Is the way your company operates thinking of the customer first? Or at all? I have recent examples of two companies that did a good job and two that did not.

The surprising instances of customer appreciation:

Bank of Montreal: My husband and I have banked with BMO for a very long time. Every once in a while, we get a “courtesy call” that seems to be more about trying to sell us some new product than find out how they’re doing. This week, a first: We received a letter with a gift of a $5 Shell gift certificate “to show their appreciation.” Wow! I did feel appreciated!

Canyon Creek Chophouse: I organized a group of people to have lunch at this restaurant in December. This week, I received a hand-written note expressing appreciation for doing so, with two $10 gift certificates. (Smart; they are usable one at a time, so I have to go back twice.) Again, wow! I did feel appreciated!

In my customer disservice files this month:

Direct Energy: When my furnace conked out during a bitter cold spell, it was comforting to read (on the sticker on our furnace) that the Direct Energy “24/7 support centre is always available to take your call.” The web site, as I found out later, was more specific: the representatives “will dispatch a service technician for emergencies.” Yeah, they’re there to TAKE the call and SCHEDULE a technician, but not to send a repair person after hours. So they scheduled the call, promising that it was the “first” one next day, “between 8 a.m. and noon.” The fellow arrived about 11:45 a.m.; no, it wasn’t the first call. Consumer advocate Ellen Roseman has skewered Direct Energy before, noting that even those under its protection plan (I’m not) and guaranteed service within 24 hours might not get help until the full 24 hours have passed. So while I was grateful the guy showed up and fixed the furnace, the only warm feeling I got was from the working furnace.

Ticketmaster: Don’t you hate all those charges piled on top of charges when you want to buy a theatre ticket? The tickets to Jersey Boys I bought recently had an extra $7 per ticket “convenience” charge, plus a $2 per ticket “order processing” charge, plus a $1.75 per ticket charge to use my own ink to print out my tickets. TicketKing also now offers a site where it seems you (or perhaps scalpers) can sell tickets you aren’t able to use. I checked for another show I wanted to see. Tickets listed in a particular section at $36 were sold out on the main site, but look, there they are on TicketKing…for more than $100 each.

Has any company surprised you lately, in a good or bad way?