Monday, February 16, 2009

customer experience is more than just polite customer service

A friend of mine posted a blog a week or so ago about "Marketing in a challenging economy... Customer Service, duh!" He spoke about the companies he knows doing it right. I completely agree with his assessment, but one has to ask about those that just don't get it. When does the gap between the brand promise and customer experience become so big that you walk away?

I expect an organization to deliver a customer experience that matches their brand promise. If not, then there is a gap in my opinion of them. This isn't just about customer service, this is delivering what people expect in product quality, technology, service, etc. It is delivering on your promise at every point I experience your company. The nice folks at Saturn called it the 'moment of truth'. And it isn't just about training your staff to be friendly and polite, it is providing your staff with the right tools and enabling them to use them. Sounds pretty simple in theory... but billions get spent in brand, product development and marketing every year... and it is often like pissing in the wind when the end result is nothing like what was promised. And it is often the biggest companies that seem to have the most difficulty delivering. My experience with Shaw is such an example.

I have to admit I hated Shaw pretty early in our relationship. When I moved to Vancouver Rogers was my cable provider. Then they did a deal with Shaw to take over their BC customers. The Shaw technology was far below that of Rogers. I complained to Shaw that I wasn't receiving the same level of service that I had paid for previously. Now I was a high value customer, rented my digital box, had most of the digital channels at the time and the movie channels. I thought my value as a customer would mean something. Nope. They tried to tell me the technology Rogers was using was illegal or under some law suit so they couldn't provide it (the technology in question was a little device that you could program through your digital box to turn on your VCR to record a program for you). Seemed like a BS excuse to me. Why not just tell me that you don't own the rights to that technology. But true or not they still offered me nothing - it wouldn't have taken much to make me feel appreciated as a customer... maybe a couple of months of the movie channels free, some free pay-per-view movies. But they offered NOTHING. So I was stuck with a service provider that I didn't pick, paying the same for lesser service and feeling like they didn't give a damn. I wasn't prepared to order satellite, so I was stuck.

I'll skip past my high speed internet experience with Shaw and fast forward 9 years. Our PVR dies. Still a high value customer, no longer renting my digital box as we bought a PVR box from them 4 years previous.

Shaw's reaction - NOTHING. Yes the box was past its warranty period. I can accept that. But 4 years isn't that old and they offered no help in suggesting how we get it fixed. We called on 3 separate occasions to discuss it with them - no a new box couldn't be given to us (yeah that was a stretch I know), no they don't repair the boxes they sell and no they couldn't make any suggestions on where we could get it fixed. It seemed the only option the very friendly service person could offer was 3 months of free HD channels (which we would have to call and cancel at the end of that period). They did (after our 3rd call) send out an equally polite service technician to check it out for us - yup box DEAD. Nope - nothing they could do. You could see that the technician felt like an idiot not being able to provide some suggestions for where to get it repaired. I think he had even tried to do some of his own research for us. But Shaw had not enabled him with the right tools to try and help us.

So in the end Shaw was telling us that if we wanted to continue to receive the level of service we had been receiving, we would have to purchase a new PVR box. A new PVR is $650, which if it last 4 years, is an extra $160ish/year to our service costs (which were about $90/month).

The difference today vs 9 years ago... there is a new guy in town. Now TelusTV is new and the quality of the product and functionality of the PVR is nowhere near as good as Shaw. And many may hate Telus as much or more than I hate Shaw. But the customer experience so far for us has been fantastic. Well informed service people (they can even out-tech my techie husband) who follow up if they don't have the answers. Service technicians that leave their cards in case you have questions - they follow up - they drop by extra cable cause they were in the area and knew we could use it - they call to check in. The product itself is going through some growing pains. After a month we are on our 2nd box and we spent 30 minutes on the phone with service again today. But these people really seem to want our business, so we are willing to work through the little start up issues.

Now price is not our primary incentive here but it doesn't hurt that with a home bundle (phone, internet and tv) we save a lot each month. Plus, my husband works for Telus and gets an additional discount. It does make it easier to be patient with TelusTV's growing pains when we are saving money too.

If the PVR hadn't died would we have switched right now? Probably not. If Shaw had offered us some more 'incentives', a little appreciation, or a clue where to get it repaired would we have stayed? Maybe... Did Shaw provide the friendly customer service that their marketing and brand campaigns promise. Yes. But did they offer true customer service? No. Shaw needs to stop treating their customers like they did when there was little or no competition, they need to focus and really deliver on their brand promise of customer service.

And oh yeah, we found a place in Richmond that fixed our PVR for $60. Perfect! Now we can sell it on craigslist.


  1. Hi. Great article. It really does show the 'dumbness' of some companies in trying to retain customers. The lifetime value of a cusomer seems to have been lost. And thanks for quoting my blog article :)

  2. Hi, I just read your article. I was trying to research Telus TV. I saw an Telus ad recently - Free PVR rental with Telus TV. With bundling, I could get TV + Internet + telephone landline for $105 per month.

    I have been paying Shaw $100 per month for internet + regular (non-digital) cable. I phoned up Shaw to ask them if there were any better bundles I could sign up for to save me money. He didn't even mention digital channels, but suggested that I could step down a level in my cable package.

    The way I see it, Shaw had their chance. I have made the phone call and moved to Telus. Because they are the new kid on the block, they want my business and they are saving me about $15 per month AND giving me a PVR rental. There is no comparison.