Monday, June 28, 2010

The Liberal Differentiates itself from Good Customer Service

The only thing left to differentiate a company is customer service.” - YorkRegion.com article (online home of The Liberal newspaper).

It's been an adventure just trying to get a newspaper delivered.  It all started back after I moved into my new home in mid June.

We received the Thursday edition of The Liberal, the local Richmond Hill newspaper. I looked at the Editorial page at the masthead.  On the masthead it said The Liberal was delivered on Thursday and Sunday.    The next Sunday I found another copy on our driveway.  I picked up on my way to church to read on the bus.  On my way home I read the date of "Saturday" on it.  I thought it might be a typo but apparently it is not.

The next two weeks I got the Thursday edition after 10 P.M.   Then on Saturday overnight to Sunday I get yet another Thursday edition.  Now it is pretty easy to distinguish between a Thursday and Saturday edition of paper.  Besides the obvious, the date printed on the top of each page, the Thursday edition comes with 20 flyers and is the size of a phone book.  The Saturday edition is smaller and, at most has five flyers. 

After two weekends of receiving two editions of the same paper from Thursday night to Sunday I decided to inquire with the powers of the paper and called The Liberal office. 

On Sunday afternoon,  I looked up The Liberal's website shows the circulation department phone number to be: 905-660-9887.  I dialled the number and got a message saying "The Liberal office is currently closed.  The Liberal offices are open 9 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. Monday through Friday.. If you know your party's extension please dial it now..." 

So Monday morning at 9:05 A.M. rolled around and I dialled the number again.  The automated system again picked up and said "Thank you for calling the Liberal, if you know your party's extension please dial it now, if you are a carrier reporting a shortage please dial 500.."   At this point I dialled "0" in hopes of speaking to an operator in order to be redirected.  The line rang five times and then returned me to the automates system.  Frustrated, I hung up.

I returned to the Liberal contact page and found another number:  905-881-3373.  I dialed it and a lady picked up the phone.  I asked for the circulation department as I did not receive a copy of the newspaper.  She transferred me directly to someone's voicemail.

I redialed again and got the same person picking up the phone.  I said "I would like to speak to a LIVE person about a delivery issue of my newspaper...perhaps I forgot to specify LIVE."  Before I even finished she put me on hold for thirty seconds and transferred me over. 

Another nice lady picked up the phone.  I explained my situation to her and explained I understand that, as a former paper carrier at their sister paper in Aurora, The Banner, there can be delivery issues.  However, receiving the same edition twice over two weekends seemed a little weird. 

She said she would look into it and took my name and contact information down.  I then hung up the phone.

Later in the day I revisited The Liberal's website, http://www.yorkregion.com/, to read some articles.  I couldn't help but notice that one of the articles featured on their homepage was headlined. "Customer service more important than ever, speaker says".    I read the article nodding my head thinking, "to true, to true, I hope those manning the phone systems at the Liberal office are reading their own articles."  The Liberal sure could learn a thing or two about providing customer service because most people in a similar situation would've simply hung up the phone and said "forget it."   Not me of course who as a delivery person lived by the thoguht of  "if your going to deliver a free newspaper do it right and on time".   The Liberal offices however, apparently never heard of this concept.  Because if they did, they would have picked up the phone when I dialed the Circulation Department's listed phone number and had this whole issue overwith in less than two minutes.   It's a pitty really, a pitty.

"That’s one customer, one bad experience...it’s astounding."  --YorkRegion.com article.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Rogers just Doesn't Get It

During my move I had to switch my utilities over to the new address.  In most cases I had to close an account at my old address in Aurora and open a new on in Richmond Hill and this cost me some shekels. 

Rogers was different though.  "Moving is absolutely free" the Rogers Customer Service lady said over the phone when I called to let Rogers know that I wished to move my internet from Aurora to Richmond Hill and inquire as to how to do this.

You would think Rogers would have learned their lesson after their last time screwing up with me (see here and here).  It seems that anytime a change occurs at Rogers with an account the customer ends up screwed.   When Rogers purchased Aurora Cable Internet (the local cable company in Aurora), all the old Aurora Cable Internet subscribers were gradually moved over to the Rogers packages.  This caused technical, billing and customer service issues.  Rogers lost gobs of former Aurora Cable Internet Customers.   In my case, they screwed me twice (signed me up 2 times for the wrong package and then screwed up the bill by charging me an activation fee transferring over to Rogers services because Rogers themselves were ending Aurora Cable Internet service!). 

Fast forward to my move.  Remember the line "Moving is absolutely free" that was fed to me by Rogers Customer Service.  Well soon after I moved into my new home I opened my mailbox to find a bill from Rogers for the usual amount plus a "$14.95" activation fee.  

To say the least, I was seething.  If "Moving is absolutely free" than why are, to borrow a line from Chrisopher Watts,  these asshats charging me an "activation fee"?  Again, the premise of changing anything with Rogers seems to boggle their Customer Service people.   You would think that over the past forty years of serving a large swath of Southern Ontario that Rogers could handle someone moving within their service area and promise "Moving is absoultely free" with a snap of a finger.   Apparently not.

So I called Rogers Customer Service and got their billing department.  I told my story to Lyna in billing (who actually spoke clear English and sounded like she at least resided in Canada).  She put me on hold for less than a minute.  She came back and said the activation fee has been refunded and the new amount of the bill.  I inquired with her if this new amount would show up online by the next day.  She confirmed it was.  I took down Lyna's name on my bill and the date I called in case things got even more interesting.

As a test, I logged in five minutes after hanging up the phone and the new amount showed on my account.  I payed it right away!

Fast forward to Wednesday June 23rd of this past week.  At work I had just come back from lunch when a middle aged asian woman walked into the front office looking for the person who looked after the phone system.  I responded that would be me.

The lady said she was from Rogers and if she could see if I was getting any savings on our phone system.  It seemed like she was one of those electrical sales idiots that Ontarians are having issues with but with phone systems.  As soon as she said she was from Rogers I pounced.

I basically told her I would never give our company's business to Rogers based on my experiences on two different occasions with my Rogers home services and Rogers technology and billing practices. 

In return I got the usual nod and smile "I'm understanding your frustration and I promise this won't happen here" response from her.  She said she would be watching our account very carefully as Rogers Account Manager so these items wouldn't occur.

I looked at her with a dumbfounded look and said that I wish I could believe her but the recent media reports were not in her favour.  I pointed out that Rogers was currently refunding somewhere between three and thirty million dollars in overcharges to current subscribers.

She reassured me that as an Account Manager that she would oversee things to ensure everything was correct.  I told her that perhaps if it was just a case like my own Rogers Residential issues I could possibly let it go.  But I'm sorry when it is a figure in the millions of dollars it seems that not only was it just a Rogers Customer Service billing issue but the billing and customer service incompetance goes all the way up to the management chain. 

At this point I had enough and had work to do.  I got up and proceeded to give the impression I was not interested by trying to head back to work.  She insisted that if I changed my mind I should take her name and number to call her.  She gave me her flyer with her name and number handwritten on it.

After she left I filed this piece of paper in my blue box under my desk.  

Rogers, you've apparently learned absolutely nothing.  As Toronto Star Consumer Columnist Ellen Roseman said on her blog "I’ll watch my bills and wonder if I can trust them again."

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Library Card!

This evening my wife and I headed off to the Richvale Public Library for a little browsing of the DVD collection. 

Rewind to last Wednesday.  We walked over with library bag in hand (my wife has a Richmond Hill Library Card already) and explored the local branch.  I, growing up in Aurora, going to school in Ottawa and living in New York, had never seen such a small branch.  My wife commented that this was the size of library she used to visit a kid.  I didn't mind the size and quickly found a newspaper and a nice little spot to curl up in. 

Fast forward to today.  I was bounding off the walls in the library like a four year old.  I got my Library Card!  A brand new shiny Library Card.  I felt like a million bucks.  Did I borrow anything?  No, I had too much excitement for one day.  But my wife borrowed some DVDs for the weekend we plan on watching tonight.

Nonetheless, sometimes it is the simplist things in life like getting a Library Card that puts a smile on my face.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

House Hunting 101: Learning About Different Homes & Terminology

After finding a reputable realtor (in our case Roy Eveleigh), deciding what type of place we wanted (e.g. townhouse, detached, number of bedrooms, etc.) and what our price range was, we were off looking at houses. 

The first house we looked at was in Richmond Hill on Church Street South near the Elgin Barrow Arena.  We looked it over on an open house one Saturday at the end of February.  We learned a lot about older homes in this area.  The main one was older homes tend to have lower ceilings in north west of Major Mackenzie Drive and Yonge Street area (Downtown Richmond Hill).   This house, after visiting the basement, was not for me as really the only thing I could observe down there was it had nice carpeting. 

During late February through March to April 2010 the housing market in our price range was moving quickly.  Literally we would see listings on http://www.mls.ca/, forward them Roy to book appointments.  The time would come to meet Roy to see the places, but we couldn't.  THEY WERE SOLD!  This was frustrating at times.  I believe that in at least one case we were viewing a house and it sold while we were still in it. 

When these appointments fell through due to the property being sold, Roy took advantage of it to book other appointments of houses we might like or to visit properties that were of educational value.   In one case we visited a foreclosure.  The property was located on Roseview Avenue also in the older part of Downtown Richmond Hill.  Roy promised we probably wouldn't be interested in the place but we should see what a typical foreclosure house might look like.  To say the least the place a several issues, everything from the under the kitchen cabinet do it yourselfer wiring for lighting to weird layouts on the second floor were quite evident.  Only one person knows if the renovations inside were up to code, the Chief Building Official for the Town of Richmond Hill!   By my novice eye, I doubted this property would have passed. 

Another interesting learning experience Roy took us on an open house with tenants still living in it on Nahanni Drive.  We left that place feeling sorry for the sellers agent.  The place was a mess and hadn't seen a vacuum or a little Windex in at least two weeks.  What a dump. 

In contrast we saw another home in north Richmond Hill that we actually thought about putting an offer in.  The place was immaculate and very well kept.  The only thing that stopped us in our tracks was on the listing it said it was "tenanted".  Even Roy was surprised that this place was being rented.  As first time homebuyers, as well, we looking for a place that was easy to move into.  Obviously renters were probably not interested in being forced to move out and we could see possible legal bills dancing in our eyes.  So anything tenanted were not interested in seeing. 

There was lots to learn on the home front.  We were glad Roy Eveleigh was along for the ride.  He was very knowledgable in different features of homes (i.e. he is pretty handy when looking at an electical panel).  We also felt comfortable asking him the usual "we are totally new at this..." questions to Roy.  These questions ranged from: "What is broadloom?" (Answer: carpeting that is not of the area rug nature); "What does 'PC' mean on a listing? (Answer: "Price Change").  Roy was very patient with us and answered are numerous questions in simple language with some examples. 

Learning ropes of the real estate industry while searching for a home was an experience in itself. It was great having an experienced real estate agent along for the ride.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Moving Memories

Back in February of this year the entire idea of moving out of my apartment began.  I talked to what would be our agent after church one day about what we needed.  He gave us a couple of business cards to contact mortgage people.  Soon after my wife and I were talking to mortgage brokers and financial advisors.  

Once we became preapproved we went back to our agent, Roy Eveleigh, to figure out our next steps.  We drew up a list of what we were looking for in a place and of course the three most important things: location, location, location.

My wife and I were looking to shorten our commutes.  Since we both work in north Toronto and south York Region we decided something in Richmond Hill would be ideal.  Richmond Hill? Yes it is perfect for us as it is close to both work and accessible to transit into the city (GO Train and VIVA service).  Also, Richmond Hill's housing prices were affordable to us unlike places we saw on http://www.realtor.ca/ in north Toronto.

The road ahead was tough slogging though: open houses, appointments for viewing, strange real estate agents for sellers and much more.   But it was all worth it as I type in my new home feeling satisfied after clearing out five more cardboard boxes of stuff today. 

Of course there is lots more to tell about moving... so stay tuned!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Amongst the Boxes....there is Satisfaction

Well I'm officially moved.  Yesterday, my family and I moved everything from my little apartment in Aurora to Richmond Hill.  In fact, even a day later it is amazing how much stuff I own as look around while typing amongst the boxes. 

But nonetheless I've got a feeling of satisfaction.  Satisfaction that I now own my own place and no longer rent. Satisfaction I looked at around forty to fifty houses with a darn good Real Estate Agent in Roy Eveleigh  Satisfaction in finding a place that reduces my commute to work by just over an hour per day. Satisfaction that the search is finally over.   Satisfaction that in a week every nook and cranny in this place will have seen a vacuum, swiffer, soap, or cloth and will finally be clean!  Satisfaction that perhaps in a week the last of the boxes will have been flattened and the burly recycling man will have trucked it all away.  Satisfaction that for one summer Saturday night I can sleep with the window open and not hear the drunks coming home from the bar yelling obscenities or skateboarders practicing their trade.  Come to think of it, as I sit here in my new home, typing away it is pure satisfaction to hear just the birds chirping and the dull roar of traffic in the background.   Satisfaction overall that this part of my life is finally over.

Now I just have to set up and organize my home life again.  I love doing this part.  The putting things together, the decorating and seeing what has to be purchased.  Today I changed the locks on my house all by myself.  It was simple really,  a couple of Home Depot specials and a little help from an orange aproned expert and I was away to the races while my wife made dinner I set to work. This is really satisfying, to know that, sorry Red Green, the women find me handsome, and they find me handy.

I wonder now, as I sit amongst the boxes, what future satisfaction awaits me in the place.  Only time will tell what satisfaction is ahead.

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