Tag Archives: Brand Standards

Keeping Great Customer Service Up and Running

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog highlighting my great experience at The Running Room. At the same time I was dealing with The Running Room, one of the SQM employees directed me to another shoe store that she’s been dealing with for years, known as Running Free, and in particular the Ajax location.

The owner, Steve Ockrant, immediately called me to introduce himself and while he suggested it was best if I came in, due to his schedule and distance he offered to bring some shoes over to my office, for me to try on. Realizing he was doing me a favour, due to our mutual friend, I must say I’ve never had such special service for a retail product!

Steve came, we chatted, and he brought six pairs of shoes for me to try on. Based on the sizes and styles he brought, he was able to narrow down the shoes that would work best for me, and then a few days later he returned with more shoes. He even left me with a couple of pairs for me to walk around the office in before I made my final decision.

Although I returned both of the pairs that made it to the shoe finals, I eventually made it out to his store where two of his amazing employees found the perfect pair for me.

If you are ever looking for great shoes, at a great price, but more importantly amazing and knowledgeable staff go to Running Free, ask for Steve, and mention my name.

Running Free

(416) 410-3733

www.runningfree.com

 

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An “Amped Up” Amazon Experience

Whether for pricing, selection or convenience, I find myself more frequently turning to Amazon to make a variety of purchases. While I’ve always felt they provide great customer service, my most recent experience re-enforces this….

Back in mid-December, my wife purchased a Bluetooth speaker to give to a friend as a Christmas present. Since she was very excited about the speaker and our friend loved it, I decided to surprise her and recently went online to purchase another one. When I looked at my order history, I realized that the speaker was now less than half the price that it had been selling for a month earlier. I decided to put Amazon to the test, and called up customer service to see what could be done about the difference in pricing.

While I thought it would be easier to simply credit my account, the Amazon customer service representative indicated that their system works differently and that I would have to return the item and reorder it. When I explained I didn’t have the original item because I gave it as a gift, he allowed me to order two items, and give one back with the return label he was providing me. To minimize my inconvenience, he even allowed me to order the new items with the fastest shipping method. To me, this sounded great!

I placed the order on Saturday afternoon, and much to my surprise, on the Sunday, I received an email that Amazon had already attempted to deliver it to my office (I didn’t think they would deliver on a Sunday as they indicate “business days” for shipping times). My item was received the very next day and a day later I received confirmation of the credit reimbursement.

Given how Amazon stood behind their lower price and made it quick and simple for me to return and receive the item, it truly was an amazing experience. I still love going out to the stores, but this is another example of why mortar and brick retailers really have to step up their game.

Hats off to Amazon!

www.amazon.ca

 

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What’s Hip and Happening around the Holidays

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December is always a cheery time of year! With the holidays just around the corner, more and more holiday-themed activities seem to be popping up around town. Many stores are taking part in holiday festivities, and with no shortage of holiday cheer going around, it’s always nice to engage in one or more activities. Some of the more popular activities, which I enjoy, include:

Toronto Christmas Market – Down in the Distillery District, the iconic Christmas market is on until December 23rd! Enjoy Christmas music, magical lighting, singing, dancing, visits with Santa, and everything to get you into the holiday spirit. Though the experience is purely magical, it’s $6.00 to get in on weekends and lineups can be lengthy.

Starbucks Holiday Cups – I always enjoy the little things that add bits of holiday spirit. Starbucks offers some cool and interesting holiday drinks with a fun design on them. It’s a great pick-me-up, and a great way to warm yourself up. This year’s design encourages customers to colour and draw on the white background of the cups.

Skating at the Harbourfront Centre – Want to do something active, fun, and festive? Skating is the perfect way to engage in holiday cheer while burning some calories at the same time. Visit your local skating rink and rent a pair of skates – or bring your own. The Harbourfront Centre has a beautiful, scenic outdoor skating rink and best of all – admission is free!

Holiday Fair in Nathan Phillips Square – At the heart of downtown Toronto, celebrate winter by shopping in the market, skating, or simply enjoying the view at their annual holiday fair. Until December 23rd, experience different foods, find that perfect gift, and listen to some live Christmas music!

The Nutcracker – Experience the magic firsthand when you see The Nutcracker live in theatre! As an all-time classic, and world-renowned play, the National Ballet of Canada has been performing every year since 2005. It’s an amazing and entertaining family activity, and suitable for all ages. Catch it now until December 30th.

Get Involved with A Charity – Whether it’s helping out at your local food bank, preparing meals for the homeless, running a toy drive, or collecting clothes and personal care products for those in need, getting involved with charities is something that should not be overlooked during this busy and hectic time of year.

Whatever you choose to do, and wherever you choose to go…from all of us at SQM, have a safe and enjoyable holiday season, and a happy and healthy new year!

 

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Leisurely Shopping at Lee Valley

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Many years ago, I was introduced to Lee Valley Tools when I required some specialized equipment and supplies for a wood working project. Since that time, I have often returned to their stores for specialty items, but quickly realized that there is much more to them than meets the eye.

Not only does the store have fun and creative little stocking stuffers (it may only be November, but the holidays are just around the corner), but these tools are practical and useful – for things you never knew you needed help with.

As an example, my wife once received a portable can opener at a Secret Santa event. It’s small, safe, and easy on the hands, using a butterfly-shaped crank design instead of the usual handles that require great strength and effort. She loved it so much, we immediately ordered a new one when it inevitably broke years later.

Ever since then, she’s loved the place. She told me that any and all types of gifts she was in search of, she could get at Lee Valley. We were recently going through the website and commenting on the cool and practical things we had found on there. It may be important to note that not all items online are available in-store.

The folding phone holder, for example, makes every outlet your personal charging station with a simple, albeit ingenious, solution. Hang it over your charging plug, and create a small shelf for your phone while it charges. Your phone is kept safely out of the way!

The people who work at the store are very helpful, knowledgeable, and polite. In fact, they’ve helped me with my own specialty projects in the past.

For those looking for good quality service and unique items – be it for a gift or a project, I highly recommend checking out Lee Valley Tools.

Lee Valley Tools
416-366-5959
www.leevalley.ca

 

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Breaking Boundaries at Best Buy

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Although I wrote about Best Buy a few months ago, this is an unrelated experience, and one which I felt was worth sharing.

Let’s rewind the clock to a couple of weeks ago.  I had been shopping for a laptop and was checking out different options, going through reviews, pricing, visiting different stores, and somehow ended up at the Best Buy at Downsview.

I was very pleased with the knowledge of the sales staff, and in addition, Best Buy had the best prices of all the competitors I was looking at.  In fact, these days, they apparently even go so far as to match prices from other reputable businesses.

In addition to buying a laptop, I needed a Microsoft Windows license.  As a result, the salesperson suggested that I get a Geek Squad membership, which would save me a significant amount off of the regular cost. At first I was skeptical, but when I did the math, between the Windows license, a monthly movie pass, and the added benefit of technical support, I thought it was very much worth it to try out for six months.

In terms of technical support, I’ve brought in different items to be fixed or looked at by Geek Squad. So far, all have been fixed to my satisfaction, and in fact, they’ve consistently exceeded my expectations in terms of getting my things back to me as quickly as possible.

During my most recent Geek Squad visit, I was probably pushing it a little, and really put them to the test. I had been having problems with my phone charger, and while the Geek Squad representative was able to partially fix the issue, the end result was that I needed a new one after only having bought it a couple of months ago.

Since I didn’t have my receipt (my fault) I didn’t have much hope that they could do anything, however, without hesitation, one of the employees at Best Buy provided me with a new charger!  I was completely stunned. My jaw dropped and I walked out of the store with a huge smile on my face.

While the phone manufacturer is known for making their customers jump through hoops to address issues, Best Buy stood behind the product, and their goal of leaving their customers satisfied.

In last week’s blog, I suggested retailers were going to have to step up their game in their battle against Amazon and other online retailers.  From my recent experiences at Best Buy, they clearly understand what they need to do to be successful, and they’re doing a terrific job!

Best Buy (Downsview)
416-636-6574
www.bestbuy.ca

Geek Squad (Downsview)
416-634-2305
www.geeksquad.ca

 

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Fun and Friends at the Freeman Family Day Centre

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Over the past few weeks, I’ve posted several blogs regarding my aunt, as she is recovering from a broken hip.  Around the same time my aunt broke her hip, my father enrolled in a program at Baycrest, specifically at the Freeman Family Day Centre.  The program is a day program for seniors, allowing them to keep active and engaged while socializing with other seniors.

Once accepted into the program, seniors can choose to come up to four days a week (the program runs Monday to Thursday) as well as either half days or a full day (full days run from 10:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.  Typically, the day begins with coffee, pastries, and some informal socializing.  After everyone settles in, one of the group leaders discusses current events, which typically results in some entertaining conversations.  The participants then get active with low-impact seated exercises, known as Stretch and Kvetch, which is run by one of the physiotherapists on staff.  After morning exercises, several program options can be selected, ranging from art, to music, to book reviews, or even movies.

After working up an appetite, the members all head to the dining room for lunch, sitting with those with common interests.

The program then continues until 2:30 p.m. with a variety of options for activities.

When it comes to getting to the program, there are several transportation options.  Aside from driving or taking the bus, many attendees use taxis, Wheel-Trans, or iRIDE, to get them to and from the facility.

The cost of the program is approximately $40.00 a day, plus any transportation fees.

The program director and the rest of the staff are great to deal with.  Whether it is helping new members adapt to the routine, getting coffee, assisting members to the washroom, or taking people to the next event, there is always help every step of the way.  The staff are truly amazing people and are always there to help.

My dad originally attended the program and now that my aunt is on the road to recovery, she attends as well.  Whether it’s the two of them or the other attendees that I’ve met, they all seem to enjoy it.

I know when folks hit 80 they become very set in their schedules, but for anyone that has a senior in the family and wants to keep them busy and active, I personally recommend the Freeman Family Day Centre.

Baycrest, Freeman Family Day Centre
416-785-2500
www.baycrest.org

 

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Woes of the Retail Industry

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Typically, I use this blog to highlight outstanding businesses, however, from time to time I address particular and pressing issues that impact consumers or businesses.

The other night I was in one of the grocery stores in my area, to pick up a few items that we needed the next day.  I arrived at about 8 p.m., and the store was fairly busy with at least five customers in each checkout line, waiting to pay for their groceries. One of the five cashiers had just closed their lane, and despite the long lines, a second cashier indicated that she was closing as well, informing a customer in her line that he would be her last checkout of the evening.

In more recent times I’ve had similar experiences at other grocery stores and retailers alike.  In addition to the frequent frustration that customers are having trying to obtain assistance from a sales person (especially in big box or department stores), retailers are now making it more difficult and time-consuming to pay for purchases and get out.

As a person who works with many companies in the retail industry, I often hear from my colleagues that “the industry is changing” or that “retail is having its challenges.” While this may indeed be the case, I’m beginning to wonder if the industry is partially responsible for causing this to happen.

Let me explain…to be successful in any business, you have to provide an excellent experience for your customers. Time and time again, surveys show that customers want friendly and knowledgeable staff, products readily available, the best possible price, and in many cases, speed of service is also a factor.

Assuming that these businesses have the product in stock, their most important asset is their employees, and they are marginalizing their company’s strengths. As people’s lives become busier and more hectic, retailers are actually pushing their customers to look for better ways of getting what they need.

To add to this, there currently exists a giant online retailer, that provides outstanding service in a very efficient manner, and gets products to their customers in a short amount of time. Is it really any wonder that the retail industry is getting its ass kicked by Amazon?

Make no mistake about it, while Amazon is an amazing company, and gives customers another option for buying products and services, many people still like to see, touch, feel, or try on items (especially clothing) before making a purchase.  This results in them coming to a store and giving that retailer the first…and best…opportunity to make the sale.

Until the retail industry improves the shopping experience and reconnects with their customers, I’m afraid that their woes will continue.

 

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