinks, including their “Secret Frappuccino Menu”. In addition, over the last few months, my daughter has asked me to take her to the local Starbucks so she can sip on a beverage and relax in the “big cozy chairs” after a day of skating or other fun activities.

Since I began sharing these experiences with my daughter, I have started to appreciate the Starbucks experience even more. Currently, I frequent my local Starbucks to catch up with friends, have informal business meetings, or get work done without the distractions encountered at my home or office. In fact, between the big cozy chairs, the free Wi-Fi, and some nice music playing, I’m wondering if I really need an office anymore!

During a recent visit, I was surprised to observe how many of the customers at the Bathurst and Joicey location were regulars. What was even more surprising, is how the employees knew many of these people by name, regardless of whether they were a manager, full-time or part-time employee. In addition to the personal touch, I also like how this location usually has seats available. Whether it’s the big cozy chairs, a table for two, or space at the communal desk, they have room for everyone!

I remember Howard Schultz, the founder of Starbucks saying that his goal was to have Starbucks be the “Third Place” in our lives…home being the first, work second and Starbucks third. Given my recent experiences, I see what he means, and I think that he might have succeeded.

So if you have some time to kill, want to catch up with friends, relax with a book, do some work, or just sip on a tasty drink, check out your local Starbucks.

Starbucks
1-800-782-7282
www.starbucks.ca

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Walmart’s Improving Customer Service

While many people shop at Walmart for deals based on low prices (but even that is debatable), I have never heard of anyone recognizing them for providing excellent customer service.  Today, I am going to do just that!

Over the holidays, we were cleaning out my daughter’s dresser drawers and came across a Walmart bag with a new pair of snow pants (with the tags still on) that were purchased last year.  Seeing how my daughter grows really quickly, these brand new snow pants no longer fit, so I decided to take a shot in the dark and brought the snow pants with me on my next trip to Walmart at Bathurst and Centre, to see if I could return them.

Surprisingly, despite it being a busy time of year, the line moved quite quickly.  When I got to the front of the line, I told the woman working that I did not have the receipt, so she tried looking up the snow pants in the system but couldn’t find them.  She then called over a manager who took the pants into the back room and returned saying the item would now scan into the system.  The woman immediately processed the return and gave me a store credit for the value of the pants.

Completely unrelated, a couple days later, my dad gave me a call and told me the bundle buggie I bought him three months earlier was broken since a wheel had fallen off.  I picked up the buggie and took it back to Walmart where I ironically spoke with the same woman who helped me with the snow pants.  She told me to go into the store, grab a new buggie and come back to her desk to process the exchange even though I did not have the receipt….again!

When I returned to her desk, she called over the manager to authorize the exchange, who did so immediately, and within a few minutes I was once again on my way…..and very pleased with how things were handled.

I must say how impressed I am with the employees and managers working at Walmart.  In less than a week, I had two great customer service experiences that demonstrate Walmart stands behind their products.  If Walmart continues to get their customer service right, they are going to be an even more successful company than they already are.

Walmart Canada
1-800-328-0402
www.walmart.ca

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Stellar Cellular is Truly Stellar!

Photo of Stellar Cellular's Storefront

Stellar Cellular is a small tech repair shop, located down on College Street near Bathurst.  The shop specializes in fixing mobile phones, tablets and computers, and is owned by Richard Martin, who always goes above and beyond to ensure his customers leave happy.  In 2014, I wrote about Richard when he fixed my Blackberry and gave me back the money I paid him because he felt badly that I had to drive to the store a few times before the service was complete.

Over the recent holiday season, Richard went above and beyond the call to help me, so I felt that I should once again let everyone know what a great business he runs.

Around 5 pm, on the Friday before New Years Eve my wife began having problems with her IPhone where she couldn’t hear anything unless it was on the speaker phone setting.  I told my wife not to worry and I immediately called Richard down at the store.

Since I had a positive experience in the past, I knew Stellar Cellular was where I was going to take my wife’s phone, but I had no idea what time he closes.  When I spoke with Richard that Friday night he told me he was closing up the shop in a few minutes, but asked me how far away I was from the store.  I told him I was about 15 minutes away and he said he would wait for me so he could look at the phone.

Upon arrival, Richard quickly diagnosed and fixed my wife’s phone.  He then realized there was a second problem and he was able to fix it within 30 minutes after we arrived.  When Richard handed the phone back to my wife, she breathed a big sigh of relief.

Let’s be clear though…..not to paint everyone with the same brush, but very few businesses would stay open, on a Friday night….let alone on a holiday weekend….to help their customers out.  Richard has always had the attitude of doing whatever it takes to take care of his customers, and this situation was not a rare event, but a common occurrence based on the way that he conducts business…..well done!

I’m really glad I discovered Stellar Cellular and highly recommend them if you ever need to get your phone repaired.  Their prices are quite reasonable, their staff are very knowledgeable, of course, Richard will do whatever he can to make sure you leave happy.

Stellar Cellular
647-350-7755
www.stellarcellular.ca

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Even I Like Shopping for Housewares…..Here’s Why

Photo of Cayne's The Super Houseware Storefront

Many years ago, when all of my friends started to get married, the bulk of them registered at Cayne’s The Super Houseware Store.  Cayne’s is located on Doncaster Avenue in Thornhill, and is known for selling high quality kitchen appliances and many other houseware items at the best possible prices.

Aside from providing the lowest price (at Cayne’s you never have to price match since the prices are already rock bottom), Cayne’s is also known for variety of other reasons, including:  having extremely helpful and knowledgeable sales associates working on the sales floor, supplying a large product selection, offering extended warranties to customers and stocking replacement parts of the items they sell.  All of this creates a recipe to ensure happy and loyal customers.

At Cayne’s it is always easy to find a sales associate to help you while browsing through the store’s aisles.  Don, is one of the managers in the store, and is an excellent source of knowledge.  He has been working there for as long as I can remember and aside from knowing all of the products Cayne’s sells, he is very familiar with competing products available on the market.  After speaking with Don I can guarantee that you will be able to make an informed decision on the best product for your household.

Recently Don helped me pick out a gift for my wife.  He helped me get the best market price and on top of that he told me how to apply for the factory rebate, which saved me even more….just don’t tell my wife 🙂

Another wonderful thing about Cayne’s is they stand behind the products they sell.  Cayne’s has taken it upon themselves, to include longer warranties (no additional costs), on many products which they sell, beyond the time frame given by the manufacturer.  In fact, on occasion, and depending on the circumstances, they have even accepted defective products after both warranties have passed.  Cayne’s believes in all the products they sell and wants to make things right for all of their customers.

Whether you are looking for a gift or something for your home, Cayne’s is a great place to check out.

Cayne’s The Super Houseware Store
905-764-1188
www.cayneshousewares.com

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No Muss, No Fuss… When It Comes to Returns, Costco Gets It!

This is a photo of a Costco Storefront

As much as I enjoy shopping at Costco, some of their customer service issues really drive me crazy! Whether it’s the frustration of not being able to find assistance while in the warehouse, or how customers have to wait in long lines just to purchase one or two items, I still feel that they have lots of ways to improve their experience. But today I’m going to tell you about the one thing that Costco gets right, and masters, time and time again.

As an expert in the customer service industry, I’m extremely impressed with Costco’s ability and willingness to deal with returns. Costco provides members with a no muss no fuss warranty policy, as I learned, last year, after purchasing a car battery at their Downsview location. Much to my surprise, the battery died after only six months, and despite not being able to find the receipt, I decided to take the battery back to Costco to see what they could do. The associate immediately looked up my receipt via my membership card and exchanged the battery for a new one….no questions asked. Six months later I had the same issue and I took the replacement battery back to the store, expecting an argument, if not at least some suspicious stares, but once again, the employee made the exchange quickly, efficiently, and without asking any questions.

In more recent times, I decided to put Costco to the test after I bought a package of three rib eye steaks for about $40.00 (boy, meat and steak prices have really increased over the last few years!). When we ate the steaks, my wife and daughter complained they were tough and really fatty, and I completely agreed.  That evening I called Costco and told them about our negative experience. The lady on the phone was very apologetic and disappointed to hear what had happened, and with no hesitation, whatsoever, she told me to return to Costco with the receipt and they would give me a full refund on the steaks.

I was so surprised by her gesture, I clarified that I couldn’t give the steaks back as they were already consumed and the lady said, “Don’t worry about it! We want you to be happy and satisfied with the product”.

While I begrudgingly accept some of the customer service issues associated with a warehouse operation, clearly Costco is a company that stands behind their products, and to me that’s almost as important as great customer service. I know that Costco isn’t for everyone but you may want to consider them for certain shopping needs.

Costco
1-800-463-3783
www.costco.ca

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Games Night—Stay Latte!

Several weeks ago, as the weather turned colder, my family introduced me to great place for food and fun, located in downtown Toronto.

Snakes and Lattes (S&L) is Toronto’s original board game café where you can dine and play games for as little or as much time as you would like.  With over 1,000 games to choose from, there truly is something for everyone!  S&L now has two downtown locations.  The original location first opened on Bloor Street in 2010, and after much success, they opened their second location on College Street in 2015.

Both locations offer guests a dining experience, however, Bloor Street is more of a cafe, while the College Street location has more food and beverage options.  Of course, the food is almost secondary, to the main reason for going to Snakes and Lattes…..to play games.  In fact, if you enjoy any of the games that you play, they also have an area of the store where you can purchase games (I believe they are the only place in the city to buy the popular game, Cards Against Humanity).

The staff are well educated and can suggest age appropriate games for your group and give you details on how to play each game.  This is pretty impressive given the number of games S&L offers.  The games are divided into zones like card games, strategy, fantasy and more.  Some of the games are ones you have probably never heard of but they do indeed exist!

Snakes and Lattes does not take reservations so it is good to get there early, but if there is a wait, they will take down your number and text you when a table is available.  Even if you have to wait, it is definitely worth it!  S&L provides a fun evening out where you and your friends or family can partake in something a bit different than just going out for dinner or drinks.  It’s an especially enjoyable place to go during the cold winter months.  

Don’t be surprised if you get hit by the bug and end up buying a game you played that night….it’s happened to us more than once.  Alternatively, you can also purchase games from their website.

Now back to Monopoly……

Snakes and Latte’s
647-342-9229
www.snakesandlattes.com

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