My adventures in customer service

February 17 2009 by Ellen Roseman

Always ask the companies you deal with if there’s a newer and cheaper plan than the one you have. That’s good advice.

So, how did I find myself in the position of having overpaid for my Rogers data plan?

I recently decided to upgrade my BlackBerry and went to a Rogers store with my husband (who would inherit the older model). The salesman checked my account and said I didn’t need to pay $60 a month for a data plan. Prices had come down a lot lately.

We could each pay $25 a month and still come out ahead. Sounded like a sweet deal until I found I couldn’t hook up my BlackBerry to the office network. The salesman hadn’t asked the right questions and had sold me the wrong data plan.

I called Rogers and changed my data plan. Now I would pay $45 a month for what I had before (1 GB). How long would I have kept paying $60 before being told the good news?

We’re a VIP customer household, with monthly bills that run on for 15 pages. It would be nice to be notified when prices are dropping.

I asked if there was an alternative to calling every month (and waiting on hold). Just check the Rogers website to find prices of BlackBerry data plans, I was told. Wrong again.

The website lists only individual plans, not the enterpriser server plans (such as I have). But I did find the information that Rogers can’t be bothered to list at an independent website here.

Some companies count on inertia to keep you paying more, until you finally wake up to the fact you’ve been overcharged.

I had another adventure going out for Valentine’s Day dinner at the Spice Room in Hazelton Lanes. The food was appetizing, the service amazingly bad. Several couples walked out before ordering.

Our waitress, called in at the last minute, couldn’t handle the stress. She got everything mixed up, including our bill, which belonged to another table. When she finally gave us the right bill, it was off by a factor of 10. We had been charged $1,320 instead of $132.

The owner just laughed at what went wrong. He said the waitress hadn’t worked there for six months and now we understood why. Business had been slow in the past few months and he was surprised by the Valentine’s Day crowds.

No apology or good will gesture to make us come back — and, of course, we won’t. You can find better service at places that charge a fraction of these prices.

Joanne Kates wrote about the appallingly bad service when this restaurant opened almost two years ago — and still no improvement.

11 comments

  1. brad

    Feb 17 2009

    While I am no fan of cellular service providers, I find it a stretch to say that Rogers’ failure to inform you of a better deal counts as bad customer service. Is it in a cell service provider’s best interest to encourage its customers to pay less? The answer is yes only if long-term customer retention has a greater value to the company than its monthly revenue. And given how many people decide to hop to a new provider after their contract is up, I wonder if customer retention is a realistic and worthwhile business goal.

    I was with Bell for two years, then switched to Telus, and when my Telus contract is up I’ll probably switch to Fido or else get a President’s Choice pay-as-you-go phone. I don’t know many people who’ve stayed with the same provider for more than one or two contract periods, especially since number portability was enacted. So unless I’m viewing a skewed sample of the population, cell service providers are unlikely to retain customers and earn their loyalty even if they provide outstanding customer service and inform them of rate cuts.

  2. Saver Queen

    Feb 17 2009

    Brad, I’ve got to disagree with you. While it’s true that Rogers was only acting in their best interest, this company consistently puts their best interest ahead of basic, decent customer service and the needs of their customers.

    Rogers is notorious for “accidentally” overcharging customers, refusing to provide refunds when they overcharge, even when it is entirely their mistake, and for salespeople who conveniently leave out important information when making sales, as Ellen describes.

    I find their practices despicable and have struggled with their poor customer service for years. I don’t think customer retention is a big concern, when they lock you in for 2 or 3 year long plans, charging you hundreds of dollars if you exit early.

    Meanwhile, with few other options that provide BlackBerry service overseas or even in small town Canada, Rogers has a nice captive market.

    Not that I am a big fan of the other cell companies. In fact, I find this to be the worst area of customer service in Canada.

    Regarding the restaurant experience, what a bummer! It reminds me of Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares.

  3. Frank

    Feb 19 2009

    Nice article about Rogers (Robbers) escapades in Thursday, Feb. 18th, Toronto Star!

    What can we expect from the pioneers of negative option billing?

    ——————————————————————————————-

    Hit by loss, Rogers hikes Net, cable fees

    Chris Sorensen, Toronto Star

    Rogers Communications Inc., which yesterday posted a $138 million fourth-quarter loss, is again raising rates for residential cable and high-speed Internet services as customers scale back spending.

    The cable and telecommunications giant recently mailed customers a card detailing residential rates, effective March 1.

    Rates will rise between 3 and 9 per cent for Rogers’ high-speed Internet services, with the exception of its $99.95 per month “Extreme Plus” tier. Several cable TV packages will also see prices increase, including a 5 per cent hike for basic cable services to $29.99 per month.

    Prices for Rogers home phone, raised last year through a 30 per cent increase to a “system access ” fee charged to subscribers, will remain unchanged.

  4. Yes We Can

    Feb 19 2009

    Ellen…two comments for you.

    First off, you might be “VIP” with Rogers but you should know that means nothing in the grand scheme of things. It just means you get your monthly entertainment magazine for free. Well…actually it’s not free…they’re just calling you “VIP” and rolling that $2 charge into your package price. How can you honestly expect a company the size of Rogers to proactively contact their clients to give them better rates? Your account = your responsibility. They’re not your babysitter!

    Second, the restaurant piece…I hope to God the service was as bad as you indicated. Otherwise you’ve essentially destroyed a business in exchange for an opportunity to rant. My guess, based on most of your recent blogs, is that you’re simply looking for an excuse to complain. There are consequences to this and I feel sorry for this business if it was in fact just an oversight. Mistakes happen.

    Do us all a favour and start a blog about something interesting. Lately your site has just been stirring up feelings of hatred towards business and banking in general. Is that really what you set out to accomplish with this site?

  5. Ellen Roseman

    Feb 20 2009

    Yes We Can, I have an obsession with customer service, how to do it and how not to do it.

    Sure, everyone makes mistakes, but smart companies can delight customers by recovering gracefully from those mistakes. You’ll find examples at this blog if you look around.

    This restaurant knew its service was awful that night, admitted it to us, and didn’t try to induce us to come back. All it would have taken was a small gesture of appreciation. Istead, it made excuses. I did say the food was delicious — just the service was lacking.

    As for expecting companies to notify you about lower rates, I know it’s unrealistic. Just wanted to tell people I had fallen into the trap myself.

    We all have busy lives. Calling Rogers each monnth is not top of the list for our leisure time, but I wanted to show how you have to keep doing it.

  6. James Weimar

    Feb 20 2009

    Right on Ellen! Keep doing the job you’ve been doing. Don’t let the naysayers discourage you.

    I find there’s always someone around who’ll take the side of the perpetrator instead of the victim. I can’t understand this “Stockholm syndrome” we have in Canada when it comes to customer service.

  7. Yes We Can

    Feb 20 2009

    I’m not saying Canadians don’t deserve great customer service. I work in the service industry and I bust my hump day in & day out to outpeform and outshine the competition. What I’m saying is that there comes a point where you need to look after yourself as well. Lots of competition out there…if you don’t like what you’re getting…you’re ultimately responsible for seeking out a better deal. Rogers, Banks, whatever…you have choices so make them. As for that restaurant, perhaps they got what they deserved. Perhaps not. I don’t know that a blog is an appropriate forum to take down a business based on one poor service experience, however. But what do I know. I have Stockholm syndrome apparently.

  8. Bylo

    Feb 21 2009

    > Some companies count on inertia to keep you paying
    > more, until you finally wake up to the fact you’ve
    > been overcharged.

    Inertia — or ignorance. Randy Cohen, the NY Times’ ethics columnist made a similar point here:

    A friend, retired military, works at a bookstore chain. A naval officer in uniform asked him if the Rosetta Stone CD language course was worth its roughly $300 price. My friend assured him it was and added that, as active military, this officer could download it free and gave him the Web-site information. Had this conversation taken place at a bar, no problem, but was it proper at work? CHARLES WINDLEY, NORFOLK, VA.

    Bar or bookstore: as long as your friend wasn’t boozing on the job, he acted admirably. He owes his employer not high-pressure salesmanship but high-quality service, something that necessarily includes honest dealing. There’s no virtue in helping someone make an unnecessary purchase, one he is apt to regret. If the marketplace is an ethical institution (a debatable proposition, I concede), transparency is its necessary condition, an informed customer its essential actor. The bookstore can earn an honest dollar by selling Rosetta Stone to people who, with real knowledge of their options, choose to buy it. A store will not long — or at least, not honorably — prosper by cultivating a customer base of the uninformed. (That’s the target market for bottled water, cigarettes and lottery tickets — the ingredients for a rich, full evening’s entertainment, by the way.)

    Even if looked at strictly as a matter of maximizing employer profits — a squinty-eyed way to look, of course, but indulge the thought experiment — your friend behaved creditably. Customers who feel well treated by a capable staff are likely to be repeat customers; those who feel they are victims of dishonesty or incompetence are unlikely to return. By sacrificing one sale, your friend may have won a loyal customer for his employer.

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