The title of this post says it all.  Over the last few years customer service seems to be a rare commodity but those businesses that focus on meeting or exceeding their customer’s expectations thrive even in the aftermath of COVID 19.

A week ago my daughter and granddaughter whom I had not seen in over three years arrived at Toronto’s Pearson airport from Maui.  Their 5:40 pm flight arrival was four and a half hours late and landed at 11:00 pm, totalling over 20 hours which is a long time with a 5 year old in tow.  Their Westjet flights offered no food service or even a food voucher to make up for the delays and inconvenience they caused.  Matters were made worse when their luggage and child’s car seat failed to arrive.  After a two hour wait in line to file a claim for their luggage and to obtain a loaner car seat we hit the road at 1:00 am.  The luggage arrived 3 days latter but it took10 days for the car seat to be delivered.

Having not eaten before arriving, my weary travellers were starving so we pulled into a Tim Horton’s, the store was closed so drive thru service only.  After waiting in line we were told they had no cookies, bagels or donuts etc so we continued on.  Further up Airport Road we found another Tim Horton’s.  Again the store was closed but the drive thru was open.  We walked up looked in the store window and saw that the glass cases were filled with various baked goods perfect!  Once again we drove into the drive thru where I ordered my passengers two bagels only to be told and despite the fact their showcases were full, ” we don’t serve food at night.”  My polite reply was “then why are you open?” and I drove off.

Unfortunately the above example is all too common these days.  No matter if it is an airline, a retail store, restaurant, car repair shop, a service company or trades-person for some type for work around your home etc, customer service in general is lacking.  While the arrival of COVID 19 has seemingly made it worse, it’s not an excuse nor can anyone point the finger of blame at Walmart or Amazon if their business is failing.  In no way do I profess to be the smartest guy but it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that no matter how good your products or service work is, without good basic customer service you are dead in the water and sure to fail.

Recently my wife and I have watched a series of TV shows titled “Project Bakeover” where failing bakeries have their menus and premises reworked in order to turn them around.  One show featured a bakery close to home in Elmvale, Ontario while another one dealt with a bake shop in Tobermory on the Bruce Peninsula.  The latter bakery was of particular interest as we drive by it regularly on the way to our cottage on Manitoulin Island and after watching the show we made a point to drop by to pick up some of their butter tarts.  Last week on our way to catch the Chi Cheemaun ferry we stopped only to find the shop closed.  Their hours are 9:00 am to 3:00 pm.

Returning home this past Wednesday, we knew they would again be closed once we departed from the ferry so my wife phoned to see if she could place an order, pay via credit card and have them leave the items outside for us to pick -up.  The answer was no.  Some of the baked items featured on the TV show were not available as “we haven’t figured out how to make them.”  Further they do not accept payments even via credit card over the phone.  Wishing to purchase something, my wife was told to drop by on our way by, knock on the door and they might be there.  We did as told, got no answer after knocking several times and similar to my experience with Tim Horton’s above, we drive away empty handed.  In summary here is a struggling business that enjoyed the benefit of some expert business advice, a renovation of their shop both inside and out and national TV exposure all of which I suspect cost them little or no money.  We tried not once but twice to give them some business and came away both times with nothing.  It is unlikely we will ever return and I suspect they have other potential customers that had the same experience and feel the same.

Conversely, there are some companies out there that do provide outstanding customer service.  Last summer I purchased and installed a new set of Moen kitchen faucets at my cottage.  The faucet has a separate spray hose/spray nozzle and while everything worked great, I noticed the sprayer leaks as there is always a small pool of water on the counter top.  Taking the unit apart I found that a washer was missing in the nozzle, seemingly it was not installed at the factory.  After looking in various hardware and building supply stores I found that the washer was not available so I called Moen and explained the problem.  Without any hesitation or questions other than to ask me the model # of the faucet I had, Moen is sending me “no charge” a whole new sprayer assembly the hose, nozzle sprayer etc. as they offer a limited lifetime warranty.  Now that’s customer service!

Whether I am at home, at my cottage or even travelling I like and endeavour to shop local.  At the same time I will confess that I also shop online sites such as Amazon and as a “Prime Member” most of my purchases there are shipped no charge.  Further, I have found things on Amazon that were not available elsewhere and even if they were, the retail store prices were often much higher.  Part of Amazon’s vision statement is ….“to be Earth’s most customer-centric company” and from my personal experience they are exceeding.  At the same time Amazon like anyone, is not perfect.  Any problems I have had with my purchase there were rare and they were handled quickly and in a very friendly manner.  It is interesting to note that in the short time Amazon has been around (28 years), their profit is four times that of Disney a company founded 99 years ago in 1923.

The reason why good customer service is essential is twofold.  First, we as consumers have a multitude of options as to where we spend our money.  Secondly and in my opinion this is the most important, whether we have a good experience or bad, within mere minutes we can share our opinion and experience online via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc.and the whole world knows.  Reading online “reviews” is one way to determine where to shop and what to buy, I do it all the time and I’ll bet you do as well.

As a real estate Broker for over 20 years I am self employed.  Most of my business is via repeat clients and through  referrals they have provided me with their family and or friends.  It is the absolute cornerstone of my business and if my service was sub-par I would have gone broke years ago.  See the client testimonials I have posted on this website.

In the past three months our world has changed.  The real estate market has shifted, inflation it at a 30+ year high and I fully expect we are headed into a recession, we may be there already.  There are clearly some uncertain times ahead.  No matter what arises in the balance of 2022 and beyond, we all want and need and want to receive good value in everything we purchase.  Apart form money, that includes good customer service and a pleasant experience that not only leads to a successful business today, but one that draws customers back again and again ensuring they survive over the long term and the challenging economic times that may lie in the months ahead.