Rogers Communications Inc. says it will cut down on the frustration of waiting for the cable guy by letting customers track their technician's location in real time as a service van makes its way to their home.
The Toronto-based telecom and media company is launching the new service feature in Hamilton, Ont., Monday and says it will address the "pain point" 260,000 television, Internet and home-phone customers feel annually as they call in to check on their technician's exact arrival time.
The move is the latest in a series of steps Rogers has taken to try to improve customer service and, in turn, its bottom line. Over the past two years, these changes have included simplified bills, providing customer service over social-media platforms and streamlined international roaming plans.
The company is investing $100-million a year in these efforts as part of a turnaround plan dubbed Rogers 3.0 that former chief executive officer Guy Laurence introduced in the spring of 2014.
Shortly after unveiling those plans, Mr. Laurence recruited Deepak Khandelwal from Google Inc. to overhaul customer experience at Rogers, which was struggling to maintain its lead over BCE Inc. and Telus Corp. in the wireless business and also shedding cable-television customers at an alarming pace.
Mr. Khandelwal, Rogers's chief customer officer, said in an interview his approach is to look at the top customer "irritants" and knock them off one by one, noting technician arrival time will be the sixth irritant the company has tackled.
But improving customer perception of an established telecom company – with its attendant bureaucracy and a reputation for negative interactions with customers built up over years – is not an easy task and Mr. Khandelwal admits that it takes time.
"I would love if I could have launched all [of the changes] in the first month I was here. … I'm very focused in every meeting I'm in on how can we keep getting rid of these irritants," he said, adding he has to "just keep working at it."
"That's probably the biggest thing – I'm a little bit impatient and would love to see stuff go even faster but we're making good progress."
Rogers' internal tracking of customer satisfaction has shown improvement, he said. (Rogers does not publicly disclose those metrics.) Financially, he said, it has helped the company; in the most recent quarter, Rogers attracted the most new contract wireless customers of the Big Three national carriers.
Mr. Khandelwal said it has also helped Rogers reduce the rate of churn – or customer turnover – on a year-over-year basis in its wireless business for four quarters in a row. Nevertheless, for the third quarter, Rogers's churn rate stood at 1.26 per cent, the same as that of BCE but still stubbornly above that of the market leader, Telus, which has long made customer service a priority and reported a churn rate of 0.94 per cent in the period.
Rogers unveiled another customer-service improvement – a tool to monitor and manage data usage on shared family wireless plans – in early October, just two weeks before Mr. Laurence was ousted and former Telus CEO Joe Natale was named as his replacement.
During the early October press conference, Mr. Laurence seemed optimistic about the customer experience turnaround, pointing to the success Rogers has seen with its Roam Like Home plans, which let travellers pay a flat daily rate to use their wireless data plan as they would at home. He said this had led to increased data use while customers are abroad as they are more comfortable actually using their smartphones instead of turning them off to avoid overage charges.
"I believe that we will make a return [with the data management tool]," Mr. Laurence said. "We're not a charity, we're not doing this for the benefit of the nation. We're doing this because we're a company and we want to grow our customers and we want to make them happy and, when they're happy, they spend more money."
Rogers says its latest tool, which it calls EnRoute, is now available in Hamilton, Ont., and will cover its entire cable coverage area by early 2017. It will also be available to Internet customers of its discount brand Fido.
Mr. Khandelwal said service windows for technician visits are currently down to two hours and Rogers has a 98-per-cent success rate in having the technician arrive during that time period. But he said the new tool will give customers – who will receive a text or e-mail and then be able to track the tech's arrival via their smartphone or home computer – more control over their time.