Let me start this by saying I LOVE Starbucks. I’m an extremely loyal customer, I participate in their rewards program, and I spend way too much money on their excellent product. On the flip side, I couldn’t possibly explain how much I dislike the vile spew Tim Hortons claims is coffee. It’s simply the worst. I’d sooner drink gas station coffee than Tim Hortons. I have very little loyalty to Tim Hortons in terms of their product. I do, however, rather enjoy their soups and breakfast sandwiches.

That leads me to two things that have come up in the last few weeks, showing a stark contrast in the two companies’ levels of customer service. Howard Schultz would probably not be impressed.

Starbucks is blowing it
I go to the new location on Lucerne and Cote-de-Liesse often. It used to be in the TMR Shopping Centre, but a few months ago, it took over an old Dunkin Donuts and moved to the corner where they made a bigger store with a drive through. Ever since that move, the service has declined dramatically. It used to be a standard 3-4 minute wait for a coffee during the morning rush, but of course, you had to get out of your car and go inside and wait in line.

The idea of a drive through is to create convenience… the first few times, I figured they were just working out the kinks and training their staff, so I was patient. After a while, however, that patience began to wane when it was 10-12 and sometimes 15 minutes for 4 cars to get their orders. I started paying attention to the clock and how many cars were there, and it was just totally unreasonable. They also got my order wrong every single time, and what’s extra crazy about that is that I usually get a black coffee and a scone. Not that complicated.

So, what I did from there is what any 30-something consumer would do it 2012… I tweeted about it and wrote to Starbucks’ Facebook account, and I was polite in both messages. Many frustrating experiences and resulting tweets/FB posts later, and they just ignored me. Finally, I wrote in to their customer service department and they blew me off completely.

I don’t care if you’re a big company – in 2012, a response is required
You may think I’m unreasonable to think a company the size of Starbucks should respond to all of the tweets and posts it gets. But then how do companies like Reebok, which are just as big do it? I happened to be married to the woman who runs social media for Reebok Hockey and she busts her ass to reply to EVERYONE. And I mean everyone. It’s because she gives a damn about their clients.

Which leads me to Tim Hortons…

Tim Hortons cares
Two weeks ago, I came down with a vicious attack of food poisoning that ended up with a visit to the hospital. It was shortly after eating a soup from Tim Hortons, so I made the link that the soup was the cause. After recovering, I wanted to get in touch with them, so my wife and I both tweeted a couple of times about what happened. Rather than ignore me like Starbucks, Tim Hortons gave me a direct number to call.

I called in and they assured me they’d do a full investigation and someone would be in touch.

Of course, I assumed this was some blow-off bull, so I didn’t really think about it much more, until about a week later when I got a call from the Tim’s district manager for my area. Not only did he give tell me about the investigation, etc., I could hear in his voice that this guy really cared. Then he did something utterly shocking: He took responsibility.

To be clear, Tim Hortons is not saying “yes, we gave you food poisoning” because, well, in truth there’s no way to prove it. They said they haven’t had any other complaints and they checked the batch that was sent to many stores and everyone is fine, but there’s no way to be sure one way or another. He told me they did, however, take the time to review all hygiene practices with all of the store staff. That’s a good move.

He also told me the franchisee insisted on giving me a $25 gift card that they’d mail to me. I told him I wasn’t complaining to get free stuff, but he insisted and said he’d send it anyway. He said “we want you to continue to have confidence in our product and show you that we care about you.” And he was genuine.

I may dislike Tim Hortons coffee, and I may not be able to eat the soup for a while, but I have to say that with the treatment I received following this incident that Timmies is winning me over. I’ll never like their coffee, but service like that will make me spend plenty of money on their other products.

As for Starbucks? I’ll keep drinking their coffee because I absolutely love it, but if it’s a choice of anything else and there’s a Tim’s around, you can be sure Starbucks won’t be seeing any of my non-coffee business. I’m not interested in a company that clearly isn’t interested in me.