Businesses sign up to gauge customer service

Duane Hicks

Area residents soon will have the chance to vote online as to which businesses offer top-notch customer service here in Rainy River District.
Some 28 district businesses signed up for the Rainy River Future Development Corp.’s 2011 Customer Service “People’s Choice” Online Challenge by Friday’s deadline.
These include Northwoods Gallery & Gifts, Kupila’s Sound Centre, Studio Gibbous, Green’s Countrywide Furniture, West End Motors, Norlund Oil, Super 8 Motel, Times Web Design, Fort Frances Times Ltd., Cloverleaf Family Foods, Peterbilt Fort Frances, Fort Frances General Supply, Simplicity Professional Hair & Body Care, and Fort Frances Enhanced Hearing Centre.
Rounding out the entries are Taggs Source for Sports, McTaggarts, La Place Rendez-Vous, The Ear Clinic, Inc., Maddy’s Little Store, Leon’s, Causeway General Insurance Brokers Ltd., Belluz Concrete and Rentals, Pharmasave, Celeste’s, The Den, Brockie’s Jewellers, Boston Pizza, and Naughty Pine Riding Ranch.
Bill Gushulak of Fort Frances General Supply, which consistently has finished in the top 10 in the customer service challenge since 2007, said it doesn’t matter whether a business has won an award in the past, they can’t rest on their laurels when it comes to customer service.
“Our number-one goal is to always keep our customers happy, and to make sure we’re on top of our game,” he stressed.
“I commend the RRFDC for continuing to make sure that good customer service stays at the forefront of everyone’s minds throughout the district,” he added.
“We welcome the challenge.”
Gushulak said the new format—having the public decide instead of using “secret shoppers”—should prove interesting, noting that having people vote on a website seems to be something the public is increasingly comfortable doing.
“It does offer an opportunity for anyone to take part in it,” he reasoned.
“I am sure it should be rather interesting, and I am sure it will also work for them and provide a different avenue for them to see how customer service is being provided within the district.”
Gushulak added it’s also a good idea that those who vote are required to leave a comment about the businesses as this provides direct feedback to the business about what they’re doing right.
Another business back for another year is Cloverleaf Family Foods of Emo, which has placed in the top 10 for the past three years.
“I think the staff like it, the customers like, and it’s probably a good promotion,” Cloverleaf co-owner Mark Loney replied when asked why the store signed up again.
“I know a couple of the staff get excited, and they sure like it when we get the plaque,” he added.
“We have the plaques in the staff room,” noted Loney, agreeing it’s always helpful to hear comments as to how good Cloverleaf’s customer service is and where it can be improved.
Ruth Brockie, of Brockie’s Jewellers on Scott Street, said customer service is important. After considering whether to participate in the challenge for the first time, she figured, “Why not?”
“I think we do have pretty good customer service, but it’s always good to get feedback,” she reasoned.
Audiologist Jackie McCormick, of the Fort Frances Enhanced Hearing Centre, said she signed up because customer service is very important in her line of work.
“We want everyone to know that we have excellent customer service, and I guess we choose to go in it so we can showcase that, so that people become aware that we are here,” she remarked.
“If we do well, then I think it’s really good advertising for us.
“We expect to do well because we, every day, think that we have excellent customer service here at the Hearing Centre,” McCormick added.
As for the online format, McCormick admitted she’s a little concerned about how it will be handled.
“What’s stopping me and my friends from voting repeatedly for myself?” she wondered.
“I liked the ‘mystery shopper’ because you didn’t know who it was, and I think it was a little more objective.”
With the participants on board, the names of the businesses now will be advertised for the next two weeks.
They are listed on the RRFDC’s website at www.rrfdc.on.ca—the same place where voting will take place.
Knowing who’s participating, the public now can start visiting the businesses, maybe do a little shopping and experience first-hand what their customer service is like, Sandra Whalen of the RRFDC said Monday.
Online voting then will open May 3 and run until May 13, during which time customers can visit the RRFDC’s website to vote.
Whalen said details still are being determined as to exactly how voting will work.
For example, votes might be tracked by IP address (i.e., the computer you’re voting from) or by e-mail account.
Alternately, those who vote may have to put their name in when they do so, so their name would be known to the RRFDC for the purpose of tracking who has voted but not known by anyone else.
However, it has been decided that those who go to www.rrfdc.on.ca will have one chance to vote for their choice of the top three businesses offering the best customer service.
And to make their vote valid, customers must briefly explain why they felt the businesses earned their vote for top-notch customer service.
“It kind of helps the businesses get some feedback on their customer service, what they’re doing right,” reasoned Whalen.
Once the voting closes at 4 p.m. on May 13, the top 10 businesses will be determined from the online results.
The winners then will be announced in late May during the Fort Frances Chamber of Commerce’s annual “After Hours” deck party.