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Posts from the ‘Customer Experience’ Category

Helpling: a helpful online cleaning service… or not?

cleaningThis weekend, I decided to try out Helpling, one of the latest web-based cleaning booking services that has cropped up lately.

This was my first time using Helpling. I’ve been needing to find a replacement for our current beloved cleaners as they haven’t been able to service spaces over a certain square footage anymore. I was hoping Helpling could be our new go-to service.

So in the end… how was it? This was my experience and how I think they can make it better.

1) The website

When I got to their site, I was impressed by how clean and user friendly it was. Unfortunately, as soon as I started filling out my information, I found that the site had some bugs, the first of which forced me to enter information into the “optional” second line of the address fields. “Optional” should not mean mandatory. This must have been an oversight, and therefore should be an easy fix. That said, until it’s fixed, it’s really not the ideal as many people don’t have addresses that can extend into two lines. As for me, I usually have to fill out my address with my suite number in a very specific way to get past strict credit card verifications against my on-file billing address. Splitting up my billing address often means credit card validation is declined. The fact that it went through is convenient on the one hand, but really not so good, as it raises security concerns.

A second observation was that the site form didn’t have any space for customers to fill out additional information. Information like key pick-up, perhaps where the cleaning supplies are, or any special instructions in the event a customer can’t meet the cleaner face to face.

The verdict: It doesn’t matter how beautiful a site is if the basic functionality doesn’t work. Helpling would benefit from going through another round of site QA and fixing these sorts of bugs – both form submissions and the security flaw. Adding a comments or additional information section to the form would eliminate the need for customers to have to call Helpling to give that information over the phone – which ties into #3 below.

2) The big bug – location for in-person services is really important

The next bug was a doozy, and I only discovered it a day later when I happened to review the confirmation email I was sent in more detail… because I’m anal like that. What I found was that the address listed as the cleaning location was incorrect. The system had actually overwritten my cleaning location address with the billing address. Not good. Especially because my timelines were crazy tight that day between coordinating a double move and a hand-over of my place to new tenants. I didn’t have the wiggle room to have a cleaner show up at the wrong address where I wouldn’t be at. It goes without saying that had I not noticed, it would be have been a significant problem. Luckily, I was able to correct the issue with a call through to Helpling. As an aside, I also found that the addresses in my profile and other address on file showed the two postal codes as being reversed for some reason – another bug, but really inconsequential to me at that point.

The verdict: This one really has to get solved or people won’t bother using the service at all. It really eliminates all the benefit to a fast, convenient online booking service. Read more


Happy holidays from Hailo and Molson: Operation #ExitStrategy


For the month of December, Hailo and Molson have teamed up to offer $10 free taxi credit to their users during this season of holiday parties and celebrations. The campaign gives users going to select establishments (map below) a $10 credit that they can access through entering a unique promo code into their app before they hail a cab.

If you’re not familiar with Hailo, the service allows users to hail a cab and also to pay automatically for their cab fare with a few taps of their finger through a phone app. Users can see who the driver is going to be, call them, and follow their driver’s progress to their location on a map. The service launched in Toronto a little over a year ago and was met with huge fanfare and open arms. I was certainly one of those fans. And why not? A more convenient, reliable, faster, and safer way of hailing and traveling in cabs? Fantastic.

But back to the campaign – it’s a brilliant example of a triple win campaign. Molson gets customers going to Molson establishments that serve their beer. They also have the opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to their “celebrate responsibly” messaging in a very direct and active way. Hailo gets users using their app – potentially new users who have never tried their app before. And finally, all users who participate in the campaign get $10 off their cab fare after their night out.


For marketers, campaigns of this nature are not always easy to create as it’s important to find the right alignment of strategy, opportunity, and channel. However, a strong focus on the end user and what adds value to them is a great place to start. This joint campaign is a great example of providing value to customers in a relevant and integrated way that makes great use of the social and mobile channels.

Happy holidays, everyone!

Customer loyalty: When systems don’t match and the difference of a single person

airlineCustomer loyalty. A key component of many corporate marketing strategies and an important area of focus for most. It’s a key ingredient to a company’s long-term sustainability and a puzzle most attack through partnering up with customer loyalty companies to create programs – from large to small, simple to complex – to encourage customers to keep coming back. Yet, despite all of the planning, strategy, and systems that get put in place to enhance customer loyalty, it often all still comes down to the details and individual experiences. As a result, it really pays to invest in the basics:

  1. Make sure the loyalty program aligns with the product or service itself – activating loyalty rewards should be seamless and deliver the experience promised, otherwise, you could potentially do more harm than good
  2. Invest in the people at the front lines dealing directly with customers – at the end of the day, they are your biggest asset or liability when it comes to ensuring customer loyalty. A single person can make all the difference in a positive or negative way.

To highlight both points, I’ll draw upon an experience I had a little while ago with an airline that has engaged another company to run their loyalty program. Read more

Wedding Event Decorator: Top 10 warning signs you should cut and run

SignageThis year has been the year of weddings. My man and I had our own, and were happy to be there for the unions between some of our closest friends.

The unifying perception of wedding planning is that the event is synonymous with “stress”. To that end, there are an abundance of options on planning weddings – whether it’s a full DIY, or an elaborate affair planned by a professional. In our case, we opted for a middle of the road option: someone to help with the “day of coordination”. That meant we would still plan the event, but a planner would help us execute our plan on our day. The vendor we went with, (not to be confused with Flourishes Event Decorating, LLC which we had no experiences with), required us to also go through them for event decor and rentals, which at the time was fine with us. They seemed professional and experienced enough.

As it turned out, the help we thought we would be getting from Event Decorator, ended up being the opposite. Our Event Decorator became the sole source of high stress and frustration leading up to our event. In the end, we made the difficult decision of having to ditch our day-of-coordination plan with only two months to go and essentially redid our planning on the fly – the definition of high wedding stress, but far better than the alternative. At least we would get what we wanted. In the end, we had an incredible day. Everything came together beautifully, thanks to our other vendors and the support of our wonderful friends and family.

I thought long and hard before writing this post – did I want to wade back into an event now past? In the end, I decided to write it with the hope that it could save someone else some of the pain we went through. So here it is. Our top ten list of warning signs that your vendor is not the one for you… and it may be better to cut your losses and walk… or run. The earlier the better usually, as in our case, we lost a sizeable chunk of change that would have been avoided had we paid attention to our gut feelings to begin with.

1. Your Event Decorator / vendor only addresses one of you and ignores the other.

When a vendor only addresses or speaks to one of you and dismisses input from your partner, it may be time to reconsider. From the start, someone who respects both of you as equals will respect you as a client. If you decide to have one person be the main point of contact or the final decision maker – that’s different – but a vendor shouldn’t start by acting on that assumption.

Our experience: From the start, my (now) husband’s opinion was ignored. We tried to give the benefit of the doubt thinking that perhaps it was a wedding industry thing. It was not. It was just our vendor. Apart from all of my husband’s questions and suggestions being overlooked and ignored, our repeated requests to include him in copy on emails going forward were not carried out time after time despite multiple reminders. Later, that same attitude and treatment expanded into how I was also dealt with. Also not good.

2. Your Event Decorator / vendor’s quote far exceeds your intended budget outside the bounds of reason.

A wedding planner is an expert in the wedding industry. What you should be able to expect is for them to have a sense of scale and proportion in terms of how much of a budget should reasonably go towards different aspects of the wedding (like flowers). Most planners, depending on your arrangement, will even work with you to generate your wedding budget with advice around how much you should expect to pay for each service.

Our experience: As we were planning our own day, we did the portioning ourselves based on research and advice received. We were open to shifting funds around to make things work. However, when the quote we received from our Event Decorator took up a third of the entire wedding budget, landing 2-3 times more than our anticipated floral and rentals budget, we were shocked. Particularly as the form we had filled out for Event Decorator included our wedding budget. Not a good sign. Rather, it’s a sign your vendor may not be paying attention to the details or to what you want. As a footnote – it shouldn’t matter what size budget you have. Some vendors will tell you upfront they only work with a certain sized wedding budget – that’s fine. Find someone who will work with yours.

3. Your Event Decorator / vendor handles differences of opinions, questions, and requests poorly.

It will be inevitable that you will have questions about your day, what you’re getting, as well as suggestions of new things you’re considering that you may want to add or remove. The important thing about any of that is the open conversation and discussion you’re able to have with your expert vendors. It’s fun to discuss and brainstorm. What you want is someone who is  open to those conversations, questions, or requests. It makes for a very frustrating and stressful time when the opposite happens – and frankly, the wedding stops being your wedding.

Our experience: The first sign that Event Decorator was closed to questions or inputs was in the discussion of our quotation, and was the first of many closed discussions. I had questions about some items that seemed unnecessary, duplicated, or not adding the right proportion of value to our day compared to the price tag. This conversation (and all others of a similar nature) quickly become difficult, defensive and even aggressive. My fiance and I were blamed. Our budget was “impossible to work with”. Oddly, when we decided that we would regrettably not engage Event Decorator for our planning services and decor under those circumstances, the story was completely different and all of a sudden, there was room to discuss… what we wanted to begin with. Read more

A sea of burlap: The rustic country wedding and wholesaler that would

My man and I recently got married and from the beginning of our planning process, we knew we wanted a laid-back country barn wedding. It meant big open space, family-style food, beers all around, and décor and table dressings that oozed rustic comfort. What else to say rustic than burlap?

Somewhere along the line, I got the brilliant idea of sourcing our burlap and cutting it down for our table runners, favours, and other things… myself. So, a few months before the wedding, I started my search. Who knew there were so many different types and weaves of burlap! After getting a pile of samples in, I chose one and did the calculations of how much we’d need, then visited a few fabric stores in our area. Nadda. No one had what I wanted. So, I tried a few online wholesalers. The burlap tended to come from too far away and the shipping costs were quite steep – for the amount I needed, shipping nearly cost more than the burlap.

Then, I did a search for “burlap wholesale Toronto”. And that’s when I found them: Nusso Textiles. Read more

S’well bottles: a hit or miss on quality?


Back in August 2011, I wrote a post on brain sugar about a new water bottle that I had recently come across and was very excited about: S’well. The design, function, and charitable contribution of the bottle and company were all things that really impressed me. I became a big fan and loudspeaker for S’well – but that didn’t last long.

At the time, I purchased two bottles for myself and my fiancé, and seeing how much I loved my bottle, a few friends of mine as well as my fiancé’s mother also purchased bottles. We live in Canada, and sourced them from a local distributor – particularly as at the time of my first order, S’well wasn’t shipping to Canada yet.

Initially, the bottle was everything I read it to be. It kept my iced water cold, and hot water hot for 24 and 12 hours. But after a few months of use, I noticed my bottle would get very hot to the touch when I put hot water in it, and the water itself become cool in a matter of one to two hours. A long cry from the 12 it once supported. Cold water resulted in condensation on the outside – which is the opposite of what should be happening – and didn’t stay cold. Somewhere along the line, my bottle no longer insulated. (Note that true to the recommended product care, I did not put the bottle through the dishwasher, or leave it immersed in water. Only the gentlest hand-washing, rinse, and air dry for my bottle!) Read more

Fruit label turns into organic soap

Image credit: Amron Exptl.

We’ve all been there. Standing wearily at the sink, washing our beloved apples, painstakingly removing the ever-persistent fruit labels from them. First, we gently pick at and peel back the label. If we’re lucky, the process ends here. If not, we find ourselves running the apples under increasingly warm water, rubbing off the paper. Then eventually, scraping at the fruit with our fingernails in the effort to remove the sticky glue from the fruit skin, before turning, with a sigh of submission, to the knife or vegetable peeler lying on the kitchen counter.

Now, it seems, Scott Amron, an electrical engineer in training now turned designer and “engineering atelier”, has a solution that not only removes the harmful pesticides and other residues from our apples, but also the pesky fruit labels as well. The solution: Fruitwash labels. These fruit label stickers effectively dissolve into an organic fruit soap when placed under water. With this solution, gone are the chemicals and the tiresome fruit labels.

“I’ve always been discontent with fruit labels and felt they could do more than just display product info and be difficult to peel off,” Amron told Gizmag. “We buy, wash and eat fruit. So, the wash step was the next thing the label should help with.”

Unfortunately, the product is not out yet, although Amron is selling a 10% stake in the fruit label patent as an investment opportunity.

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