I have always believed that there is a fine line between being solvent and insolvent, profitable and unprofitable, and in business and out of business. There certainly are powerful signs in the way a corporation operates or reacts to a situation that defines who they are, where they came from and where they are going.
A corporation has a pulse and character that defines them; there is an attitude to a company that starts at the top and works its way down.
When you, as a customer, call a company to complain, a particular brand of insight is offered as to a company’s true nature. This true nature is generally offered by way of the illustrious Customer Service Representative.
What’s important, then, is that the illustrious Customer Service Representative addresses your concerns as a customer. It’s important that the illustrious Customer Service Representative listens, validates what they have heard and deals with the situation effectively.
Some companies operate under the guiding principle that the “customer is always right.”
Are they? Absolutely not.
But the important thing is that the illustrious Customer Service Representative does, in his or her infinite wisdom, come to a reasonable conclusion. When they, as representatives of the company, stop listening and stop caring, it’s all downhill from there.
You’re probably asking me something along the lines of “Jeff, where are you going with this?”
Good question. Glad you asked.
Last Friday, I received an “Important Information” notification from Rogers. This notification, important as it was, informed me that I was going to be experiencing a rate increase of some 12%. Considering this matter to be some sort of elaborate mistake, I weighed my options. After a few minutes, an action plan was put into place.
As you might remember, I went into the details with my blog entry (link here).
So, as planned, I called Rogers to complain.
Remember what I said before about listening? And how important listening is to good customer service?
Did Rogers listen? Absolutely not. Not one bit.
I called and spoke with three different people at Rogers and each call concluded with the same result. I’ve included, for your entertainment, a snippet of the first part of my very first call. As you might imagine, there’s simply no point in including any of the other calls because, well, it was the same situation:
Rogers: What can I do for you today?
Jeff: We signed up for Rogers in November 2009 and when we signed up, we made an agreement with Rogers for a one year relationship and I chose the Classic Value Home Phone Plan at $24.95 a month. I just received a notice that effective March 1st, my rate is going to $27.95. So, I was wondering how you can do that in the middle of my one year contract?
Rogers: Prices do change on yearly basis and basically, if you read the contract, it does let you know that prices do increase. Now, with the contract that you are signing up stating that you’ll stay with that service for that year, right?
Jeff: Despite your fee increase?
Rogers: There’s always a yearly increase and it’s around this time. That’s usually around March when we get all the calls coming in regarding that.
Jeff: Can you waive that for me?
Rogers: I am not able to waive that yearly increase.
Jeff: When I signed up for your service in November, I got a flyer (see the flyer which lists the service at $31.31 / month = $24.95 / month PLUS $5.95 system access fee PLUS $0.41 for 911 service) in the mail and there was an incentive to switch and you provided a rate and showed that you are about 5 dollars less than Bell Canada.
Rogers: For our plans, yes.
Jeff: Yes, we signed up for Rogers and now two – three months into my contract, you’ve raised my rates by 3 dollars and it sounds to me that you’ve kind of reneged on your end of the contract.
Rogers: Well, no. Every year there is a rate increase. Let me just pull this up here, I can look for promotions or something like that. Every year it happens around March.
Jeff: So there is nothing that you can do about this rate?
Rogers: No, because a lot of people will be calling in regarding that and it happens every year, just like the stores.
Jeff: So, a lot of people complain about this rate. What do you say to these customers?
Rogers: Well, it’s like when you go to a store to buy something, the prices always increase. Right?
Jeff: But this is like a 12-13% increase.
Rogers: And as well as other services elsewhere, they increase as well. Right?
Jeff: This is a 13% increase in the middle of the recession. How do you justify that?
Rogers: I didn’t do it. It’s not me that’s doing that to you. I can’t justify that.
Jeff: It’s your company and you’re representing your company at the other end of this call. Do I have any recourse and can I do anything about this?
Rogers: Not really. To be honest with you, just give me one moment and I’m going to look into your account and see what you have and if there are any promotions for you. One moment please, OK?
Rogers: OK, so thank you for holding. Hello.
Rogers: Currently, there’s no promotion that I’m able to offer you.
Jeff: Let me get this straight. I signed up 4 months ago and made a commitment to Rogers to stay with your service for 1 year. You provided a rate and I signed up with that rate. Now 3 months into the service you can raise my rate by 12% and I have no recourse?
Rogers: If you read your invoice, on the 2nd page it highlights our terms and conditions. The conditions allow us to raise our rates at any time.
Jeff: But that wasn’t listed out on the promotional flyer you sent me in August of last year.
Rogers: Well it’s on your invoice.
Jeff: But I didn’t have a copy of your invoice when I signed up to your service. I had a flyer listing your fees. Can you waive this increase for me?
That was the message: “No.” I asked over and over again and received the same response back – from each of the three people I was able to speak with.
I wrote about a corporation operating with a soul and, based on the above, this company’s soul is decayed. I have never been treated with such disrespect or, frankly, witnessed such corporate conceit.
Am I frustrated? Absolutely.
I called to voice my concerns and there was not one shred of empathy.
So what would have fixed the problem for me?
A compromise would have been a good start, of course. Rogers, however, wasn’t interested in compromises and wasn’t interested in supplying anything other than “no” answers to my questions.
No empathy. No nothing.
At one point during the conversation with one of the managers he explained that their only real competitor, Bell Canada, had recently raised rates thereby leaving room for Rogers to raise rates as well. When I explained that there were other competitors other then Bell – companies like Yak, Vonage, Comwave, TeleHop – he had the arrogance to explain that these companies weren’t “really competitors.” They were mere VoIP providers.
My sense of Rogers’ service is that they are a VoIP provider as well. While they do own the cable coming into the home and can provide QoS on their own pipe, the cable feed is still a data path and the voice stream coming down that path is not TDM but, you guessed it, VoIP.
This manager’s message was simple: switch if you want but Rogers is better then these other companies because the Rogers service isn’t VoIP.
Here is something interesting from the Wikipedia entry on Rogers:
The Rogers Home Phone service in Canada was launched on July 1, 2005 on the same day that Rogers Telecom was acquired by Rogers Communications Inc. There are two offerings; one service is Voice over IP technology, over cable lines. It goes into the house with the cable line, then uses a converter to use the telephone line jacks within the house. The VOIP service is currently available in most of the Greater Toronto Area, with service to be expanded to Ottawa and Southwestern Ontario in late 2005. 911 and emergency service numbers (fire, ambulance, etc) will not work when Rogers Home Phone has technical difficulties.
Starting in June 2008, Rogers Home Phone customers that were still using traditional telephone lines were sent a notice and given the option to either: A) migrate from the landline to their digital Voice over IP cable network, or B) have their accounts automatically canceled within a specified period of time. While it is inevitable some customers will return to Bell/Telus for landline service, this drastic measure effectively ensures that by the end of 2008, 100% of Rogers Home Phone clients were using their VoIP digital cable network.
Remember, the manager argued with me that Rogers was better then these other companies because Rogers doesn’t use VoIP.
And this is simply NOT true.
The flyer – dated August 14, 2009 – that encouraged me to sign up with Rogers’ services is also rather interesting.
Now, we signed up for Rogers’ services in late September for an October installation. We received our first invoice in November and, by January, we received notice that our rate had gone up by $3/month.
I called Rogers and was told to read the “fine print” on my invoice. I was told by both managers at Rogers that the “fine print” on page 2 of my invoice clearly states that they have the right to raise rates at any time. It actually doesn’t say that; it says “For plan details please refer to price plan brochures, visit rogers.com or call Customer Service.”
Furthermore, what invoice should I refer to? When I signed up, I wasn’t a customer and didn’t even have an invoice to refer to. In my view, Rogers clearly knew they would be sending out rate increase notices in January.
This wasn’t explained on sign-up, of course.
And now, I am an upset customer looking for justice. I started this process wanting to see what the typical customer would have to go through – and now I know.
And what’s the frustrated customer to do?
Switch to an alternate VoIP provider. There are, as I’ve listed above, a number of plausible options. I’m going to do some research and make the switch at the end of this week. I’ll let you know how it goes.
So to bring this bold adventure in awful customer service full circle: a corporation has a character that defines it. The character is evident from the top to the bottom of the company. Rogers, as you can see, did not demonstrate any of the character traits of a company that truly cares about customers.
They demonstrated corporate arrogance. I have left this situation frustrated and annoyed because my concerns were never validated.
In the end I feel misled by Rogers marketing. I took advantage of what I thought was a promotion only to get hoodwinked after signing up. I was told it was my mistake for not reading the invoice’s fine print. The great thing about the Internet is the transparency it affords. An opportunity for people to tell their story. There is clearly an
element of integrity that needs to be followed in marketing. Cross that line and you will lose peoples trust.
In light of the above I did a follow-up post investigating some of the alternate home phone providers: Comwave, Vonage, Telehop, Rogers, Bell, and Yak. You can read that post here.