One of the first signs of a business headed for decline is poor customer service. When we fail to meet our customers’ expectations for our product or service, they generally start to leave us for other options.
Business owners should always keep a close finger on the pulse of our customer service. For the three decades that I had my service-related businesses, I was constantly aware of what customers were feeling. I would often deal with customer complaints personally so I clearly understood what the problems with my business were.
It’s true that I couldn’t fix every complaint but our business grew as a result of phenomenal customer service from my team.
This week, I had the misfortune of dealing with Telus. Coming off a two-year contract for my phones with Telus, I decided to see if I could get better rates.
I started by reaching out to Telus since I was an existing customer. I stopped by one of their business locations, where I was told that they could only help me if I was interested in getting their Internet services. I left frustrated.
I decided to look at other ways to contact them. I went on their web page and someone started a chat with me. After about 10 minutes of chat, they told me I needed to call them at a particular number. I phoned and was told that due to high call volumes, there would be a 20-minute wait.
There was no option to leave my number for them to call me back so I stayed on hold for 45 minutes and was told consistently that my call was important. Finally a fellow came on and, after a 15-minute discussion, told me I would have to phone another number the next day.
Apparently, Telus Mobility experiences a higher volume of calls all the time, every day! I’m not sure if this is a result of scheduling problems or planned annoyance, but on the second day I was on hold for 54 minutes. Every two minutes, a recording told me that my business was appreciated. I often swore back at the recording in disbelief.
After wasting hours of my life, and having several conversations with Telus operators in foreign lands, I made the realization that I was not the valued customer Telus continued to claim I was. I decided to take my business elsewhere.
I’m sure that at one time, Telus did put customers first. With eight million cellular customers and a lack of competition, Telus is the third largest cellular company in Canada.
But it appears, based on web reviews, that Telus no longer feels customer satisfaction and retention are important.
History has repeatedly shown that when there’s little competition, those providing goods or services often take advantage of the situation, to the detriment of customers.
Thanks to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) and the regulatory marketplace for cellular services in Canada, we pay the highest prices for mobile phone services in the world. Even in countries like Australia, China, the U.S. and Russia, with large geographic areas similar to Canada that require infrastructure, cellphone service costs a fraction of what we pay here.
In Canada, there’s little competition and the providers are protected.
So why has it taken so long for the Canadian government to look out for its citizens and open up the cellular market to competition?
I’m sure it’s a question that’s compounded by the lobbying efforts of the big three: Rogers, Bell and Telus. They control 91 per cent of the cellular marketplace in Canada.
What will it take for a company like Telus to turn around their customer service problem?
My guess is that as long as the marketplace limits the options of consumers, companies like Telus will focus on trying to attract new customers rather than satisfying current customers – unless share prices drop as a result of lost revenue.
I switched my phones over to Bell.
Walking into my local Bell store, I was greeted with a smiling face and excellent customer service. Not only did the representative make it easy for me to switch, taking care of all the details, the store manager went beyond what was expected.
Customer service is usually the result of a cultural dynamic within an organization that starts at the top.
When we fail to value customer service and take for granted our customers’ time and money constraints, we’re doomed to failure.
Our customers will eventually tire of us and find alternatives.
Troy Media columnist David Fuller, MBA, is a certified professional business coach and author who helps business leaders ensure that their companies are successful. David is author of the book Profit Yourself Healthy. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org