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Do You Provide Skunkadelic Service to your Customers?

July 22, 2012
Updated December 14, 2016

I don’t know about you, but I detest skunks. I’ve been sprayed in the past while walking my dog, an event I wouldn’t wish upon anyone. Unfortunately, I live in the skunk capital of Canada–Ottawa, Ontario. So getting used to the little critters and especially keeping a very watchful eye for them comes with the territory of urban living.Last summer Sue and I were out in the garden, relaxing with our Lab, Max. Suddenly, Sue bellowed “Skunk!” The three of us dove inside the kitchen. A skunk had wandered into our garden under the gate, soon disappearing under the wooden deck leading off the kitchen.

“Great,” I muttered to myself. Here we go again with a skunk problem. I figured that given it was the time of season where female skunks are weaning their babies that I had a family living under my back deck.

I needed to take action.

I first checked out Google to find service providers for skunk removal, then got on the phone the next morning to start calling. In addition to repeatedly striking out (some companies no longer did pest removal) several never returned my calls. I was getting frustrated when Erica, who takes Max out to her farm to run with other dogs, came by. She suggested the name of a company whose truck she’d see in her area. The company is Nature’s Way.

I called the company at 11:30 am, speaking to the owner, Todd Babin, who was very nice and knowledgeable. Some 40 minutes later one of his wild life techs rolled into my driveway. Keith’s a tall young guy with substantial experience in the business. I walked him around back where he opened the small door under the deck. He looked in, then dove in to check things out. Yikes!

“No skunk here, or sign of a den,” he said upon exiting. “You’re lucky, Jim.”

We then went to the front door where he examined the foundation and the interlock brick work. “Looks like you’ve had a skunk living here in the past,” Keith said. He then proceeded to give me two options on how to address both the front and back. I ended up sealing the back deck myself for a cost of $15. However, the front needed a pro.

So on Monday (since we were on a Friday), Keith showed up at the promised time and skunk-proofed along 20 feet of the front step and foundation, using steel mesh screen. Considering the advice I was given and the work performed by Nature’s Way, I was very impressed with the value for money and the excellent customer service. Keith was a fountain of knowledge on dealing with pests (such as the ubiquitous raccoons in our neighborhood) and things to keep an eye on.

I have high expectations when it comes to customer service, having cut my teeth in consumer lending in my early twenties, then years later managing a service branch. Most companies provide mediocre service, with too many dishing out horrible service. Those companies that shine at not just meeting but exceeding customers’ expectations are in the minority.

Customer service is not rocket science. Serve others as how YOU want to be served. The challenge is in reaching and maintaining a superior level of service. Consistency is the key. But people screw up, making inadvertent mistakes. This needn’t be the end of the world; indeed, a mistake if corrected immediately, openly acknowledged and if necessary some form of compensation can actually deepen a customer’s loyalty towards a company. I’ve experienced this myself on a few occasions, where a product or service didn’t meet my needs but the company went to extraordinary lengths to ensure I got what I expected.

It’s when a company takes its customers for granted, sometimes treating them even with contempt, that a downward death spiral starts for its future. People are forgiving when it comes to mistakes that others own and take responsibility for; they’re not forgiving when disrespect and incompetence are shown.

So if you’re producing a product or service, are your customers having a skunkadelic experience like I had with Nature’s Way? Make sure they are. Word will waft far and wide about how great you are, bringing in new customers and business.

It’s about personal leadership: accepting responsibility and being accountable for the level of service you provide to others.


The magic formula that successful businesses have discovered is to treat customers like guests and employees like people.

– Tom Peters


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4 Comments leave one →
  1. August 15, 2012 10:38 am

    I really enjoyed this post. One of the things which has changed in the past 30-40 years (in the U.S.) is that in the past, people did admit to their mistakes, apologize, and do something about rectifying the situation. Now with all the lawsuits, many employees and firms are counselled to never admit to anything or even to have further conversations with injured party, just in case of a lawsuit! This new attitude seems to have supplanted good manners and common sense that often sufficed in the past.

    In North Africa and the Middle East, every confrontation seems to need a winner and a loser. People never apologize or back down because that makes them the “loser.” As expected, no one ever admits they did anything wrong, and customer service is abysmal!

    • August 15, 2012 12:56 pm

      Yes, the true apology is a thing of the past. The customer service issue is ego-centric to North America, where an industry emerged in the eighties, led by people like Tom Peters, that has produced countless books, articles and videos. You raise an excellent point from your vantage point in North Africa and the Middle East. Culture plays such a strong role in customer service. Thanks.

  2. July 23, 2012 1:01 pm

    Great story Jim. I had a similar experience this morning with Sears. Our Kenmore fridge quit making cold air over the weekend, so first thing this morning I’m calling them for service.

    Short version, their phone menuing, voice (non)recognition system was so bad that I finally gave up in disgust, got on Google, and found an independent repairman who lives one block from me. He’ll be at my house this morning.

    Last I heard, Sears Canada is having real trouble with their revenue. Wonder why that could be? Bottom line – user experience matters more than price. The best companies and their employees understand this and turn it into a competitive advantage.

    • July 23, 2012 3:28 pm

      Ah, yes, Sears, a once proud company where we did much of our shopping. We haven’t purchased from Sears for many years. Management took its eye off the ball long ago. How the company’s lasted this long is a mystery to me.

      I love independents, whether it’s appliance repair, laying a floor, doing plumbing or getting rid of smelly critters.

      Thanks for sharing your story, Geoff.

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