Customer Service Excellence: Horseshoe Valley Resort

11718515_sAm I nuts or are our customer service expectations a little out of whack?

Whether it be hotels, restaurants, or the corner drug store it seems the one thing that guarantees returning business has been dropped. It’s like it isn’t even expected anymore and we all seem to be adjusting, no questions asked. Maybe it’s not even intentional, sometimes more than not; we are met with no personality at all, just pushing people through the money machine as fast as they can because actual engaging could slow up the line.

I have essentially been in customer service since I was fifteen years old. Through my teenage years you can bet there were times behind the cash when I was less than enthusiastic to be there. I’ve been guilty of judging customers, feeling put out or producing a heavy sigh now and then. Let’s face it, people can be super annoying and we at times can be completely self absorbed. So I get the teen with the part time job who would rather be anywhere else but working, but it doesn’t mean its okay.

I hate to sound so negative but we’re now at a point if we are given good customer service we are actually astounded.

Case in point, we just took a trip to Barrie, Ontario for a hockey tournament. One of the group activities off the ice was to go tubing at Horseshoe Valley Resort.  We got to the front desk to get our tickets and were met with warm greetings and instant service. Without being asked they directed us to the tubing hills and told us what to expect.

What I expected was to ride up with 15 overly hyper kids, to be met by three or four annoyed teenagers whose job it was to let us know when the track was clear with a slight nod from their expressionless heads.

What we got were enthusiastic teenage boys who stood all weekend at the top of a tubing hill in freezing temperatures, pulling and spinning hundreds of pounds of people down a hill on a tube. It’s tough work. It would be easy to be moody; especially when you have an entire hockey team of sugar filled ten years olds yelling orders at you. But, they laughed, smiled and accommodated us for two hours and not once did I see an eye roll or a bad attitude.

“Hey guys, why you don’t try going backwards in a train?”

“Do want to go fast, faster or warp speed?”

“Big spin, little spin or no spin?”

Every. Time. For two hours.

Their manager was never too far away. He was involved, engaged and probably worked harder than the kids. He acknowledged you, laughed with your kids, yet his eyes and ears were open and throughout our time he helped and chatted with many people. The bottom line, he led by example and it was working.

We were so impressed we went back the next day. The kids went tubing and I decide to rent some shoeshoes and give it a try. Again we were greeted with enthusiasm. I had never snowshoed before so there was a level of anxiety around doing something new. Before I even got to a trail I had one person stop me to put them on properly (because I’m an idiot). Then a few more directed me to the trails, suggest scenic routes and generally made me feel welcome. It was a great experience.

I want to go back and try the cross-country trails and spa. The kids want to go skiing and tubing and to spend the night in the hotel. In the summer there’s golf, biking, zip lining and an adventure park.

You see how customer service works?

So in honour of spectacular customer service I thought I would write a blog, but then I thought why not write about every good customer service experience I come across? Maybe it could generate a little cosmic movement. So I’m dedicating a column to outstanding customer service. I mean the stuff that really stands out. I’m putting it where my book reviews used to be because let’s face it; it has taken a nose dive.

So if you have had a recent (or not so recent) great customer service experience, let me know in the comments, maybe I’ll take a visit (if it’s close) and add them to the list. And if you get a chance to check out Horseshoe Valley you won’t be disappointed. If you don’t believe me check out the many positive reviews here.

They’re doing something right.

To Hell In A Hand Basket

This post is long, but so true. I can’t make this shit up.

I had a customer service day from hell.  I noticed my online file with a government agency was incorrect. They had an important date wrong in their system. I know because I have a photocopy of the original. Thinking it would only take a second to fix (my first mistake) I dial the 800 number provided under their heading, “We’re ready to help you.”

It rang busy six times before I was lucky enough to talk to the automated attendant.  Of course then I had to monkey around with pushing one, then enter my social insurance number and my password, then push two, then one, only for the computer to recite the same wrong date. Good, I think, I’m finally to the part where I get to push zero for a real live person.

“We’re sorry we are experience a high number of calls. Please return to the automated information line or hang up and call back later.”

Obviously, they had no idea who they were dealing with. I hang up and call back and keep calling back (because that’s who I am) until their computer finally identifies that my
SIN has been entered eight times and finally puts me in sequence. However, “the call volume is high.”

Was that supposed to scare me? I’ve got time. I call their bluff and wait. After about five minutes Angie picks up.

“Can I help you?”

I always fall for it; they set you up right away pretending to want to help you.  I tell her the issue with the date. It says 2010 when it should say 2011. She asks me some
security questions and then punches some buttons.

“Is says 2010.”

“Yes, I know. That’s why I’m calling,” I said with absolutely no tone whatsoever.

“Well, I’ll put a discrepancy in the system and have them look into it.” Then she continues to tell me the multitude of red tape that had to occur to fix it.

First of all who are they? They are everywhere, doing everything. Don’t they
get tired? I sense her about to hang up. “How long will it take?”

“5-10 days.”

This is a standard answer. I know because I used to give it for a living. So I explain that it doesn’t need investigating it’s an obvious key punch error. I have a photocopy of the original document in front of me, the date is 2011.

“Well, I don’t have the copy in front of me, just what’s on my computer.”

Sigh.  Obviously Angie had a big lunch because she doesn’t want to go digging through files for paperwork.

“Do you have access to the original copy?”

“I can get a scan of it.”

“Okay. I’ll wait.”

Angie hates me. She drops the phone, probably mumbled to her co-workers and made crazy hand gestures to the phone; maybe even flipped me the bird.  Hey, I’ve been there and I’ve seen worse.

“Okay I have the document. It says 2010.” Suddenly Angie’s voice has a hint of snarky.

Now I’m flabbergasted because I’m starring at a photocopy that clearly says 2011. “Are you sure you’re looking at the right document, #999654?”

“Yes.”

“A scan of the original?”

“Yes.”

There’s a problem here somewhere. “Where is the original?”

“Nova Scotia.”

Sigh. For those who don’t know me, I live in Ontario. For those that don’t know Canada; this document might as well be at the North Pole. Of course I know she doesn’t control where the originals go, so I’m still trying to be supportive. See how I’m working with her here?

“Well, something has been clearly mixed up. Since you have access to scanning can you email me a copy of what you’re looking at?”

“It clearly says 2010, but I can put in a request that you require a copy and they will mail you one.”

Again with the they, “And how long does that take?”

“5-10 days”.

Again, I’ve been on the other side of this conversation and she’s going to do nothing further to help me.

“Please send it.” I give the necessary details and hang up. This is not over, I think as I leave to pick the kids up from school. If I hurry I can make it to the local office before it closes and maybe they can clear this up quickly.

I drag the kids there all grumpy and hungry (me and them) and went in. The lady was very pleasant and sort of smushy and warm like how I like to think of Grandmas. She
takes my paper and looks up my account. Clearly on their system someone had typed in the date, my original is handwritten. So it wasn’t a scan after all. Angie,
you did me wrong.

“Well, you are absolutely right we’ll get that fixed up right away.”

I was kinda disappointed; she had really struck me as the type of person who would’ve said, “In a jiffy.”

“When will that be?” I asked.

“5-10 days…”

You would think the day would have ended there, but alas, it did not. If you still have the strength, read on…it’s worth it.

By this time, I’ve had it. My daughter is in tears because she had a terrible day dealing with hormonal grade six girls and she was “starving!” I tried to be sympathetic but really all I wanted was a glass of wine and some chips.

“Hey kids eat free on Tuesday,” said my young, innocent and yet to be scorned son.

The advertising restaurant (who shall remain nameless…Oh, who gives a shit, it was Denny’s. That’s right; those who judge shall be judged themselves…or something like that) was right across the parking lot. Well, I’m no dummy. This is the answer to my prayers, who cares if it’s 4pm.

In we go; kids instantly happy. I looked around. There was no one, I mean NO ONE in this restaurant but us, two waitresses and a cook. I’m concerned, but I feel myself
being lead to our table.

The kids order a hot chocolate, but their machine is broke, so they get lemonade and pizza. At this point I wanted a big greasy burger and fries to wash down the distain, but I did a bunch of self talk as I looked at the menu, which had more grease on it (I mean physically on it) then I wanted in my entire meal. I decided on grilled chicken on a whole wheat bun and a salad. And begrudgingly, a Diet Coke.

A bit later the waitress came back with my salad. The same salad you get in a bag at the grocery store. Now I know what I’m getting at these restaurants but did they have to make it so obvious?  Iceberg lettuce, bits of red cabbage and the dried up shreds of carrot? Yummy.

It didn’t matter. I ate it. But, like the kids pointed out, “Where the heck are our drinks?”

The waitress comes back and announces they have no whole wheat buns. What other kind of bun would I like?

“Well, do you have multigrain or rye?” I don’t know what I was thinking.

She tells me she “doesn’t know their names” and went to get a menu so she could point to the pictures of sandwiches.  As it turns out, my choices were a white bun or bread.

I tell her bun and she goes away. But, shit what about out drinks?

I look to the kitchen where I can see her behind the glass reading the paper. She must have forgotten. Give her a break I tell myself, you’re extra sensitive right now. Finally
she starts to fiddle with some plates.  With her bare hands, I watch her arrange our veggies on a plate. She grabs a handful of Goldfish crackers and puts them in a bowl, leaving a few in her hand that she promptly pops in her mouth, fingers and all. And if that wasn’t enough, she picks up more veggies and places them on the plate.

Was she kidding me? My first reaction was to walk out. But it quickly occurred to me that I would have to cook dinner. Plus, my daughter would go absolutely, hormonally ape shit if she didn’t eat soon and although I don’t let her rule the roost there are times when I just can’t deal with it.

“Excuse me, but I’ll need you to wash your hands and re-plate these,” I said to her before she could leave. “I saw you eating with your fingers in your mouth while you were getting this.”

She nods, clearly confused and takes our plates back to the kitchen.

My daughter says, “Um, our drinks?”

Crap! I forgot to ask again!!

I watch her wash her hands and plate the (hopefully clean, but doubtful) food. She brings them and my chicken sandwich. No pizza. No drinks.

“Can we have our drinks?” I finally say.

I have to mention again that up until then, we were the ONLY ones in the restaurant. I mean, she wasn’t exactly busy.

She disappears, clearly shaken. At this point the other waitress springs into action (not really but whatever) and seats another couple beside us. It also should be noted that these two came in with NO KIDS. Why on earth would you eat there unless you had kids that could eat for free?!

Our waitress brings the kids pizza. We all stare at her.

“Drinks?”  We say in unison.  She disappears, I assume to spit in our food.

I hear the man beside us asks if the turkey club is made of lunch meat or real turkey. A fair question I think.

“Oh,” says Waitress #2, “we’re outta turkey.”

OUT OF TURKEY!…SERIOUSLY?

Our drinks arrive, but I’m too busy listening in on the conversation next to us to acknowledge it.

The lady wants nachos, but doesn’t want the peppers, they give her heartburn.

“I’m sorry, they can’t make them without peppers because earlier in the day we cut up the onions, tomatoes and peppers and put them in the same bowl to save time.”

The woman just stares at her and then looks around at the empty restaurant.  Hey, at least her waitress was sorry!

I look at my son who was staring at his dinner like it was dipped in ass and scoffed down my sandwich figuring if I eat it fast, it might stop my gag reflex.

“I know I`m in public but I have to fart,” he says out of the blue.

I nod and tell him to do it at the waitress station.

He doesn’t because I raised him to behave better than how I tell him.

“How much did you tip her?” He asked on our way to the car.

“I told her not to pull on Superman’s cape. That’s a good tip.”

“We better get moving, what if she comes after us?” he said, concerned.

“I’d like to see her try.”

“Would you punch her in the face?”

“Probably,” I said, just totally done.

“I would to then.”

“Me too,” says my daughter.

They make me smile.