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Maurice TougasThe relationship between customer and company is a delicate thing. One day, you’re an unshakable fan of a company; the next day, you’re warning complete strangers to stay away.

Here are three examples of customer service and how it can go so right – or so wrong.

Many years ago, my Telus internet went out. When I contacted the company, the rep (who had a heavy Indian accent and called himself ‘Jerry’) told me that he really had no idea when it would come back. It took several days for the internet to return. When it was restored, I got some compensation from Telus, then switched over to Shaw, vowing never to let Telus near my house again.

For many years, my relationship with Shaw was stellar. Their customer service was first-rate (their call centres were in Canada!), and they actually competed for my business. With only the tiniest threat of moving to Telus, their customer retention people would make all sorts of offers. Shaw was my easily threatened friend.

A couple of years ago, I signed a two-year deal with Shaw that kept my bill unchanged. When my two-year deal was nearing its end last summer, a Telus rep came to my door. My distrust of Telus began to weaken. I figured if they were willing to send a guy door-to-door looking for my business, maybe they’ve changed.

FROM THE ARCHIVES: Customer service: making it right by David Fuller

The sales guy threw a bunch of numbers and products at me, including installation of fibre optic cable. I gave him a tentative yes, which came to about $35 a month less than what I was paying with Shaw.

My loyalty to Shaw demanded I give them one chance to top or even approach the Telus offer. I contacted a rep and detailed my Telus offer. The response was to offer a deal that was not only higher than the Telus offer, it was higher than my existing Shaw deal! They were so indifferent, I wondered if they were getting out of the TV business.

When I officially pulled the plug on Shaw, they finally called me to see if they could lure me back in. Their offer?

Higher – much higher – than what I was paying with Telus. So long, Shaw. It’s been fun.

Today, I’m a satisfied Telus customer. Now, I realize that I could just be one lucky guy. There will no doubt be those reading this who will curse Telus and complain about their shabby customer service or technology, and others who will extoll the virtues of Shaw. Such is the world of customer service.

My final story involves the banking industry.

I do my banking with Simplii Financial, despite their too-cute spelling. I love Simplii because everything I do with them is free and I love free.

Last week, for reasons too complicated to get into, my account was blocked. But Simplii didn’t tell me for a few days. When I did get a call from them, the message they left was somewhat garbled and the caller left no phone number to call.

Long story short, after about an hour on the phone and talking to three people (all of them very professional), the situation was cleared up. Afterwards, Simplii sent me one of those ‘How did we do?’ emails and I told them I was not thrilled.

A couple of days later, I got another call from Simplii. This time, it was a manager who wanted to go over what went wrong with my experience with Simplii, and to look at ways to improve the situation so this wouldn’t happen again. I had some suggestions, which he seemed to think were pretty good. We had an excellent chat.

Remember, I’m not a multi-million-dollar client; I’m barely a multi-thousand-dollar client. Not only that, they get nothing from me, as all my services are free. Yet they wanted my opinion.

So I went from mildly upset with Simplii to being back to being a fan. If Shaw had done the same thing, I’d probably still be a customer.

Maurice Tougas is a retired Alberta editor and journalist, formerly with the Red Deer Advocate, the Edmonton Examiner, Edmonton and Calgary Prime Times and many others. He was twice named best columnist in Canada by the Canadian Community Newspaper Association and was a finalist for the Golden Quill award from the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors. He served one term as a Liberal MLA in the Alberta Legislature. For interview requests, click here.

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