Pro Hardware, Pro Service

On Avenue Road lies a small hardware store called Dickson Home Hardware. For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of visiting this shop, they have two sides to their retail business; one that is centralized around hardware and another that is centralized around BBQs. I first visited Dickson Home Hardware 5 years ago when I was buying a friend a wedding present and I had a great experience. Despite the blizzard brewing in the middle of winter, I decided that I wanted to get my friend a lawn mower for his wedding so I started checking around for prices and models. I went to some of the big box stores in the area, saw a few I liked, and asked the manager about any discounts considering the current season and weather. I was flatly declined, so I checked out some of my other options before turning to Dickson Home Hardware. When I settled on Dickson Home Hardware, I was shown a few models and when I asked about the price the owner explained to me that he was unlikely to sell very many lawn mowers in the middle of winter, so he’d be able to cut $100 off the price before I even asked about any discounts.

Aside from this interaction keeping me coming back year after year, they continue to blow me away during every return visit with their excellent level of customer service. Dickson always has the hardware I am looking for even though they are a small store, and in the BBQ section they are all amazing and knowledgeable. When I was having a problem with my BBQ recently, they tried to walk me through it on the phone; and when I was unable to resolve the problem with them on the phone, instead of frustrating me they stopped by when they were in the area to fix it. Not only did they fix it, but they identified a problem which was under warranty. They have never ceased to amaze me and I have had a positive experience with them- each and every time. This just goes to show you that bigger isn’t always better when it comes to customer service.

Dickson Home Hardware
2028 Avenue Rd.
Toronto, ON
416-487-4029


 

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This ViBE’s got me in the groove!

The first time I dropped my daughter, Talia, off at ViBE’s studio I thought I was seeing double. Marnie and Rena Schwartz, co-founders of ViBE Dance and Fitness Studio, one of the biggest dance studios in Toronto, also happen to be identical twins. Neither are new to the dance floor, having both been members of the Toronto Argonauts Dance Team and Toronto Raptors Dance Pack, as well as qualified dance teachers, choreographers, and experienced aerobic instructors. And if that’s not enough, they’re also Ontario certified teachers and kinesiologists,

ViBE was recommended to us by friends and now Talia attends a hip hop class regularly on Thursday nights. It’s an expansive studio with around 15 rooms, and is surprisingly pristine considering the number of kids filtering in and out the front door every hour, not to mention the sweat these dancers work up. But as ViBE’s motto goes, they’re there to “Sweat and Smile”. The place is packed on evenings and weekends, yet always runs smoothly, no kid getting lost in the crowd or not knowing where to go. I remember how shocked my wife was when one of the sisters approached her and told her how well Talia was doing, despite never having met my wife before. She then proceeded to approach all the other parents, knowing each kid by name, able to make an informed comment on their progress. They take the time to get to know the kids and parents so that at ViBE you’re not just another number to them- you’re valued customer. In addition, they truly want what’s best for the kids. They’re willing to accommodate with make-up classes and even made life easier on my wife and I, by allowing Talia to sit in on the class before hers, when she arrives early some weeks.

The opportunities seem boundless at ViBE, with some of the dancers being chosen to dance in the halftime shows at a Raptors games each year, while others are selected for professional roles in movies and live theatre. At the very least, there are the health benefits from dance as expounded by Marnie and Rena, “At ViBE, we believe that dance is a life skill where people will be dancing through life…..at play dates when they are young, at Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, Sweet Sixteens, at their wedding and at their 50th wedding anniversary! Dance has the ability to improve self confidence, self-esteem, and ultimately, dance makes a person feel good about themselves. We are fortunate to witness dancers of all ages, genders, and abilities enjoy the obvious physical and health benefits of dance but it is SO special to see dancers grow and become strong and confident people. At ViBE, we hope to inspire dancers to become the best that they can be through our fun and challenging classes and in our non-competitive high quality program.” I think that sums up their philosophy perfectly. It’s not about making good dancers at ViBE but about making good people, and this world can use as many good people as it can get.

ViBE Dance and Fitness Studio
1450 Clark Avenue West
Vaughan, ON L4J 7J9
905-763-8423
www.vibestudio.ca


 

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Roy Thomson Hall sent me to the moon and back!

Back in January, Colonel Chris Hadfield was being featured at Roy Thomson Hall as part of a speaker series. Most of us are aware of who Chris Hadfield is thanks to his social media presence; the first Canadian Commander of the International Space Station, best selling author, and unbeknown to some, a popular icon amongst the younger generation—and by younger I mean my eight year old daughter. So, when I heard he was coming to Roy Thomson Hall I gave them a call to see whether it would be age appropriate for my daughter to attend.

Normally, with other venues, the box office phone number sends you straight to Ticket Master, who, although generally pleasant to deal with, don’t often have as much information pertaining to the event or venue as you may require. So I was pleasantly surprised when the phone was answered by an employee from the in-house box office. Admittedly, I had a lot of questions and called the box office a number of times, each time answered by a different employee, all of which were equally as pleasant, knowledgeable and helpful. They informed me that Chris Hadfield spoke to a wide audience, and assured me that my daughter would enjoy the evening. They helped me to secure tickets, and even took into account the fact that I was attending with a child, by suggesting cheaper seats, in case she didn’t make it through the whole show. I was so impressed with their customer service that I called up the President of Roy Thomson Hall and congratulated him on his fine employees and the positive experience that I just had.

But the customer service didn’t stop there. When my daughter and I arrived at Roy Thomson Hall for the show, besides the pleasant enthusiasm of the ticket collectors, one employee approached my daughter directly. He leaned down and told her that if she had a question she’d like to ask Chris Hadfield she could give it to him and he’d make sure Colonel Hadfield answered it. Well, this sent my daughter beaming….it was almost as good as if Chris Hadfield had approached her himself.

When attending an event like this we often forget that it’s more than just the performance that makes the night. It’s also how you are treated as a guest or fan by the venue. Not to take away from other Toronto venues, but Roy Thomson Hall is one of the few places that seems to remember they are offering a service and don’t just let the event speak for itself. And for that I’d like to thank them for such an enjoyable experience.

Roy Thomson Hall
60 Simcoe Street
Toronto, ON M5J 2H5
416-872-4255
www.roythomson.com/


 

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FedEx handles SQM with care

I’ve talked about customer service recovery on this blog before; the act of rectifying a mistake your company has made with a customer. We’d all like to be perfect but a slip up every once in a while is inevitable. It’s how you deal with that mistake that makes the difference, and often you have to do something memorable to win the customer back.

Recently we’ve been doing business with FedEx and we happened to owe a payment, so they sent us a bill. Only problem was they sent the bill to our company’s former address. Obviously we weren’t able to pay this bill because we never received it, so rather then try to track us down through the pick-up and delivery addresses which they have on file, someone decided to send our bill to a collections agency….I’d also like to add that this bill was for something like $25.00. After the issue was brought to our attention, my business partner, Craig, gave them a call to sort out the mistake. Initially, he spoke to the accounting side of operations where he was told ‘the bill was too small for them to deal with so they sent it to a collections agency and it was out of their hands.’. What a blow! Long time customers (over 20 years) and they brushed Craig off like a piece of lint from their shoulders.

Well, Craig’s a pretty mild mannered guy but this really got to him, so instead of calling accounting again, he called customer service to complain. Boy, did they turn over a new leaf fast. Customer service apologized and even wrote off the bill, which was a nice touch, but after what Craig had been through he was ready to stop doing business with FedEx all together. But—and this is the part of the story where customer service recovery comes into play—the next day at work this huge basket filled with chocolates and cookies and all kinds of other goodies was delivered to the office by FedEx. This basket had to be valued somewhere around $50.00, double the bill we’d owed them, and attached to the basket was a sincere and tasteful apology letter. That’s how you do it! They took the time to individually acknowledge that our business was important to them, and apologize for the situation. Sure, it may have cost them a bit of extra money, but they kept a client and a business partner, and truely turned a sour customer experience into a sweet one.
FedEx
1-800-463-3339
http://www.fedex.com


 

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Anthony Haines- warming the homes (and holidays) of Torontonians

We knew it was coming, but we didn’t realize how bad it would hit us. The December ice storm caused a reported 130,000 power outages across the GTA. People were afraid to leave their homes, shivering in front of a dismal fire. Even Mayor Rob Ford appeared as a ray of hope during this crisis, because despite his well-known personal issues he looked to be in control and played the part of the leader. But when it comes down to it, the real heat (or perhaps I should say cold) didn’t fall on the Mayor or any other politician but on the shoulders of Anthony Haines, President and Chief Executive Officer of Toronto Hydro. He stood by Ford’s side during each press conference updating the public on Toronto Hydro’s progress. I remember waiting by the transistor radio, all excitement for the holidays channeled into listening to Haines’ voice as he listed off the areas he hoped would have power soon.

No one could have been totally prepared for a natural disaster like that. Haines was blunt, not feeding the public false answers. He was a real, tangible beacon of hope, out there on the streets, away from his family on Christmas, solving the problems one area at a time. And yet, people still weren’t happy. I mean, when you’re getting thousands of phone calls from Toronto Hydro customers each day complaining, you quickly realize your trouble spots, and Haines was not one to cover them up, but instead admitted to them and worked on finding a solution.

I like to think quality is a journey, not a destination. Nothing will ever be perfect, but there will always be an unlimited number of imperfections. It takes continuous experimentation and brainstorming to find the glitches, which for most organizations occurs over a long period of time, but for Haines it was a matter of days.

I was impressed with this guy and so I organized a meeting, hoping that we might come up with some type of collaboration. He took the time to meet with me and talk and I saw that none of it was an act. He’s a generally an open-minded person with Toronto’s well being at heart, and for that I’d like to thank him and tell him to keep up the good work. It is because of people like Anthony Haines that I still believe that a positive customer service experience still exists.


 

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Collecting cold hard cash from freezing guests

I like to keep these blogs positive, wanting to promote good companies for their excellent customer service rather than tearing down bad ones, but every once in a while I notice an incident that needs to be aired out, and I’m afraid I’ve stumbled across one. So please excuse the venting as I indulge in a moment of catharsis.

Back in December, Toronto was hit by an ice storm which rolled through the city like a biker gang on a destructive spree. Trees snapped and withered, roads flash froze into skating rinks, and we huddled together in our homes for warmth praying that the power would soon be back on. But as the power outage lingered beyond a few days and settled a profound darkness on the holiday season, people began to realize they needed to escape their soon to be freezer box houses. So those who could afford it packed up the family and checked into some of the hotels around the city that had power. But you can’t leave beloved Fido or Whiskers behind, so families brought their pets to the hotels with them. The only problem was that the hotels were charging people to keep their pets in their rooms—and not just dogs or cats but hamsters and guinea pigs as well!

Now, I understand that they’re running a business and are in it to make a profit, but it seemed like they were siphoning money from their so-called ‘guests’ at a time when these people had no other options. A natural disaster strikes the city and here they are taking advantage of it, rather than us banding together and them stepping up to help people during a time of crisis. And for it to happen so widely leads me to believe that this wasn’t an oversight in hotel protocol but a conscious decision made by management on how to deal with the situation. The short sightedness seems almost comical. They shot themselves in the foot for a few extra bucks. By aggravating numerous guests they lost a load of customers as well as all the recommendations those guests could have given to friends or family who visit the city. One act of kindness goes a long way, but just as easily one act of greed can mar a reputation for just as long.


 

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Feel “at home” at Caffe Brasiliano

It’s funny the things that stick with you from the old neighborhood. The things we miss and the traditions we carry on. For me, one of those things is Caffe Brasiliano, a cafeteria-coffee shop squeezed between Little Italy and Little Portugal on Dundas, west of Bathurst. The place is a family owned restaurant run by two brothers, Kenny and Brock, and a well-known spot to the locals, taking the place of the chains like Starbucks and Second Cup.

Inside are two counters, the first is a coffee bar with a barista ready to serve you a variety of drinks and types of coffee from all over the world. The second counter is a hot table, set up cafeteria-style, where you pick the foods you want and they carry it over to one of the tables for you. There’s a ubiquitous family attitude to the place, the cashier telling you to sit down and eat before worrying about payment, and often you’ll end up sharing one of the long tables with a fellow customer. Some days you can even find up to ten cabbies on break, crowded around a table, sipping a coffee, or munching on some hot food. In the summer they open up the garage-like windows at the front of the restaurant to let the breeze in and give the place an open concept feel. It’s cheap and the portions are more than adequate, but if you do have an insatiable hunger, you can go back and ask for a bit of a bigger helping free of charge. There’s a couple TV sets showing that day’s soccer game, a good conversation starter if you’re looking for someone to talk to.

I still take my daughter there on Saturday afternoons, and although I no longer live in the neighborhood, when I step through Caffe Brasiliano’s front door I feel like a local. They’re impeccable customer service is delivered effortlessly, with a casual feel and I always have a great experience whenever I stop by.

Caffe Brasiliano
849 Dundas Street West
Toronto, ON
416-603-6607


 

 

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