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.