Making customers happier

CCTSThe Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services (CCTS) issued its sixth annual report [pdf] earlier this morning. While complaints increased by about 25% year over year, the CCTS acknowledged “this as evidence that our efforts to increase public awareness of CCTS have become increasingly effective.”

It isn’t really a surprise that wireless services represent 60% of all complaints. After all, there are now 28M wireless subscribers, compared to just under 12M residential phone lines and 11M internet connections. As such, wireless represents about 55% of all consumer access connections and of the three, it is the service that has variable pricing and would be most susceptible to variable connectivity conditions.

What is interesting is looking at comparative data between the carriers. There are clearly differences in the number of customers with each service provider, but in the area of contract disputes, Bell and Rogers (including Fido) each had about a third of all complaints, while TELUS had only one fifth the number of the other major carriers. Indeed, TELUS customers generated 20% fewer contract complaints compared to Wind Mobile, despite TELUS having more than 10 times the number of wireless customers – not even including millions of TELUS residential phone and internet customers.

Under the area of roaming, Rogers and Fido were responsible for more than half the complaints, Bell and Virgin were about a quarter while TELUS was again behind Wind Mobile. Some perspective is important. Despite all of the attention being placed on roaming and data surcharges on wireless and bandwidth charges on internet, last year had only 1500 complaints related to roaming, data and bandwidth charges, filed with CCTS out of 40M connections.

Western Canadians seemed to be happier with their service providers than Ontario residents. With 38% of Canada’s population, Ontario generated 52% of CCTS complaints; BC and Alberta have roughly a quarter (24.4%) of Canada’s population, but represented only 19.6% of the complaints.

When everything is running normally, it is often hard to distinguish between different service providers. Technological advantages of one over another can be transient as capital investment catches up. The biggest differentiation can be in how different service providers handle problems: how difficult is it for customers to get through to a real human who shows empathy and somehow projects a smile through the phone line; are customer service agents empowered to take ownership and resolve issues in one call?

In my corporate executive life nearly 20 years ago, I spent part of an afternoon fielding calls in the residential service call centre; it was the toughest 2 hours in my business career.

Many superficial commentators on the Canadian telecommunications industry lazily lump service providers together – incumbents versus new entrants; Monopolists; Big 3. The CCTS report shows there are differences in customer service and complaint handling.

As we head into the peak Christmas season for wireless sales, will consumers refer to the CCTS report as an indicator of customer satisfaction?

1 thought on “Making customers happier”

  1. Mark,

    As always, a timely and thoughtful post. Much can be learned from it by consumers, providers, policy makers, regulators as well as other interested observers and stakeholders. The raw data is important to decision-making for everyone.

    From my vantage point there are a few things (some of which you touch upon) that I’ll throw out there. I think you are correct that the report intuitively demonstrates that there is fierce competition in this sector. It reflects providers pursuing different business models and different priorities and executing on those to potentially differing levels of success. These are hallmarks of rivalry in a market (product and geographic).

    At TELUS we made a decision a number of years ago to be the best customer service organization. We implemented many customer-centric initiatives to get closer to our customers and their needs and perceptions. What we have learned from this (not surprising to us or probably anyone else) is that if you better fulfill customer requirements, are clear and simple, offer value through better networks and offerings, address proactively concerns raised, admit when we have made a mistake and frankly stand up to our brand promise that the Future is Friendly that our customers reward us with their business. The CCTS report and its raw data is an indicator of that.

    As we released our Q3 results today, I think it is fair to say that our customers are voting with their feet from competitors, are cumulatively using our services more and because we have the lowest churn rate are staying with us longer.

    We acknowledge that we are not perfect and while our customer complaints bucked the trend of the industry we are not done. We can do better and we will. It’s just good business!


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