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Tuesday, August 1, 2000

  • First of the month: retirement day
  • Shop brings entrepreneurship award
  • Advice on driving away customers

UW student wins Fulbright

Stephanie Bangarth, a PhD student in history, has become the second Waterloo student ever to receive one of the prestigious Canada-U.S. Fulbright Scholarships. The US$15,000 award will allow her to do doctoral research at an American university for nine months. She's investigating the roots of modern human rights advocacy and the responses of Canadian and American civil rights groups to the internment of people of Japanese ancestry during World War II.

First of the month: retirement day

Today we begin the quietest month of the year on a campus that's never really very quiet. Spring term exams are in progress -- they continue until August 12, with a break for Civic Holiday this coming Monday -- and at the other end of the month comes the deadline for fall term fees, which is August 29. In between, most students will be away, and there's an opportunity for most staff and faculty members to catch up on the backlog, prepare for the demands of the fall term, and maybe get a little vacation time.

But there are staff and faculty members who face no September demands: the ones whose long contributions to UW are being celebrated as they officially retire. Today, the first day of August, is the official retirement for at least two such people, the human resources department reports:

Nearly every month brings staff retirements from UW. Here are some that took place earlier this year and haven't previously been noted in this Bulletin or the Gazette. And here are some faculty members who retired in recent months:

Shop brings entrepreneurship award -- from last week's Gazette

[Song] Starting her own business, the Sweet Dreams Teashop, has not always been a dream job for Jin-Hee Song (right), a fourth-year UW student in economics and international trade.

She opened the shop -- specializing in Taiwanese bubble tea -- in the University Plaza almost a year ago, and these days she's still working "24/7, waitressing, mopping, sweeping, accounting, bartending, running for supplies"; she even does windows.

But her efforts have been recognized by the Saint Louis University Entrepreneurship Center, which awarded Song second prize among the Canadian entries in the College and University Entrepreneur Contest. First prize went to a student at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax.

Peter Woolstencroft, associate dean of arts (special programs) nominated Song for the award, which is open to full-time students who own and operate a business. Contestants were required to submit a paper describing how successful the business was over time, the challenges they had faced and overcome, as well as their involvement in the community.

Song was inspired to try her hand at business after tasting bubble tea in Toronto, a couple of years ago. The chilled, flavoured beverage is created from green or black tea, with sweetened tapioca pearls, "like marble-sized gummy bears".

She applied for a bank loan, with her father as guarantor, and opened the business last August. "It was a scary thing, but I knew I could do it."

Her goal in creating the tea shop was not only to introduce the Waterloo community to a great drink, but to offer a relaxed environment without the typical fast food restaurant's 20-minute time limit -- "a place of escape". To that end, magazines, board games and cards are provided for customers, who are welcome to linger over a bubble tea or an assortment of snacks.

"I've tried to create a fusion of East Asian culture," she explains, pointing to the Japanese green tea ice cream, the Cantonese sticky rice, the Korean noodles and the Chinese dumplings on the menu. Song's background is Korean Canadian, but she has designed an atmosphere welcoming for everyone, and is proud to say her clientele is "very multicultural".

That includes the local talent that she encourages to perform at the tea shop, where live concerts, spoken word nights and DJs are featured.

One of the biggest challenges, she admits, in retrospect, has been her youth and inexperience. But while some tried to exploit those limitations, students who stopped in for tea often stayed to lend a hand. UW architecture students helped with the design of the shop and built some of the fixtures, others have done a remake of the menu or revamped the business card.

Song has tried to give something back to the community by hiring students, by running a Christmas food drive, by providing free calligraphy demonstrations at the Canada Day festivities, and by introducing children to East Asian culture at the Global Awareness Day Camp.

After surviving the first year -- especially the darkest hours when only a pep talk from her dad convinced her to keep going -- Song is feeling more optimistic about the future. "One thing I've learned that I'll never let go of: if I sit around and do nothing, nothing will happen," she laughs.

Store under renovation

Heather Fawcett, manager of the Variety and Post store in the Student Life Centre, sends word that the store "has closed its doors for renovations for the duration of the term. Stamps and bus tickets are available at the Turnkey desk and we are offering an assortment of our most popular products at the Scoops location. The Scoops mini mart has chocolate, candies, chips, gum, batteries, cigarettes, long distance cards and much more. We are open Monday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Aussie's (formally the Variety & Post) will open its doors on September 5."

Advice on driving away customers

Your company's products and everything else can be hot, but you can still blow it, says economist and consumer expert Robert Kerton, if you don't pay sufficient attention to the people who can make you or break you -- your customers.

Kerton, who is also UW's dean of arts, is well known for his research on consumer satisfaction and the financial services sector. He's quoted at length in a recent release from the UW news bureau.

You "screw up" by ignoring bad news from clients, Kerton says. On the other hand, it can be "very profitable for firms to restore the faith of a dissatisfied customer."

He offers this prescription, dubbed "The Seven Deadly Sins", as the sure path to ruin for any business or not-for-profit organization:

Despite the turmoil with customer satisfaction and staff morale that following this prescription causes, Seven Sinners might manage to keep going, in some limited capacity, for some time, Kerton admits. A 1990 study of Canadian companies by UW graduate student Cheryl Smith concludes that in dealing with companies that sin in most or all of the above ways, one in five disappointed customers say they will buy again, despite their ire. The other 80 per cent take their business elsewhere.

But, if the company does anything at all to respond to a customer complaint; "makes any effort to listen and look after that customer, even if there isn't a satisfactory outcome from the customer's point of view," says Kerton, this statistic is reversed -- only one in five will walk.

"Most customer problems aren't deliberate, they're just simple oversights" on the part of company staffers, he concludes. "But you may have to ask your customers for feedback, or you might never learn why they are unhappy. Several studies have shown that it costs far less to please customers than it costs to replace them."


Editor of the Daily Bulletin: Chris Redmond
Information and Public Affairs, University of Waterloo
credmond@uwaterloo.ca | (519) 888-4567 ext. 3004
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