Customer Service Failure by Canada’s Telco Giant Rogers During National Wireless Outage (and why I won’t be signing up for their Loyalty Credit Card)

Rogers Store Chatham Ontario

Rogers Communications will make a great case study of what not to do in a crisis, like the many hours long wireless outage that effected millions of people and businesses across Canada tonight. I can summarize the outcome of that study for you right now: ‘Do nothing, say nothing’ is not a good strategy for customer retention.  Rogers Wireless  reported Operating Profit Margin grew to 49.2% and an overall Revenue increase to the tune of $3.2 Billion in Q2 2013 reports. As a customer of their services, and an analyst who monitors their behaviours on-line closely, I recommend they pour some of those big profits in proper communications and customer service strategies for their approximately 9,400,000+ wireless subscribers to ensure their satisfaction with services before the pending Rogers Credit Loyalty Card Launch in 2014.

The company announced a loyalty program in early July in a bid to improve customer retention, noting at the time that it hoped to change the perception of how it treats existing customers compared to new subscribers, who are often aggressively wooed.

Points in the program, which is being rolled out in stages across the country throughout this year, can be redeemed for rewards such as roaming packages, Internet package upgrades and long distance for home phones.”

rogers outage heatmap oct 9 2013

Rogers does very little to inspire customer loyalty. In fact, they frequently create more frustration for their customers than not via social channels. The incongruity of this considering they are in the telco business never ceases to astound industry watchers like myself.  For example, tonight Rogers initially reported issues with voice and some SMS wireless outages effecting subscribers in only Ontario and Quebec around 7:00 pm ET.  The Rogers.com corporate web site also went down around that time.  Shortly afterwards the Toronto Police took to twitter to advise people to use a landline to call 911 in case of emergency, long before Rogers finally updated customers via twitter that the outage was in fact, effecting their own customers nationally. As well, customers on both Fido and Chatr networks were experiencing the same issues. Services like taxi companies reported that they would not be able to process credit and debit cards as payments for rides.  This was not a small issue effecting only a few customers, nor is it the first time that Rogers has all but ignored their customers during an outage.

Rogers update on wireless outage

toronto police advice during rogers outage

It might seem premature to write a post about Rogers Communications abysmal public response and lack of updates while this major wireless outage is still going on, the irony is just too rich for me. You do notice that they have ‘Communications’ as part of their trademarked brand? Rogers seems to think ‘communications’ is only something important when they can bill someone for it.  And its never been more evident than it is right now during the outage effecting customers throughout Canada.  Sadly, this is a consistent reflection of their day-to-day approach towards Customer Service on public channels. It is also entirely the same as their behaviour during another major Rogers outage in January 2013 that effected both cellular and Internet users.  Rogers hasn’t learned anything at all, or merely doesn’t care enough to alter their horrible customer relations. As BlogTO writer Chris Bateman noted during that outage, the customers anger was magnified by Rogers poor response.

Much of the rage stemmed from the lack of information from the company, possibly because it was having problems getting online itself. Messages on Twitter and Facebook explaining that customers should stop dialing its tech support lines were unlikely to have been seen by those endlessly rebooting their computers in search of a solution.”

It’s inexcusable for Canada’s largest telco to take the ‘do nothing’ approach during customer service interruptions.  Surely some of those $3.2 billion in profits could be spent on a PR Crisis Management plan? How about Customer Service training for the Community Managers?  It is a long running joke with fellow Canadian customers that their corporate twitter handle is @RogersHelps, but rarely does.  I’ve had a few responses from them myself a day or two after a few of my frequent complaints about their NextBox PVR in the wee hours when mine consistently freezes, requiring a full unplug and hard reset to fix.  But, I am pretty sure the only reason I’ve been one of those rare few to get any responses is due to the fact that I’m vocal on twitter about customer service, and not because they care about me as one of the millions of customers.  Although I outlined symptoms and issues very clearly, it was quite clear that the person behind the handle did not care enough to read carefully, and didn’t carry through with a solution, nor follow-up recommendation for further contact.  There was a very weak attempt to contact me, with a goal to shut me up, not get me help. When things like that happen with a corporate account like@RogersHelps, it simply provides more fodder for witty parody accounts like @RogersNoHelp.

  • How bad does your customer service have to been to warrant your own brand parody account?
  • And if there is a parody account about your customer service why isn’t there a concentrated effort by the organization to improve their service?

Although Rogers systemic communications failures are a much bigger issue that won’t be solved without a major cultural shift in thinking by leadership, Rogers could at very least take a baby step and start with putting better people behind their social accounts, or provide better training for the existing employees responsible for public updates and responses.  Or maybe they simply need to hire people for community management who know how to walk that fine line between being snarky and being savvy. Bell Mobility won much more than just a slew of new subscribers tonight because of this outage; their Community Managers also win the battle of customer loyalty on a daily basis.

Bell Mobility Community Managers during Rogers Outage

Even before the outage this evening the @Bell_Mobility social team showed a deft hand in highlighting differentials as competitors as Rogers was forced by consumer pressure earlier today to reverse their initial decision not to carry the Blackberry Z30. Then later during the outage, these wise CMs merely highlighted their own customer loyalty with a touch of humour.  This is the usual ‘corporate voice’ of Bell Mobility, and Rogers could and should learn much from their #1 competitor in this regard.  I’d have pity for the Rogers social team who will have to get up in the morning to catch up on the thousands of angry tweets sent their way, but I am doubtful that any attempt will be made to reach out effectively to the millions of effected users.  Even now as full service has been restored, this was the best they could do:

“Wireless voice and SMS services are fully restored. We continue to investigate the root cause. We apologize to our customers and thank them for their patience. We recommend customers power their devices off and on again should they continue to experience difficulties.”

Rogers has a lot of work ahead of them if they are truly committed to changing the perception about how they treat new customers versus existing clients.  They should start with a better apology for the millions of Canadians effected by the service outage tonight, and then work on hiring a top notch Communications firm. Whoever is creating plans and policies now certainly doesn’t understand the basic tenets of customer service.

Were you effected by the outage? What’s your perception of Rogers response?

(Update post publication:  Globe and Mail reporting that Rogers CEO Nadir Mohamed issued an apology early Thursday, October 10, 2013  to customers effected by the outage. Prepaid customers are to receive a day’s credit in billing. 

“I recognize this service interruption was unacceptable for our customers,” Mr. Mohamed said. “We worked as quickly as possible to restore service and it was gradually restored over the course of the evening.”

Well, that’s a start Rogers. Now about the overall uncommunicative approach to communications during crisis…)

MUST READ: Best answer EVER to the question, “What’s the best CRM?”

If you are interested in CRM and aren’t already reading the work of Brian Vellmure, you should be.  Brian scored a home-run with this post answering the question, “What’s the best CRM?” It’s a must read for customers, and a great perspective for vendors to adopt. Without question, this post is one of the best CRM posts I have  have read in ages.

It is accurate, realistic, and practical.  More significantly, the whole psychology & practice applies to any business app selection, not just CRM.  It should be kept at hand for customers to read, and read by the rest of us as vendors and consultants to keep our focus directed correctly.

The very best part of his approach is that it is also the way that we should approach and answer prospects any time we are asked, “What’s the best X?” for technology.

You’ve all heard the term ‘solution fit’, but let me introduce you to the term ‘Situational Leadership’, which is what Brain’s demonstrated in this post. When we’re asked to guide organizations in decision-making and selections, it isn’t about walking in the door to provide answers.  Situational Leadership means that you work to help customers figure out what are the right questions they should be asking themselves. “What are we really trying to accomplish with our customers? (our culture, our budget, our processes, our people, and our goals and objectives?)

There is no single, ‘best’ answer to anything, and this is most especially true when we’re asked to weigh the merits of one product or another for a client’s needs.  Fit is indeed determined by need and goals. Brian’s more accurate refinement of the question leads to a critical shift in perspective for those looking for an answer.  It’s not about the answers – it really is about the questions you’re asking:

“How can we get a deeper understanding of our prospects and customers, create a well crafted vision of how to listen and respond better, and enable people throughout our entire organization to execute in the most efficient. effective, and profitable way?”

Adjust your question slightly and adjust your outcome significantly.

ARE YOU HELPING YOUR CUSTOMERS ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS, OR JUST TOSSING OUT ANSWERS ABOUT YOUR PRODUCTS?

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Note: This year’s CRM Idol lucky winner will also receive four hours of of free consultantion by phone with Brian, too! 

Part 1: What would you do? Disobey to delight?

 

This is the first post in a series of ‘what would you do’ pieces about real professional and customer service experience stories that can stand as lessons of what to do, and what not to do. The role and actions of the leader(s), service provider and the customer will be presented in each, with different outcome scenarios offered. I’m hoping that many will add their own thoughts, expertise and guidance so this grows into a valuable resource for discussion and insight.

Let’s jump right in with Case #1 – Disrupt & Disobey to Delight?

Overview: Prof Service consultant is stuck in loop as customer advocate with unresponsive partner/leader. What to do, what to do?

Leader Role: Partner – Sells, services & supports 5 ERP products and 1 enterprise collaboration application, plus custom add-ons. Active in the channel for greater than 10 years. Expertise in manufacturing, mining & oil field drilling.

Professional & Customer Service Role – Consultant: Also worked in the same channel for greater than 10 years, specializing as an expert in the enterprise collaboration application (trained the partner on it in years past), with decent knowledge in the erp packages. Wooed by partner to come on board for that expertise.

Customer Role: Mid-size manufacturer, with strong online catalogue sales channel. Three years into their implementation of the erp & collaboration system. Recognize they are not utilizing systems efficiently for CRM & Marketing purposes. Recently hired a new marketing/lead generation FT staff member.

The Story:

Consultant is tasked by Partner to demo functionality in the CRM system that is not yet configured or being used, for the purposes of training customer’s new marketing resource, existing account care rep and member of exec team on increased efficiencies & value. Exec member is ‘blown away’ by untapped potential and wants immediate action to get it up and running.

In the process of demo prep, consultant notes dirty data via a bad first load 3 years hence, segmentation redundancies in useless fields which are unrelated to, and useless for, native reports and lack of configured mgmt dashboards. Expresses same to Partner, with advisement this could be addressed in <2 hrs time without impact on any erp touch point fields.  Partner says, “No. Train only with they already have. Just ignore that exec guy. He hasn’t been happy in 10 years and nothing will make him happy. He needs to take responsibility for not using the system.”

Meanwhile, the exec guy (customer) is eager & excited to get moving using their system they way it was sold to them. Peppers communications to consultant with statements like, “At last! We’re looking at swapping out to another system, because we’ve paid for consulting over & over to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars, twice the quoted amount, and we’ve never seen or gotten this stuff. You can get us on track. Let’s start working on this right now.”

So let’s review – we have:

  • Customer & partner, both dissatisfied & resentful of each other, alternately blaming and being defensive about who is responsible for the state of the systems & the relationship. One doesn’t want to pay another dime for services that should have been rendered by partner, but is willing to pay new consultant, and the other refuses to deviate from their ill-conceived training plan based on their own limited knowledge of the CRM system functionality.
  • Consultant thrown in the middle of the relationship drama, facing barriers and impediments to put head down, get to work & improve things all around.

In this case, the Consultant has three choices:

  1. Step back, letting the customer and partner duke it out themselves.
  2. Step sideways, do the required configurations quietly (unbillable) on a copy of the system, then demo to both the customer & the partner.
  3. Step up, staying in the trenches fighting for the customer, re-educating the partner in the process, to get permission to do the work openly.

What would you do?

I’d likely do several things in parallel.

  • First, I’d try a different tactic with the partner.  I’d work to pull them out of the same behaviors with and expectations of the customer by pointing out that they now have two new change agents on the field: the consultant & the new marketing resource the customer hired.  Small changes that can have big impact… “a butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil can cause a tornado in Texas.”
  • Both have fresh eyes and aren’t locked into the circuitous arguments that prevent real change from occurring. I’d position that as an opportunity, suggesting that both the partner and the exec guy step back, hand over the reins to these new folks for one week, then check the results. Move the actions away from the mistrustful players to enable a new relationship to be built within the organization & the partnership.
  • I’d clarify to both the customer & the partner that billing bitches are not appropriate discussions to saddle staff & consultants with during work sessions. Take it offline and speak to the people who have their own skin in the game on either side. New players don’t want or need to be poisoned, lest the cycle continues.
  • Confident that the partner won’t notice anyway, else it would have been addressed long ago, I’d quietly move the dirty, unused data to another field so the original field could be used as originally intended for marketing functions. (Only possible in this case, because there is zero chance for corruption or loss of data.) Quiet win for the customer at no cost to partner. ;>

When tight-rope walking between the needs of the customer and the partner who owns that customer, consultants have to balance ethics, ownership and advocacy very carefully.  What would you do?

One Man’s ‘Stalking’ is another Man’s ‘Savvy’

No Stalkers - Savvy Only

I’m often amused by the over-the-top posts on Slashdot about online privacy. While I appreciate the intelligent discussions on security, I often think that some of the slashdot nerds have no front line experience with business, nor a clear understanding of how Social Media is changing customer engagement best practices.

Case in point:  When I clicked on this tweet: @slashdot: Cisco Social Software Lets You “Stalk” Customers http://bit.ly/b5JHe2 via @jockr I wasn’t the slightest bit surprised to discover the post filed under ‘Your rights Online’, nor was I shocked to read the comments, most of which are nothing more than ‘Is Cisco crazy’ tirades about invasion of privacy and lawsuits looming.

One man’s stalking is another man’s new world business savvy.

In the first place, this isn’t new.  It isn’t like the Cisco roll out of SocialMiner is the first ever effort to enable enterprise listening solutions to monitor customers via various channels. Pick any company with marketing smarts and I guarantee that whether they’re using listening software or not, they have key resources assigned to ‘stalk’ their customers with both ears tuned to hear what is important to the customer.

“The software is designed to not only enable enterprises to monitor the conversations of their customers but to engage those that require service,” Cisco says.

I’m annoyed by the negative reaction and the less than lucid arguments being posted as comments against this roll-out. Is this Cisco angst, or merely a fundamental lack of business knowledge? Perhaps both, but here is what the detractors aren’t considering:

  • First clue of note, if your customers have a blog, then they want it to be read.  That’s a pretty basic, safe assumption. It’s in the public domain for a reason.
  • ‘Customer’ in this instance is not the end-user little guy jealously guarding their privacy — these are enterprises working B2B. ‘Customer’ means another company, not a specific person tweeting reviews about the movie they watched the night before.
  • Universal McCann reports that 77% of all active internet users regularly read blogs. That would include business blogs. Increasing efficiencies in doing so for business isn’t much different from improving RSS feeds, which most of the same nerds use daily to watch news on ‘privacy right invasion’.
  • Customer Collaboration is part of the entire Customer Experience

I’m sure we could add many more points to the list, but the bottom line is that the loudest voices that bemoan ‘stalking’ are entirely oblivious to the reality and benefits of social media listening for companies and their customers. I guess they don’t know what Enterprise 2.0 is about. ;>

Are you concerned about listening to your customers to offer better service and support?

When was the last time you checked your Customer’s oil and washed their windows?

Fill'r up with a smile

While reading Tom Asacker’s excellent post ‘Customer Service Is Dead!‘, I had one of those break through ‘a ha’ moments about customer experience thanks to Tom’s reminder of the good old days of the local service station:

Back in the day, when customer service was king, I worked after school pumping gas and handing out collectible tumblers at my father’s service station. That’s what they called it back then: a service station, not a gas station. The consistent delivery of fast and friendly service was a significant source of differentiation and, in many cases, a customer’s compelling reason to choose.

Tom continues on:

I can remember, as part of my aforementioned job, routinely checking customers’ oil levels. And I was never questioned when I advised them, frequently, that they were down a quart. When was the last time you had to add a quart of oil to your car between oil changes? I also remember squeegeeing windows and attending to tumbler requests, never once barked at to “hurry up!”

I’m stricken by the simple clarity gas station memories offer when trying to define the difference between customer service and customer experience – when was the last time you checked your customer’s oil and offered a top up without being asked? 

Too often, customer service means reacting when something goes wrong, rather than providing preventative maintenance to keep the engine running smoothly in the first place. In the software industry, this added value could be as simple as scheduling a free system ‘health check’ with the customer, then offering advice on improving performance, configuring new features, or ensuring that recent bug fixes have been applied.  

Customer service is supporting the software;  Customer Experience is topping up the relationship with a quart of high-performance tweaking. This may or may not result in more immediate revenue, but it will likely generate goodwill and further loyalty with the customer. 

What can you do to wash the customer’s window so they can see the road ahead clearly? You know, the road that leads them back to you and your services over and over again?