Every once and awhile I write about my experiences with customer service, I tend to share more bad stories than good, but today I have good story.

This past week has been a blur for me but thats a good thing I think. July 1st was Canada’s 143rd Birthday and every year there is a huge parade in my community, and every year I do all can to avoid that parade. I don’t like crowds much, especially ones that create traffic problems, it just gets me wound up for some reason. Ya I get it, large crowds always equals traffic problems. OK, let’s get on with why I’m writing about Long & McQuade.

I belong to church here in Abbotsford, Cedar Brook Church, we decided this year that we would put a float in the Parade, we hired a new Pastor and he is working to build a higher profile for the church. A team was assembled, before we knew it, there were over 40 people helping decorate, organize and join us on the long walk down main street on July 1st, 2010.

Before all the hoopla, a few weeks earlier I went to Long & McQuade to see how much it would cost to rent speakers and a small mixer board for our float, so we could run canned music. I got a quote of $28, I said what? I can remember when I was in that business back in the day it would cost over $200! I said book it.l would say

Jump ahead to the parade, we were decorating the float at 7AM, setting up sound equipment and so on. I hooked up the speakers and CD player and was having some volume issues, I discovered there was an input / output problem and SHAZAM! as @prosperitygal would say, we had sound. But there was a problem with one of the speakers, a Tweeter was blown and it rattled like a rock in a can, it was very sad. I was able to turn off the Tweeter for the most part and run Bass only. It was too late to get the speaker replaced because Long & McQuade were closed, so we made due with one side very much lower in volume than the other.

Now under normal circumstances most people would lose a gasket and just run with speaker and then cry about it all day to anyone who would listen. We did not do that, we just ran it a low volume but ran the other side HOT, it worked out well in the end because the Judges for the parade were on the side the good speaker was on. The parade was great fun, all went well, but we haven’t heard back if we won 1st, 2nd or 3rd for the float judging : )

Today, July 2nd, I returned the gear and then shared the problem of the speaker. The clerk helping me was awesome, we hooked the speaker in question up and was able to reproduce the problem. He then looked at me and said, what do you want to do? I said what? (in shock of course) He said, what do you want to do? I threw the ball back at him and said, what are my options? They were, get my money back or he would give me a gift certificate. I said, just give me the certificate, it’s easier and faster too. The clerk went to the back room and handed my a $50 certificate, I said, this too much, I only spent $28 in the first place. He said, we’re sorry you had any kind of problems period, and we want to see you come back.

I’m still a little stunned, it’s not significant amount of money, but the thought and act was huge in my books, credibility is everything folks, remember that when dealing with people around you. Long & McQuade, you did customer service right today, we’ll be back, and we will tell many what you did today. Many Blessings on you.

Something is terribly wrong with the business world at large don’t you think? I mean, customer service is still failing and businesses and their owners don’t seem to care! Yes some get it and are doing something about it, but lets be honest here, have you seen a grand scale change of mind and heart on what customers really want from local businesses?

A while back a shared a couple stories with you, one where Black & Decker failed bigtime in my books, one where SAVE-ON FOODS went way out of their way to make my life easier, and then there was the BEST BUY stupidity. I was out with my oldest son this afternoon, he said hey let’s go to Best Buy! My response, why? He looked at me kind of funny and said what? I said these guys don’t get customer service and I won’t buy from them again. Of course he asked what happened and I shared with him, he said I understand. The stupid thing about this experience is that I got more attention from Best Buy USA online staffers and I never did hear from anyone in Canada at the time of my rant. I did get a Tweet from someone a wekk later but that was it, and that person solved nothing, did nothing and didn’t even ask for details. No nothing, no how can we make this right, sorry you had that problem….NOTHING! I won’t be back, That I can control.

Black & Decker made absolutely no effort to fix their website and or make my experience with them a positive one. SAVE-ON FOODS, they were amazing, well one staff person was (Lorna) , they get my business, that store ONLY gets my business unless I’m out of town.

The oxymoron of all businesses is, they ask for our input, how were we today, how can we be better, make a suggestion and so on. But are they really listening, and if they are, they must be using selective hearing. I rarely see improvement from those businesses that blow it and know about it. So why am I pissed? They don’t get it, and I’m not confident that they will anytime soon. They don’t understand that their clients, their customers want to talk to them, and want to be heard. Don’t they know that their customers want that relationship, want to trust that company, want to have a positive experience with their Brand. I don’t get it, why don’t they want to give us what we really want?

Don’t you know – Your Customers Are Dying To Talk To You!

We can all take a lesson from these experiences, I know you have your own stories to tell but somehow the message is getting lost in translation. Is Social Media that confusing they don’t understand what Social Media is all about, I think it is, orherwise we would see more movement for the better.

Am I over reacting? What do you think?

Technology is growing at an exponential rate; we truly have no way of keeping up via traditional means when it comes to tracking. Organizations struggle to stay focused, struggle to maintain, and struggle to provide systems and services that meet their business objectives. The shift in how business gets done is making it more and more difficult to maintain profit margins and business lifestyles that most are accustom to.

Today’s I.T. Strategic Planning is shedding its skin and taking on a new look and meaning. Ramping up I.T. staff is no longer the norm; reducing I.T. Teams and virtualization is; it allows organizations to be more financially responsible. CIO’s have a tougher time justifying their existence, the role is becoming more and more extinct, and is easily handled without the large investment in overhead. As much as it pains me to say that, I have to accept the new landscape of how Information Technology is implemented and managed. There’s still a need for CIO’s in large organizations but new companies are building streamlined teams, technology allows for startups to have fewer management roles. This new model allows for higher profits and less management of people.

Customer service is making a huge shift in what it means, Customer Service or Support is NOT fixing or adding a new feature, it is about Communication and Solving problems. This gap is hurting far too many businesses, they need to pay attention and listen to what their customers are saying about them, what they want from them.

Small businesses are literally taking a fetal position when it comes to understanding the change taking place, that the Internet is empowering the individual rather than the large organization. The power of the person has been lifted to a level no one saw coming, all because of the Internet. The Internet is the game changer; the Internet was and is clearly misunderstood by the smaller Mom & Pop businesses. The Internet solved the problem of digital distribution, this is an Access Based Economy where we click to get. The transition for small business can be easy to most difficult, undertsanding technology or how technology will help them is the key.

If there ever was a need in your local marketplace it’s helping those small business understand that they won’t be able to continue as they have and enjoy the life they hoped to build when they opened the doors. More importantly, those business owners need to learn about humility, be willing to say they don’t understand and do indeed need help with the Internet. Most small business owners had an Entrepreneurial Seizure, they thought because they knew how to do the work they knew how to run a business. I recommend reading Michael Gerber’s book, The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It (Amazon Affiliate Link) to get a clear understanding of what I’m referring to.

Today a couple of things scream for attention in my humble opinion:

1.    Listening – Listen to what is being said about your brand and or business.
2.    Filtering Content is more important than creating it.

Listening & Filtering Content are two key factors to your Social Media success, small & big businesses at large still haven’t grasped these two concepts with any kind of clarity.

We are in an Extreme Reputation Economy, popularity is becoming a Social Capital, and it will be as valuable as real money in the coming months if it hasn’t happened already. How you present yourself, your product, and your business will generate a reputation, take the time to craft your reputation.

What do you think?

<a href=”http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0887307280?ie=UTF8&tag=owengrea-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0887307280″>The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It</a><img src=”http://www.assoc-amazon.com/e/ir?t=owengrea-20&l=as2&o=1&a=0887307280″ width=”1″ height=”1″ border=”0″ alt=”” style=”border:none !important; margin:0px !important;” />

MM850My Lawn Mower stopped working a few weeks ago, I was kind of happy because that meant I didn’t have to cut grass 🙂 The down side to not cutting the grass is that it got to a point where the yard looked like Hillbillies lived there! Weeds took over and gave the place a look I’ve not experienced before, so I had to solve the broken switch in my Lawn Mower STAT! Well, the switch was the most likely thing to be broken so I’m starting there.

Before I share with you my Customer Service That – FAILED story, let me share with you an experience I was impressed with when I broke my shoulder in the 1st week of July. As some of you know I was doing warp speed on the soccer field, a guy got a breakaway and my 20 year old brain (I’m 51) said,” you can catch him”, so off I went! Oh ya, I caught him, kicked the ball away and then clipped his back foot and down I went, what should have been a tuck & roll became a SPLAT! So there ya have it, I knew it was broken by the sting, I’ve had broken bones before so I knew how it felt. I took a slap shot between the eyes as a young hockey player once too, the guy shooting the puck was Gord Cochrane. Yep, the NHL goon back when he was just playing Junior in the 70’s but that’s another story for another time.

SAVE-ON FOODS STORY – Customer Service That PASSED!

After a couple weeks of cabin fever I took the risk of driving, had to wear a sling so it was interesting. This particular day I went to the grocery store, SAVE-ON FOODS just down the hill from me, about 6  kilometers. I went in early thinking I wouldn’t have to deal with a busy store, I forgot a quarter to get a cart so I went to the Customer Service desk and asked for one. Lorna at the desk asked me what happened to my arm, nothing I said, I broke my shoulder. She then asked me if I needed someone to help me get the cart, being a man I said NO! So I wondered outside to get the cart, low & behold there was Lorna coming out the door asking if I was OK. Yep, thanks for coming to check I said. Once I got in the store I started down a couple isle’s and at the end of one isle was Lorna, can I push the cart and help you shop? Now I’m not used to this kind of treatment from a local grocery store so I’m taken back a bit. I said no thanks and continued on with my shopping.

I got home and went on with my self-pity because I couldn’t lift things and do what I wanted so I called my wife to chat with her a bit. My lovely wife happens to work for a company where SAVE-ON FOODS is a customer, I shared my story of Lorna, my wife then told one of the big Kahuna’s at SAVE-ON about Lorna. I merely said that this is the way customer support should be and I would speak highly of Lorna always because she went the extra mile when most wouldn’t. Lorna works at store #904 in Abbotsford, B.C., Canada at the Sumas Exit, if you ever have to get groceries that’s the store that gets customer service right. I hope that the BIG Kahuna rewards Lorna far beyond what they normally do for their staff because Lorna deserves it in my humble opinion. I Thank You Lorna for blessing me with your kindness and willingness to serve.

BLACK & DECKER STORY – Customer Service That – FAILED!

Now, let me share my Black & Decker experience with you. I told you about the switch I needed for my Lawn Mower earlier, I went to Black & Decker’s website thinking I could order the part from them in ten minutes and I would be back cutting grass in a few days. WRONG! I was able to search and find the model of my Lawn Mower and was even able to add the part (switch) to the shopping cart so it wasn’t all bad until I tried to checkout. I clicked on the Checkout Button and I was sent right back to the beginning to search for the part again. I admit I did that three or four times thinking I missed something. Then I thought oh crap I must have really screwed up now and have to wait 24 hours before I can try again. Some carts in the past would force you to do that so I waited till the next day. Short story is it failed once again and did the same thing. As you can probably tell I was getting frustrated, I went to the FAQ’s and help part of the site which solved absolutely nothing, in fact it sends you to another company’s site for support. I also tried to use the Service Center Locator search tool on the site, it asks for the country and ZIP code, I click on the drop down list and select Canada and then put the Postal Code in. Guess what, it wouldn’t accept the Postal Code, it only accepted ZIP code’s, it did let me select the correct country though. At this point I had enough and decided to phone Black & Decker’s toll free number to try and buy this part. That did work 🙂

I got a cheerful lady on the phone with a nice southern drawl in her voice, I shared my challenge and she said I couldn’t order the part and they wouldn’t be able to ship it either. Say what? Why I asked? You are in Canada. OK, is there a place in Canada where I can get Black & Decker parts for my Lawn Mower? Where in Canada do you live was the next question, Abbotsford, B.C. about 40 miles East of Vancouver. Yes, we have a service center in Vancouver. I asked if there was one out in my area and she said no only Vancouver. I got the phone number of the location in Vancouver and proceeded to ask about the part, I got a guy named Dan on the phone, I then asked if they had a location in my community, why yes he said. I got the number for the location in my community and I was told they had the part! EUREKA!

Now the system on the Black & Decker site flips you back & forth with DeWalt’s site to actually get support and parts here in Canada. It may even do the same thing in the USD but I wasn’t able to test that today. I would suggest to Black & Decker that their website is a prime example of a site that fails in customer service. There should have been an error, a pop-up or a message that said something about what was happening. I should have been able to find a location using the Service Center Locator by letting me use a Postal Code and then a message telling me to contact Yadda Yadda in Canada instead of NOTHING!

I can’t imagine customers putting up with that kind of support and continue doing business with them, Black & Decker, you better pay attention and fix your failing system and failing grade because you won’t like what may happen to your business. I’m just one person who tried to buy a part for a Lawn Mower, I spent far too much time on the company website trying figure out how and why it wasn’t working and then 3 phone calls later to actually find a location that had the part. You are making your customers Work Far To Hard Black & Decker! STOP IT!!!!!