Telus, the Emperor With No Clothes

telus usersMost Canadians are aware that they pay higher cell phone costs than those in other countries because the market is ruled by the oligopoly of Bell, Rogers and Telus. They fight hard to maintain this stranglehold on the marketplace despite the widespread resentment this causes. Thankfully the federal government realizes that this is a dossier where they will get widespread electoral support whenever they decide to curb the actions of the telecommunications companies. Continue reading “Telus, the Emperor With No Clothes”

How Good is Customer Service from the Canadian Cell Phone Companies?

Just getting through isn’t enough.

An earlier post discussed the customer service provided by the Canadian cell phone companies, Bell, Rogers and Telus. It was based on a remark by Peter Mansbridge on the CBC TV Nightly News. He said all three were low on the customer service scale as measured in a study they had done. You can now read more on this in CBC Customer Service Survey.
This describes the details of the process:

Working with the CBC Research Department, we developed a unique set of standards that evaluate everything from the interactive voice response system that answers most calls these days, to the time you’re left waiting on hold. We also measured the effectiveness of the operator – how well they understood the caller, how well the caller could understand the operator, and their demeanour.

We called each company three times: once during a weekday, once at night and once on the weekend. Our call researchers kept detailed notes of each call and then scored the company’s performance out of 100

The actual rankings were as follows:

  1. Sears Home Repair Retail 90.9
  2. Bank of Nova Scotia Visa Credit 90.3
  3. Aliant Telephone 86.8
  4. Fidelity Investments Brokerage 86.6
  5. TD Waterhouse Brokerage 86.6
  6. Flight Centre Travel 85.7
  7. Cogeco Cable Cable 84.6
  8. RBC Visa Credit 84.2
  9. Shaw Cable 83.9
  10. Globe and Mail Media 83.2
  11. American Express Credit 80.5
  12. SaskTel Telephone 80.0
  13. Sears Catalogue Retail 78.3
  14. Canadian Tire Retail 75.2
  15. Microsoft Computer 75.1
  16. CBC Media 74.8
  17. TD Canada Trust Visa Credit 74.8
  18. Aeroplan Travel 73.6
  19. Telus Telephone 73.6
  20. Bell Sympatico Computer 72.8
  21. Rogers Wireless Telephone 72.3
  22. WestJet Travel 70.2
  23. CIBC Visa Credit 67.0
  24. Chapters Indigo Retail 65.7
  25. Travel 64.4
  26. Air Canada Travel 64.2
  27. Rogers Cable Cable 64.0
  28. Dell Computer Computer 60.4
  29. National Student Loans Government 60.4
  30. MTS Allstream Telephone 58.0
  31. Rogers Yahoo Internet Computer 57.7
  32. National Post Media 57.1
  33. Telus Internet Computer 56.2
  34. BMO Bank of Montreal Mastercard Credit 53.2
  35. Bell Mobility/Home Phone Telephone 52.7
  36. Sun Life Insurance 51.3
  37. Great West Life Insurance 50.0
  38. Canada Revenue Agency Government 49.0
  39. HBC Retail 48.3
  40. President’s Choice Financial Mastercard Credit 22.8

Certainly it’s surprising that the telephone companies are not higher in using their own technology, the telephone, to provide customer service. As the author of a post on the survey in the CMA – Canadian Marketing Association – Blog commented, he or she had some reservations:

There is one area that leads me to want to ignore the findings of this survey. The size of the sample of the survey was too small. They called the businesses once during the day, once during the evening and once during the weekend. They based their entire satisfaction rating on 3 calls. Most of these businesses will receive millions of calls each year. The sample size is simply too small to make an accurate rating on the level of service provided by these organizations.

Your level of satisfaction with a company has everything to do with who you reach when you call. We all hope for a minimum of fast and excellent service and are satisfied when we receive it. Unfortunately this is not realistic in many cases. Even the highest rated call centres achieve satisfaction ratings in the 80% area. That means 20% of customers are not completely satisfied at any given time.

In fact customer service in general is even worse than these figures show. If you read the small print, you will see that this was only measuring the customer experience. This is just whether you can get through and communicate intelligently with an agent. For that the small size of the samples is not quite so critical. These figures do have some relevance and they are confirming that the telephone companies don’t do too well even on this.

If you do manage to get through, the true measure of customer service is whether the client is satisfied with the outcome. On that it would appear that the Canadian cell phone companies are again falling down as measured by the chatter in the blogosphere. There are a number of reasons for this but the gotchas in the complex rate plans seem high on the list. Perhaps it’s not surprising that the politicians who are usually seeking popularity and votes would take a highly popular decision and open up the Canadian cell phone market to increased competition.

Real Competition Coming To The Canadian Cell Phone Market
Bell Canada Website User Experience

How can I help you? Is that Bell, Rogers or Telus?

Customer Service –
a failing grade for some.

CBC News had an item this week on a customer service survey they had run.

The survey look into the level of customer service provided by 40 of Canada’s top companies through their call centers. In the survey, Sears Canada came out on top. Eleven other companies scored 80 per cent or better in our ratings. These companies were quick to answer their calls, and we found their interactive voice response systems easy to navigate. The results may go against the conventional thinking that a telephone-based customer service experience is usually a bad experience.

The written summary fails to mention that three of the worst companies were Bell, Rogers and Telus. How can it be that the three major suppliers of telephone services are so poor at using the very service they provide? The survey results are no surprise for many of us have been affected. The Your View item had 381 comments mostly within the span of 36 hours, after which comments were closed. Many of the comments were lengthy and quite naturally related to our friendly telecommunications suppliers. Here’s one that could well apply to any of the three.

Kim F

I’ve had really bad experiences with XXXX for customer service, mostly in terms of billing. I’ve been over billed based on the regular monthly rate vs. the “promotional” rate that I was promised when signing up for their services more than once. I’ve had multiple cell phones over the years and with XXXX it had happened twice. It’s not a big deal but straightening it out takes up my time and the agents are only so-so when it comes to knowing what they are doing.

There is lots of food for thought for Bell, Rogers and Telus in the comments if they are looking for ways to improve. Here’s just one that caught my eye.

Tim E

I had occasion last year to order some electronic parts on-line from Digi-Key, an American parts supplier. It was ten pm when I sent the order via Internet. Imagine my surprise when fifteen minutes later I had a call from a CSR who suggested a small change in my order that would save me a small bit of money.

The rep then said that they would process the order and ship it right out. What did “right out” mean? I received the order from them the next afternoon. (This from a company across the border) With service like that, its no wonder they claim to have grown their business by taking good care of customers. If only one company of the big three (Telus, Bell, Rogers) would figure this out, they would smash the competition.

Isn’t that so true? The three of them are like the razor blade suppliers. They give you the razor for free and make their money in selling you expensive razor blades. The zinger in the cell phone case is that the packages in all cases are incredibly complex. Often different agents will give you different interpretations of what particular packages include. It’s really very disappointing from companies that are technically very expert.

Much of the customer dissatisfaction comes from those complex rate packages. That Tim E story suggests a way they can really be seen to be helping their customers. Their computers contain all the details of each customer’s calling experience. It would be no great computing feat to calculate each month which package would have best met the customer’s calling needs. In other words, what would have been the cheapest package given the calls the client made? If this was say 50% less than the actual bill, as can easily happen, then the client would receive an e-mail message pointing this out. The client could then choose for the future to adopt a different plan. Of course they would get less money from that particular customer but in essence the existing contract was a gotcha. How much better to create customer goodwill than to create resentment when the customer eventually realizes they have been hand.

The idea is offered freely to Bell, Rogers and Telus. If one of them should pick it up, then I’m sure the other two would match the action within days. It’s that kind of approach that will help to move the three of them from the bottom of the league on customer service.

Customer Service From Telecommunications Companies
Your Call Is Important To Us – Roberto Rocha
Bell Canada Website User Experience

Mobile Web Canada

Mobile Web Canada almost an oxymoron

Mobile Web Canada should be a sector of the economy with massive potential. The Federal Government may proudly proclaim, “We’ve Gone Mobile!” Unfortunately it’s unlikely that any of the citizenry can afford to follow them.

As today’s Gazette headline points out: Prices Too High – Lack of competition in Canada threatens mobile Internet. The article by Michael Geist points out that Even Third World and Eastern European countries are more advanced than we are. Michael Geist holds the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa so he’s someone we all should be listening to.

Mobile Rates

As he points out, if the Apple iPhone was introduced in Canada, the rates would be prohibitive. Rogers ? Canada?s sole GSM provider and therefore the only telecom company currently equipped to offer the iPhone ? offers a starter data plan that provides 1.5 megabytes of data per month for $15 (each additional MB is $21). Since that is not even enough data to download a single high-resolution photograph, most consumers presumably choose more. The company?s biggest data plan provides 500 MB, yet costs $210 per month, far beyond the reach of most consumers. Compare that with the rates charged in other countries as shown in a table from the article. This pricing is comparable to plans found with Bell and Telus and destroys our international competitiveness.

This message is not new. Back in April had a striking illustration of the cost differences.

Thomas Purves Mobile Rates

It would seem unlikely that this is the most sensible pricing policy for the telecom companies to reap the richest rewards. More importantly it shuts down this sector as an economic opportunity for Canada. It is no surprise that Alec Saunders finds that Really cool mobile data applications pop up all the time in Europe, the US, and Asia, yet Canadians are regrettably absent.

Contrast this with what is happening in the US. Google declares its commitment to open broadband platforms.

So today, we’re putting consumers’ interests first, and putting our money where our principles are — to the tune of $4.6 billion. Let me explain.

In the U.S., wireless spectrum for mobile phones and data is controlled by a small group of companies, leaving consumers with very few service providers from which to choose. With that in mind, last week, as the federal government prepares for what is arguably its most significant auction of wireless spectrum in history, we urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to adopt rules to make sure that regardless of who wins the spectrum at auction, consumers’ interests are the top priority.

It’s not exactly the same theme but involves similar players and similar missed opportunities for consumers.

Since it is in all our interests to have vibrant Mobile Web opportunities in Canada, perhaps Google could put a little effort in here too.