Welcome to SQM Picks!

We are very excited to announce the launch of SQM Picks… a feature about the businesses that SQM has grown to know and love. Our President, David Lipton, has years of experience in a variety of industries, and is very passionate about customer service. He is always coming across great businesses, and he believes that they should get the credit that they deserve. SQM Picks will be posted every Wednesday, so be sure to keep an eye out for our latest picks and some of the President’s top recommendations.

Do you know of a business that deserves a standing ovation and a mention in SQM Picks?  We’re always on the lookout for great businesses, and would love to hear about any that you feel should be featured in one of our articles. You can follow us and tweet us at @SQMInc, follow us and send us a message on Facebook at Sensors Quality Management – Mystery Shopping, or email us at sqm@sqm.ca

We hope that you enjoy what SQM Picks has to offer. What are you waiting for? Take your pick!

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Picturing the Perfect Customer Service

I discovered Picture Picture about three years ago, when I needed to have several pictures framed. I went in on a weekend and I met a very pleasant, friendly gentleman by the name of Benny. The operation is actually quite a big facility, including hundreds of different frames to choose from. They also have different types of glass and material to use, and on top of that, they can do dry-mounting. Additionally, they also sell ready-to-choose framed items, including anything from landscapes to sports posters, to cityscapes, (including lots of photos and paintings of Toronto), to objects like food or flowers.

While I’ve been in numerous times to have different items framed, a couple of weeks ago I gave Benny and Co. a bit of a challenge. I had a poster that I had purchased from the Grand Ole Opry, and I had a vision on how I wanted it framed, so I brought him a couple of pieces of barn board (thick wood from the side of a barn) and wanted to somehow affix the poster to the wood.

First, Benny had to figure out a way of attaching the two pieces of wood together…neither of which was smooth. After he solved this challenge, he needed to figure out how to attach the poster to the wood. Lo and behold, he came up with a solution that was inexpensive and relatively simple. When my wife and I saw the end result, it was exactly as we pictured and better than we could have hoped for!

Benny and his colleagues, did such a great project with this one, we decided to throw another curveball at him with some other unique and challenging framing projects. Again and again, Benny came through with flying colours.

Whether it’s as simple as a diploma, a treasured family photograph, or a piece of expensive art…where the frame has to be just perfect, Benny and his colleagues have your back. I highly suggest him for all of your framing needs.

Picture Picture
(416) 787-9827
http://www.picturepictureco.com/

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Great Customer Service from Great-West Life

I realize that many people don’t always look at insurance companies in a positive way; however, on several occasions I’ve written about my experiences dealing with these organizations – all of them being quite positive. As a result, I wanted to continue the trend and speak about yet another one that I’m very pleased with.

SQM’s benefits program is presently handled by Great-West Life Assurance Company. While I am also the employer, thankfully my contact with them is generally limited to when I’m submitting a claim for prescriptions, massages, physiotherapy, etc. On the odd occasion I’ve had to reach out and speak to someone to get more information, or for help completing the claims process, and I find that their call centre staff are very friendly, professional, and knowledgeable. When the call is completed, I have always hung up with complete confidence in the information provided, or that my issue will be quickly addressed.

In addition to their call centre, the company has a great online claims submission system. Unlike the old way when you hadto mail something in and photocopy the receipts, all you have to do is fill out the forms online. If there’s no snags, the money is placed in your bank account within a few days. On some occasions, when a receipt is requested, all you have to do is take a photo and email it off to them. When it comes to claims, they really have made the process as simple and seamless as possible.

Putting on my employer hat for a minute, when choosing an insurance company, it often comes down to price and product. However, it’s great when you can do business with a company that also provides outstanding customer service.

While I often recommend dealing with the companies we highlight in this blog, I recognize that when it comes to insurance companies, there’s a number of individual requirements and specifics to be met. However, I highly recommend considering Great-West Life.

https://www.greatwestlife.com

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Helping the Homeless

A number of years ago, I was introduced to an organization in Toronto called Ve’ahavta, a Jewish humanitarian response to poverty. While it is a Jewish charity, they are well-known for helping and supporting everyone in the community. They have a number of different services and programs, but they are best known for an initiative called the Mobile Jewish Response to Homeless (MJRH). The program involves a social worker driving around the city, in a van, seven days a week, 365 days a year, and providing food, beverages, clothes, sleeping bags, and health and beauty supplies to those in need. In addition to the social worker, they rely on members of the community to volunteer to go on the van (four volunteers every night) to assist. The van is so well known and well used, that it actually takes five people to keep up with the demand.

When I first learned of the initiative, about three years ago, I wrote a blog sharing the story of how the SQM employees and field force volunteered to help out and how we took an entire week’s worth of shifts on the van. Before I went on the van, I had been told that it was certainly an eye-opening experience, and that after a night on the van you look at the city differently…and they were absolutely right.

In more recent times, we decided that as my daughter is about to turn 13, we wanted to instill in her the importance of giving and helping others.

The evening started out with my wife, my daughter, one of her friends, and myself making sandwiches (and bags of dog food and treats as often the four legged friends are forgotten!). The van actually serves hot meals 5 nights a week, but our night was a sandwich night. We then spend time loading up clothes, blankets, sleeping bags and hygiene and toiletry products into the van before we set out on our route. Many of the clients, as they are respectfully called by the organization, know what time to expect the van in their area, and when we arrived at our first stop, there were already three people waiting for us.

During the evening, one thing that became clear was how many of the clients take care of one another. If someone couldn’t make it to the van for a sandwich, they’d ask for a second sandwich or a bottle of water to take to them. If we stuck around for awhile, they’d go and get their friends, so that no one missed the opportunity. In all cases the people were very polite and appreciative, and many enjoyed the conversation and interaction. My daughter, normally somewhat shy and reserved around new people, really stepped up and chatted with complete strangers. She came away realizing that these individuals are not stupid or lazy – but have many different reasons for needing extra help. Her compassion made me very proud of her and I was truly surprised by her enthusiasm for her tasks. She was kind and thoughtful and you could see the response to her in the people that she interacted with. It is worth noting, that the organization also focuses on education and that the (almost) teenagers were given a tablet full of information to read while we were driving and were routinely quizzed by the social worker and engaged in pretty deep conversations.

After three or four hours outside during a relatively mild winter night (including time going in and out of the van), I was already very cold. It is a real lesson in the power of the spirit as to how these folks manage living outside, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in areas where what little they have, is often taken or stolen. Sleeping under highways and on ramps and off ramps with constant noise, all the while battling the elements, be it rain, snow or heat, is certainly a challenge not to be taken lightly.

If you don’t think homelessness and hunger affects everybody, then reconsider: one of the men we met is actually a part-time teacher at a community college, while another woman was a retired chartered accountant that still teaches others. Later on in the evening, I met a person who used to be a carpenter, and it was clear from some of the other conversations I had, that many of these people were well-educated and/or had good jobs in the past. Throughout the evening, I met people who were incredibly innovative, including one group that actually built a shed and managed to get a hold of a generator, to power a heater. Apparently they also have a big screen TV, a Blu-ray player, and a sofa, and when it’s bitterly cold out, they all hunker down together, like a family.

Whether it’s the teamwork, caring for one another like a family, or keeping a positive attitude despite the conditions they’re facing, some of these people have incredible attitudes and are truly fascinating to speak to. While myself and many of my colleagues are frequently inspired by business people, professional athletes and perhaps the occasional celebrity, I now have to add many of the people who I met that night to my ever-growing list.

I realize that there are many reasons for homelessness in Toronto, and while I personally feel more has to be done to combat the problem, it seems that there’s a lot of agencies and politicians that are truly trying to address the issue but in the meantime, many of these people could still use our help.

To that end, I’m once again going to urge everybody who reads this post to consider supporting Ve’ahavta. The organization is always in need of new underwear and socks (two items often forgotten about), sleeping bags, and warm clothes and jackets. Here at SQM, we’re going to restart our sock and underwear drive, so if you’d like to donate either of these items, please feel free to send them to our office. If you’d prefer to send a gift card (Walmart or Costco to get the best bang for your buck), we will be happy to purchase the items on your behalf, and deliver them to Ve’ahavta. Please send all items to:

SQM
156 Duncan Mill Road, Unit 19
Toronto, ON M3B 3N2

As Ve’ahavta says: Together we can create pathways out of poverty through education…and a little help!

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The Fabric of Customer Service

I first heard about Paul’s Tailors through a neighbourhood Facebook group, when someone was asking where to take an expensive dress to be altered. Even though there are a lot of businesses in the area, the majority of people in the group recommended Paul’s Tailors.

The business is a small, well-known store located on Bathurst Street, just south of Hwy 401. The store does tailoring, alterations, and cleaning. They work extremely efficiently and I was told they are less expensive, despite the high-quality workmanship.
They’ve been in business for almost 40 years. Even though it’s called Paul’s Tailors, it’s owned by Harry and Jack. Harry’s wife, Renee, also helps run things.

My first experience was several months ago when I got a new suit and needed to have it altered. Knowing that it is the go to place in the area, I headed over to see what they could do for me. Once I arrived, I learned that there are a lot of well known people that take their clothes to Paul’s for tailoring. From celebrities to athletes, including players on the Toronto Maple Leafs, all have their photos and autographs hanging on the wall.

Yet, Harry and Jack treat you with the same level of respect…whether you’re a celebrity or an average Torontonian.

My most recent trip to Paul’s Tailors is a great example of service and of a business thinking about the long-term. I was originally heading to another place that I often go to when I need something small stitched up, but as I was driving by, I thought, “it’s closer, why don’t I just pop in?” When I got to the door, I realized that they were about to close, but Harry immediately told me to come on in. I explained that my daughter had a purse and one of the straps had fallen off and that she needed it in time for an upcoming party. I explained jokingly that my daughter was upset about her purse and because my daughter was upset, my wife was upset, and everyone was taking it out on me. Harry laughed, said to me, “let’s take a look!”, and sat down at one of the sewing machines. In less than five minutes, he was back with the purse and it was looking like brand new.

He jokingly said, “Hopefully this will keep your wife and daughter happy,” and wished me a good day. I asked him how much for the purse, but he only told me not to worry about it and that he’d see me again some time.

Now, this is excellent service! Firstly, he repaired the purse right then and there, whereas he could have asked me to come back tomorrow. I would have been more than happy to pay him $10.00 or so to fix it, but he understands the value of a long-term business relationship. He knows that he kept me very happy and I’m certainly going to come back. On top of that, chances are, like I’m doing now, I’m going to tell my friends, family, and all sorts of people about how great he is to work with.

Paul’s Tailors has been successful for many years because they have the perfect recipe for doing business……high-quality workmanship, great customer service, and the understanding of the value of a long-term customer.

Whether it’s a quick fix-it or something that requires fancy alterations, I highly recommend Paul’s Tailors. He has my business all sewn up.

Paul’s Tailors
416-781-5366
http://www.paulstailors.com/

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The Birth of Customer Service

Once upon a time, some 2,000 years ago, a farmer by the name of Mac started selling eggs alongside the road. Once every so often, a neighbour of his would come by and buy a dozen or two. Soon enough, word spread quickly and he had a steady stream of customers to tend to each morning. Farmer Mac found himself content with the sizeable profit he had flowing in each day. Unfortunately for him, Farmer Bob took notice of his easy-going lifestyle and started to sell his eggs on the side of the road as well. To top it off, Farmer Bob offered a free bouquet of flowers with every purchase of a dozen eggs. Naturally, the ladies loved this and flocked to buy eggs from Farmer Bob’s.

Farmer Mac was quite miffed at this turn of events and thought long and hard about how to one-up his crafty neighbour. In the end, he decided to sell fresh meat along with his eggs. His customers loved the convenience and so he won their hearts over, once again.

Farmer Bob thought, “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em,” and asked Farmer Mac if he wanted to set up one big shop at the end of the road. Farmer Mac agreed and they teamed up to sell different products together, including eggs, meats, milk, and flowers.

Soon after, more and more farmers asked to join them, selling their own unique wares. The customers loved the convenience of one stop shopping and Farmer Mac and Farmer Bob’s invention is now considered the birthplace of the modern day shopping mall.

To enhance the customer experience, a courier by the name of Jeff started offering a home delivery service, where those who were sick and elderly could buy products from the marketplace from the comfort of their own home. As more and more people preferred to order from home, Jeff’s service became more and more popular. Today, his company is known as the retail-crusher, tech giant, Amazon.

Okay, admittedly we’re just having some fun in advance of April Fool’s Day, but when you think of it, chances are that customer service did indeed start with a small farmer at the side of a road. Today, it is the key to drawing in consumers and making a profit.

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Shoes Speak Louder Than Words

A few weeks ago, one of my close friends bought a pair of relatively expensive shoes. Immediately after putting them on for the first time, he realized that there was a very strong smell that didn’t seem to go away.

Even though my friend has purchased many shoes, and is familiar with this particular brand, he’s never had an issue like this before, and he absolutely could not figure out where the smell was coming from or how to get rid of it. He tried airing them out, leaving them outside, shining them, and spraying Febreeze on them, but he just could not get rid of the smell.

After exhausting all the ideas that were suggested to him, he ended up calling the company and explaining his problem. They had never heard of a problem like this, but wanted to please him and so they sent him a gift card to replace the shoes.

I decided I was up to the challenge of finding a way to fix these smelly shoes, so I took them to a certain place I’ve heard about. Nick’s Custom Boots and Shoe Repair on Dupont Avenue near Davenport. This business has been around for many years and I’ve been hearing it’s the go to place in Toronto for people who have a pair of shoes and needed something done. Nick is the go to guy and knows everything about shoes. In addition to repairing shoes, Nick is also known for making custom shoes. Whether you have a weird shaped foot, or want something very fancy, Nick can do it!

When I first called the store, and then went down with the shoes, it was immediately clear that all of the staff were friendly, polite, and knowledgeable. That said, in this case, they were stumped by the odour so they brought out Nick to look at it.

Nick immediately knew what it was. The culprit was the type of rubber on the sole of the shoe and there ended up being no way we could get rid of it because it was the smell of the chemical itself. Whereas some people would have given me a song and dance, he instead simply gave me a few suggestions on how I might be able to lessen the smell, but truly didn’t believe it was possible to get rid of it entirely.

On top of that, when he found out I was going to a wedding that night, he quickly shined a pair of shoes for me and only charged $5.00!

Nick and his staff are very talented and truly a pleasure to deal with. Whether you need shoe products, a shoe repair, your shoes shined, or some nice new shoes, I highly recommend Nick’s Custom Boots and Shoe Repair.

Nick’s Shoe Repair

info@nickscustomboots.com

416-924-5930

https://nickscustomboots.com

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The Olympics are over…but the newfound appreciation for Korean Cuisine goes on!

A few weeks ago I was getting together with a former SQM employee and for a bit of fun I gave her the challenge of picking the restaurant. She asked me if I preferred better food or a fancier place and I responded that I’d like better food. I don’t care how fancy it is as long as the place has good food and a good atmosphere. Since her background is Korean, she picked a popular Korean restaurant near Yonge and Finch in Toronto.

Huh Ga Ne is a traditional BBQ restaurant that is open 24/7. They have your regular tables and the more traditional ones where you sit on the floor. I’ve been there three times now and it has always been insanely busy! The restaurant offers authentic, ethnic, and delicious cuisine!

The staff are very friendly, helpful, and are happy to make recommendations. I’ve tried both hot pots and barbecue…both options are excellent and filling. They have a nice selection of beers and drinks to choose from. Other than one small television that is usually tuned to CP24 and the news, all of the other, large screens are constantly playing kpop, which I personally find adds to the fun atmosphere. It truly is a relaxing, casual place, with a great Korean atmosphere.

Given the amount of business, the products are certainly fresh, and even though I’m cooking some of it myself, it has always turned out to be tasty and flavourful. Even better, it’s reasonably priced….two to three people could eat for $40.00 -$50.00 depending on what you order. If you want something not too far from midtown Toronto, and a fun, authentic experience, I suggest this cozy Korean spot.

416-901-1288
http://www.huhgane.com/

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