Tag Archives: Service

Help Us Help Your Favourites!

I hope that all is well and that your summer is off to a great start!

Over the next few weeks, we’re interested in hearing from you as we want to continue highlighting outstanding businesses around the world.

With so many readers from across the globe, we’re looking to you, our readers, for your input. In particular, we’re looking for exceptional businesses including your favourite:

  • Pizza place
  • Restaurant
  • Brunch spot
  • Retailer
  • Local merchant (small business)
  • Tourism destination
  • Hotel/resort
  • Clothing store
  • Grocery store
  • And any hidden gems that you are willing to share!

In addition to the name of the business, we’d also like to know why you’re nominating them. Did you have a memorable experience there? Did they go above and beyond the call of customer service duty? We’d like to know!

Please email your favourites to davidL@sqm.ca

In the weeks ahead, we will share your suggestions and recommendations, and rest assured you will be mentioned in any blogs that feature the business.

SQM is looking forward to hearing from you all, and as always… thanks for reading SQM Picks!

 

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I Can See Customer Service Clearly Now!

For many years, I’ve been buying my glasses from a local eyewear store, Universal Optical. It’s located at Lawrence Plaza, on the northwest corner of Bathurst and Lawrence. Although I wrote about Universal Optical in the early days of SQM Picks, after recently visiting the store I thought it would be appropriate to highlight this business once again.

The owner of the business is a gentleman named Mayer. Mayer is all about customer service. He provides customers with the best product for their needs and at the lowest possible price, while still making a living. He’s got an extensive selection of eyewear and contact lenses, but as with most healthcare professionals, it really boils down to the amount of attention and care that he provides to anyone who walks through the door.

Care can be demonstrated in two ways. One is the way in which you treat people from a health standpoint. As an example of this, when I sent my dad in to get new glasses, the optometrist did a vision test and realized his prescription had changed, but also discovered that he had cataracts. Before the optometrist made new glasses, she wanted my dad to take care of the other issues first. The optometrist could have very easily just made the glasses, then have them remade, but she was willing to take that extra step for the benefit of my dad’s ocular health.

From the customer service point of view, the folks at Universal are always willing to go the extra mile. As an example, a couple weeks ago I dropped by the store because the lens from my sunglasses popped out. I didn’t even buy them from Universal Optical, but Mayer took the glasses, popped the lens back in, adjusted the sunglasses so they would fit me properly, cleaned the glasses, and gave me a new, protective case. He did all of this without charging me, and refused to even take a couple of dollars to buy himself a coffee! Of course, the reason he did this was because he’s a businessman who thinks in the long-term. Yes, he didn’t make any money spending two minutes to fix and clean my glasses, but he knows I’ll come back to him when I need a new pair, and will certainly recommend him to friends and family.

In a day and age where consumers often forget about the small businesses, Universal Optical is the perfect example of why you should still support your local businesses and the great service that many of them provide.

Universal Optical
www.universaloptical.ca
416-780-9112

 

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A Taste of Pittsburgh

Since my wife is in charge of meal planning for all of our trips, I wasn’t sure what to expect food-wise but I was pleasantly surprised to find a lot of amazing restaurants in Pittsburgh. Highlights included:

Primanti Bros: Whenever I asked about Pittsburgh, people have told me that I have to visit Primanti Bros. The place has been around for about 80 years. It started out as a small sandwich shop in the Strip District and because most of the clientele were truckers, they started designing their sandwiches with french fries and coleslaw right on the sandwich itself….for ease of eating while driving. The four elements that make up most of the sandwiches….. the bread, meat, french fries, and coleslaw…were all delicious. The sandwiches were all big, solid, excellent sandwiches. Whether it’s for breakfast, lunch, or a late-night bite, I definitely agree that Primanti Bros. is worth a stop. Or maybe more than one….

Gaucho Parrilla Argentina: This unique hotspot is open for lunch and dinner, and they cook right on open wood! Whether you’re looking for chicken, lamb, steak, or sausages, this place has it all. The restaurant works a little differently than many other restaurants, as you line up, almost like a fast-food joint, if you will, and they only take your order once there’s a table available. After you place your order, you then sit down, and they deliver your food right to you, like regular table service. When it gets later in the dinner period and they won’t be able to seat anyone else, they give the last person a t-shirt that says “end of the line” and that person’s responsibility is to inform anyone else who shows up that they will have to come back another time. The service is amazing, and the staff are extremely friendly…in fact, once they learned we were from out of town, they accommodated us even though the person in front of us had the “end of the line” t-shirt. On top of that, they were kind enough to gift us with our own t-shirt after I was joking around with them. It’s a terrific place with great décor and service, topped with delicious food. If you’re ever in the area, it’s well worth standing in line for. Also, this local joint is BYOB!

Kaya Island Cuisine: This restaurant is in the Strip District and serves up some hot and tasty Caribbean food. Near the end of my trip, I was a little fooded out, and wanted something a little different. Although we hadn’t planned on going to this restaurant, we changed our plans given that the menu had so many unique dishes. We actually ended up sharing the food, as they had a lot of appetizers that all looked amazing, including conch fritters, baby back ribs, Jamaican jerk wings, a spectacular salad known as the Caribbean rainbow salad, crispy fish tacos, and pulled pork quesadillas. All of the food came out very hot and fresh, very nicely presented, and we were pleasantly surprised to learn that it was big portion sizes, big enough to share among three people. The service was very good, and the atmosphere was fun, lively, and vibrant. It was the perfect meal to end our trip. It seems that, despite the popularity of the Strip District, most of the area closes down earlier on Sunday nights and Kaya was one of the few restaurants that stayed open. It’s definitely worth a visit.

Peace, Love, & Little Donuts: This is a small donut shop found in the Strip District, and I guess appropriately, they serve small donuts…about half the size of a regular donut. They actually take a plain donut and jazz it up with different toppings, which you choose off of their extensive menu. We tried the apple pie, banana split, s’mores, and the strawberry french toast, but you can choose from almost one hundred more. We stopped by after brunch one day and it was the perfect ending to our meal, with the four of us sharing six donuts. Although there is a little bit of a wait while they prepare each donut, it’s well worth the extra time, and they ended up being an awesome sweet treat.

The Church Brew Works: This is a microbrewery located in a very large, old church. The food is good pub food, all designed to go with beer. The atmosphere was truly amazing and certainly worth visiting. They also conduct tours of the brewery two or three times a day.

Whether it’s sandwich shops, pizza joints, or even some chain restaurants, there is certainly no shortage of great food in the Pittsburgh area. Happy eating!

 

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A Party Down in Pittsburgh

As often as I can, I try to get out of town on long weekends and the recent Victoria Day long weekend was no exception. In fact, this time I turned the three day weekend into a five-day road trip and took my wife and daughter to Pittsburgh.

I haven’t been to Pittsburgh in about 25 years, but remember enjoying my last visit. Initially, we were only going to stay a day or two, go to visit Fallingwater and the Hershey factory, when I realized that Hershey was about three and a half hours in the opposite direction. So we changed our itinerary. It turns out that we had no problem finding tons of things to see and do in Pittsburgh! The city is very vibrant, home to many innovative companies, products and services, has truly fantastic restaurants and plenty of sporting events for the athletic enthusiast. I can honestly say that one out of every four people in Pittsburgh were decked out in black and yellow in an ode to the Pirates, Penguins or their beloved Steelers. This is a city that wears their love of the game on their sleeve…where everyone can see it!

Pittsburgh is a tourist friendly city! When we were trying to find a specific area of a large cemetery, to avoid having us get lost, the groundskeeper gave us an escort over to the exact location… in his cart. The next day, we stopped to ask a police officer how to find the Duquesne Brewery Clock (the largest single face clock in the world – two times the size of Big Ben!). Moments later, we found ourselves with a police escort right to its location!

Over our four day visit, some of our favourite sites included the Heinz Center, the Strip District, Randyland, and Fallingwater.

Of course, during our days of sightseeing we needed energy and found no shortage of great restaurants. For lunch and dinner, whether it was Primanti Bros., an Argentinian steakhouse, or some fun and whimsical donuts at Peace, Love and Little Donuts, you could simply eat your way through the city and walk away a happy camper.

Sports fans, don’t look any further than Pittsburgh, which has an NFL, NHL, and a major league baseball team. During my trip, the Pittsburgh Pirates were in town, and while they weren’t successful on the field, the ballpark was beautiful to see and it was a beautiful spring night for baseball.

Lastly, I have to mention a one-day excursion down to Fallingwater. Built by famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright, this beautiful country home is about 1.5 hours away from Pittsburgh. It is a a gorgeous drive and should not be missed.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll highlight a few of the places on my trip, but needless to say, if you’re up for a fun and adventurous road trip, Pittsburgh should be next on your list!

 

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Rose and Sons: All grown up….and delicious!

A couple of weeks ago, I stopped by the revamped Rose and Sons to take my wife out for our anniversary lunch. Rose and Sons was the first of a unique set of restaurants, such as Big Crow, Fat Pasha, and Schmaltz Appetizing -all owned by Anthony Rose.

Rose and Sons is a tiny hole in the wall, that when originally opened, could best be described as an upscale diner. It was a licensed establishment, with amazing dishes and high-end comfort foods. The location at Dupont only fits about 20-25 people, but it’s always busy and popular.

Back a few months ago, restless for change, Rose and Sons revamped their menu, and instead of a diner, it’s now an old school delicatessen. I was a little skeptical at first, but I’ve heard nothing but good things.

Chopped liver was our appetizer and was absolutely amazing. This was followed by my wife and I both ordering pastrami sandwiches…which is the house specialty, brined in house and smoked at Big Crow. As a funny aside, it was a tough choice for my wife, choosing between that and the smoked turkey, so I jokingly mentioned to the server that if any turkey fell onto the plate, I wouldn’t complain if they left it there. Low and behold, the cook overheard this and put a few pieces of turkey on the side for us to try.

Aside from the sandwiches, we also tried the thick cut french fries, which were served hot, crispy and perfectly salted. Lastly, how could we not share a dill pickle?

All of the food came out hot and fresh and the chopped liver was not only attractively presented, but delicious! The portion sizes were generous and we left stuffed.

Though there were only a couple of servers due to the size of the restaurant, the service was fast, friendly, warm and the employees were very knowledgeable and excited about the new menu. The cook was also extremely friendly and clearly strives to provide customer satisfaction.

The price is a little north of your typical delicatessen and you may end up waiting for a table as it can be busy on weekends, but it’s worth every penny and every minute of your time.

For those that know me, even though there are a lot of restaurants I enjoy, there are very few restaurants that I really look forward to going back to. This is one of them. While I will miss the diner (the patty melt remains on the menu!), I am happy to welcome a superb deli experience!

Rose and Sons
176 Dupont Street
647-748-3287
http://www.roseandsons.ca

 

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Picturing the Perfect Customer Service

I discovered Picture Picture about three years ago, when I needed to have several pictures framed. I went in on a weekend and I met a very pleasant, friendly gentleman by the name of Benny. The operation is actually quite a big facility, including hundreds of different frames to choose from. They also have different types of glass and material to use, and on top of that, they can do dry-mounting. Additionally, they also sell ready-to-choose framed items, including anything from landscapes to sports posters, to cityscapes, (including lots of photos and paintings of Toronto), to objects like food or flowers.

While I’ve been in numerous times to have different items framed, a couple of weeks ago I gave Benny and Co. a bit of a challenge. I had a poster that I had purchased from the Grand Ole Opry, and I had a vision on how I wanted it framed, so I brought him a couple of pieces of barn board (thick wood from the side of a barn) and wanted to somehow affix the poster to the wood.

First, Benny had to figure out a way of attaching the two pieces of wood together…neither of which was smooth. After he solved this challenge, he needed to figure out how to attach the poster to the wood. Lo and behold, he came up with a solution that was inexpensive and relatively simple. When my wife and I saw the end result, it was exactly as we pictured and better than we could have hoped for!

Benny and his colleagues, did such a great project with this one, we decided to throw another curveball at him with some other unique and challenging framing projects. Again and again, Benny came through with flying colours.

Whether it’s as simple as a diploma, a treasured family photograph, or a piece of expensive art…where the frame has to be just perfect, Benny and his colleagues have your back. I highly suggest him for all of your framing needs.

Picture Picture
(416) 787-9827
http://www.picturepictureco.com/

 

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Great Customer Service from Great-West Life

I realize that many people don’t always look at insurance companies in a positive way; however, on several occasions I’ve written about my experiences dealing with these organizations – all of them being quite positive. As a result, I wanted to continue the trend and speak about yet another one that I’m very pleased with.

SQM’s benefits program is presently handled by Great-West Life Assurance Company. While I am also the employer, thankfully my contact with them is generally limited to when I’m submitting a claim for prescriptions, massages, physiotherapy, etc. On the odd occasion I’ve had to reach out and speak to someone to get more information, or for help completing the claims process, and I find that their call centre staff are very friendly, professional, and knowledgeable. When the call is completed, I have always hung up with complete confidence in the information provided, or that my issue will be quickly addressed.

In addition to their call centre, the company has a great online claims submission system. Unlike the old way when you hadto mail something in and photocopy the receipts, all you have to do is fill out the forms online. If there’s no snags, the money is placed in your bank account within a few days. On some occasions, when a receipt is requested, all you have to do is take a photo and email it off to them. When it comes to claims, they really have made the process as simple and seamless as possible.

Putting on my employer hat for a minute, when choosing an insurance company, it often comes down to price and product. However, it’s great when you can do business with a company that also provides outstanding customer service.

While I often recommend dealing with the companies we highlight in this blog, I recognize that when it comes to insurance companies, there’s a number of individual requirements and specifics to be met. However, I highly recommend considering Great-West Life.

https://www.greatwestlife.com

 

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