Employee Spotlight: Kyle Blair – Customer Service Representative

Kyle Blair

He is originally from small town west Texas but eventually made his way to beautiful Austin and we are sure glad he did. Blair has already proven to be a valuable team member providing the level of customer service you’ve come to expect from ACK.

Blair, always prepared!

Blair received his BS Degree in Environmental Science from Abilene Christian University and after graduating moved to Western Wyoming for a couple of years. He has worked in the outdoor educational industry and also did some wildlife research for a consulting firm. While living in Wyoming, fly-fishing became his hobby, spending the majority of his free time floating rivers and fishing streams. He has also guided for two different organizations, which took him all over the United States backpacking, paddling and sailing — he’s quite the outdoorsman!

We’d also like to use this opportunity to congratulate Blair as he recently got married and is currently off enjoying his honeymoon. Welcome aboard Kyle…err, Blair!

Kustomer Service

Sign Just Outside the ACK Kustomer Service Office

Our Kustomer Service team has recently grown again and with that came an idea. Our customers always say that at ACK our Kustomer Service is different and stands above the rest. That’s when I realized that we should be calling it Kustomer Service.  Why Kustomer service with a “K”?

Well aside from being different, it isn’t rare for people to replace a “C” with a “K” in a name. For instance, Tastykakes (Philly fans understand) does it, in college we had CampusKuts (hair cut place) and of course there is Krispy Kreme. Then there’s the obvious — we sell Kayaks, but there is another reason we could, and possibly should, spell our Kustomer Service with a “K”. In honor of our employees. Anyone that has been around longer than a year knows that Kate was the original face of our customer service team. Then, last year, we added Kyle (he’s also our unofficial product model) and just recently, we added Kyle. Yes, another Kyle — we’ll be highlighting him in a future issue of our newsletter.

So for all the reasons mentioned above, Kustomer Service it is!

Give a quick shout out to the ACK Kustomer Service team by commenting below — they certainly enjoy a little love.


Employee Spotlight: Jeff Comstock – Director of Operations

New year, new employee — ACK would like to offer a warm welcome to Jeff Comstock as our Director of Operations. We asked Jeff to help us introduce himself and here is what he had to say:

Jeff Comstock

Hello! I joined Austin Canoe & Kayak in December 2010 and I am fired up about working with a dynamic group of people motivated to get you the gear you want and need. My new role is Director of Operations for www.AustinKayak.com, which really means that I work along side our fantastic customer service and warehouse teams to exceed our promises to you.

I originally hail from the great Inland Northwest where I attended Eastern Washington University in Cheney, Washington. After college I was hired by the Better Business Bureau and up until recently served the business community in various capacities but primarily as the Vice President of Operations. Working for the BBB gave me a front row seat to good and best business practices, which I often write about at www.postpractices.com. Additionally, I was fortunate to cut my teeth on process building, inventory management and service excellence while advancing the remarkable BBB mission of advancing marketplace trust. I bring these experiences to work and look forward to being a part of the explosive growth that ACK continues to achieve.

When I have downtime I enjoy spending it with my darling fiance, Michelle and our four dogs. Additionally, I am an avid skier so I tend to have a hard time with Austin winters while the snow falls elsewhere. I have to admit though, the sunny southern winters do have a luster of their own which makes for great paddling weather. I can’t wait to get an opportunity to paddle each boat ACK carries!


Employee Spotlight

Employee: Kyle Bartholomew
Position: Customer Service Representative

This holiday season, when you call ACK customer service, chances are you’ll be speaking to either Kyle or Kate so we thought it would be a great idea to feature one of them so that the next time you call, you’ll be able to put a face to the name. Rather than interview Kyle, we thought it would be great to hear it straight from the source and asked that he tell us a little bit about himself:

Kyle Bartholomew

I recently relocated to Austin via Chicago to pursue happiness, more outdoor activities and new experiences not readily available in the “Windy City”. Austin has absolutely proven to be a swell place to live and I’m sure it will only get better since I won’t have to deal with another soul-chilling Chicago winter.

Speaking of swell places to be, I knew from the moment I walked in for my interview with ACK that it would be an awesome place to work – seeing how casual the office was and how friendly everyone seemed. Next thing I know, I get a call and am offered the open CSR (Customer Service Representative) position. Wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am, I found a job! Prior to working here, I had minimal paddling experience so I knew I had a long road ahead of me. However, it’s been a lot of fun learning the ins and outs of the business along with the products we sell. For example, our Demo Days were a whole lot of fun giving me a chance to paddle every single kayak that we had in just one weekend!

I also like the fact that there is always something new around every corner. Some might think that the “CSR” title means that my buddy Kate and I just kick back with our legs up on a desk tending to customers but it’s so much more than that. One day I might be helping model products for the website (shameless plug for the Toasters and our ACK Racing Jersey) and the next day I could be helping the warehouse unload a 53-ft trailer full of kayaks. You may also find me attending a product demo at one of our store locations or giving the warehouse a hand by packing and shipping orders. Needless to say we have to be able to adjust to anything that is asked of us at the drop of a hat with cat-like speed and reflexes, which is something that I truly enjoy.

When I’m not at work supplying ACK with top-notch customer service, I enjoy following Chicago professional athletic teams, BBQ’ing, skiing, various aquatic activities, hammocking, reading, traveling and attending live music performances.

I look forward to getting you outfitted for your next outdoor adventure!



Seven thousand reviews. That’s a big number when you consider the time it takes a person to write a few sentences about a product they’ve purchased. For the sake of entertainment, let’s just say it takes a person an average of 5 minutes to submit a product review — that would equate to a total of 35,000 minutes or just over 583 hours. Yep, big numbers no matter how you look at it.

The reality is, it’s not so much about the big numbers. It’s about the fact that you, our customer, is helping us shape our product offering to provide a better shopping experience for everyone.

Your satisfaction is key to the success of our business and we sincerely want to know your opinions about the products we sell. There is no sense is keeping inventory that you don’t enjoy and it also helps us determine what products are better fit for our customers. It also gives us an opportunity to relay information to the manufacturers because just like us, they are always looking to improve their product offering. While we try our best to demo our own products, it’s always the customers that puts them through the true test.

For those of you that are not sure how to submit your own review, simply select the product (example) of choice, click the “Customer Reviews” tab at the bottom of the page and click the “Write a Review” button.

We can’t thank you enough for contributions.

Roland Jimenez

So THAT is how they do it.

Prior to joining the ACK team, I operated a small kayak shop and always wondered what exactly it was that made ACK such a success. Fact is, I’ve been employed by ACK for less than two weeks but it only took about 30 minutes to figure it out…. It’s the people.

Now, I do realize it also took years of hard work, dedication, a commitment to customer service and of course, our customers, but before I could even find my office, Aaron (Warehouse Supervisor) was dripping with sweat while the noises coming from the warehouse seemed to only get louder by the minute. Kate and Kyle were already taking orders and assisting customers on the phone, Clayton was eager to chat about our ongoing social media efforts, Justin (Austin Store Manager) had but a brief second to say hello, Amy, well, let’s just say she had her hands in EVERTHING and of course owners Chris, Steve and Peter were, what I could only describe as, bouncing a dozen basketballs at each other, playing trombones and tapping dancing all at the same time (now that would be an interesting scene).

This doesn’t even include the many store managers and employees preparing to open their doors for the day along with the unseen warehouse staff that was organizing inventory and shipping orders that came in over the weekend.

I arrived at 8:15am on Monday morning — this all happened before 9am.

While I’ve only been here a week, I have already attended two Demo Days (Austin and Houston) and a Hobie Kayak on-the-water employee training seminar, began developing a tactical marketing plan for the promotion of the 2010 ACK Fishing Challenge and started tackling a variety of other marketing related tasks that were all due — yesterday.

It’s hard to use words to describe my first week here, it’s just one of those things you would have to experience yourself. The staff is unlike any I have ever worked with before — extremely energetic, committed, dynamic and eager to get it done but all with a steady focus on the one thing that matters most, our customers. It’s contagious.

Roland Jimenez

Why ACK? Product Reviews

This past weekend I was attending a conference with small business leaders and I was asked repeatedly why someone would shop at ACK as opposed to any other larger retailer.   This question is easy to answer, Customer Service.  But it really got me thinking.  Why do people love ACK?  Customer Service is definitely it but what goes into Customer Service that makes us so much different.

So, I set out pondering how/why we are so different and one item that came to mind instantly was our product reviews.   While I write this we are advertising 1,506 products on our website, that isn’t really a secret, you can see a counter here: http://www.austinkayak.com/ourselection.php

So what, we have 1,506 products, that isn’t all that unique.  But what is unique is that we have 4,673 reviews, that means we have close to 3.1 reviews for every product (that is an average of course).   This really does make me proud!  This isn’t something that ACK is doing, this is what you, the customer is doing for our customers.

So, if you step back and ask, “Why ACK?”, well, it is really our customers that make us, us.  You shop with us, you share your experiences and thus make the shopping that much better.  So, from all of us at ACK, this is a great big thanks for all those that have click the product follow email links and wrote a product review!

Since I was so excited to see how many reviews we have we have added a counter to our home page.

— Peter