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Dear Customer, we really don’t value you.

I am a customer service nazi. I admit it. I admire those who deliver great service and I take great offense with those who don’t.

I like nothing more than acknowledging great customer service, and I have been known to make job offers on the spot to those who have given me great service because they are the type of person I want working for my company.

I almost always take the time to tell companies when their service falls short. I choose to believe they simply aren’t aware that their people need more training. I know its difficult to monitor everyone who delivers service, and in their shoes, I’d want to know if service isn’t what it should be.

Training for great customer service is difficult because great customer service requires three key attributes: empathy, creativity and good judgment, and admittedly these are difficult to teach. However “good” customer service can be taught, and when I see the basics lacking, I wonder, not about the people delivering the service, but about the culture of the company and it’s senior management who have clearly lost touch with the most important people of all – THEIR CUSTOMERS!

So this story of my experience with a park warden on my canoe vacation is a reminder to all managers to 1) check in with your customers and ask them how they feel about your product or services, 2) read as many emails, letters, blog posts and tweets about your company as you possibly can, 3) dip in to your customer service organization and sample what they are offering – use a mystery shop service, listen to the voice recordings of their calls, or check out their emails in your CRM system.

How will you know if you don’t take time to listen?

Here is a story that illustrates what I am saying.

boatsThe other week, my son and I and 7 friends went white water canoeing for 6 days in the fabulous Algonquin Park. Good campsites are few and far between in the back country and about 3 days in we found our reserved campsite taken by 4 park workers who had not radioed to see if it was taken and who 1) did not feel it was necessary to acknowledge that we were the customer, 2) did not offer to vacate the site in favor of their customer, 3) did not come up with any other suggestion other than for us to continue on down river. We finally suggested that we share the site with them and they reluctantly agreed.jake

The next morning they came over and issued us a $90 ticket for having 4 tents. Apparently the maximum is 3. No warning, just a ticket for $90. We showed them our reservation receipt made out by Park Staff that accepted and listed our 4 tents which suggests that it was not against the “rules”. Did any of this matter? Nope.

So, we all wrote to his supervisor, polite emails explaining the situation and suggesting that the judgment used in this case was perhaps not the best. We also pointed out that this rule was not posted anywhere. We did not mention that the justice of the peace agreed with us and that the ticket was thrown out when we went to court to fight it.

Here was his answer.

Dear Ms. Yeomans and Ms. Partner

Thank you for your e-mails concerning your recent trip down the Petawawa River and the issue of 4 tents on the campsite at Bypass Falls, it has been forwarded to me to investigate further.

When reserving interior campsites, in most cases it is not possible to reserve a specific campsite. When a reservation is made, a campsite in a particular zone (area) of the park is reserved. Sites in that zone are then occupied on a first come/first served basis. Not all of the sites in a particular zone are reserved/sold, to allow campsites to be available for emergencies or unforeseen circumstances. In the case of Bypass Falls, the sites at either end of the 200m portage are considered to be in that zone of the Petawawa River.

When the Ontario Parks staff arrived at the falls, both campsites were empty and they chose to set up at the site at the bottom of the falls. You indicate that when you arrived, the upper site had been occupied by a camp group. The group could not have had a permit for Bypass Falls.

After considering the time of day and the time required to break camp and safely find another campsite downstream, the Ontario Parks staff decided to vacate the site and set up for the night in the area behind the site.

The park warden indicated that at this time he over heard a discussion concerning the setting up of 4 tents at which time he issued a warning that only 3 tents were permitted on a campsite and that only three tents should be set up. It has been a long standing park regulation that only 3 pieces of shelter equipment are permitted on a campsite.
The next morning he observed that 4 tents had been set up and issued a Provincial Offence Notice for the offence.

A summary of park rules and regulations is printed on page 30 of the Algonquin Park tabloid, which is available at all park access points. In that summary it indicates that the limit of 3 pieces of shelter equipment applies to backcountry and campground campsites.

Should you have any more questions, please feel free to contact me.


Brent Frederick
Achray Group Leader
Algonquin Provincial Park

It’s not the fact that the warden lied about giving us a warning that got me upset.

It’s not the stupidity of suggesting we should all read at least to page 30 of a tabloid at the park entrance after we’ve registered, packed our gear and driven several hours to get there

It’s the utter lack of awareness of us as the customer, much less a valued customer. Note to file: ALWAYS acknowledge the value of your customer, without them you don’t have a busines.

It’s the “not my fault” attitude suggesting that the people on the other campsite were to blame. Note to file: Blaming other people NEVER makes the customer feel better.

It’s the lack of judgment in taking an uncomfortable situation for everyone (we certainly didn’t like asking them to share the site) and then making it worse by issuing a ticket instead of a thank you for sharing and have a great trip. Note to file: Your job is to make the customer feel better, using your best judgment. Choosing to punish the customer is almost always the wrong decision.

You owe it to yourself to check in on your customer service team – chances are they could use your help.

Written by Lynda Partner

August 13th, 2009 at 12:00 pm

With 2 comments