Guy Laurence knows many consumers dislike his company. The Rogers CEO says guests will sometimes ambush him with their wireless bill at a dinner party, complaining “I don’t understand.” But since taking over in late 2013, Laurence has made mending that fractured relationship with its customers into a top priority. “We are literally going through all of the detractive elements of the company and we have a plan for every one,” Laurence told a press conference on Friday. “But I think we’re really early on in the game.”
The company’s expansion of its popular roaming plan to over 35 European companies is the latest evidence of his charm offensive in action. Rogers, which owns Canadian Business, announced that customers traveling to Europe will pay only $10 per day, and will only be charged for a maximum of 10 days, meaning the highest fee will be $100 per month. Calls and texts to local numbers in those countries, as well as numbers back in Canada, will be included under the plan.
The company launched a similar plan in the United States last November, attracting one million users with an offer of roaming for just $5 per day. Rogers contends it has proven a hit, resulting in a five-fold increase in data use for customers traveling in the States. “I wouldn’t be extending it if I wasn’t happy,” Laurence said.
Rogers launched the original “Roam Like Home” plan in response to complaints he heard from numerous customers. “People say it’s nuts, there are too many plans, it’s too complex, we don’t like it,” Laurence told Canadian Business last November. The CEO, who joined the company from Vodafone UK, acknowledged Rogers needs to change consumers’ perception of the brand. Under his leadership, Rogers has taken a decidedly consumer-focused approach on a range of issues. The company recently unveiled a simplified suite of unlimited Internet plans. Further, while competitor Bell opposed a recent CRTC ruling that will force cable companies to offer a basic package for $25, Rogers has been generally supportive of the move.
Still, Laurence concedes it will take years to turn disenchanted consumers into fans. “If you’re dealing with any service, you’ve probably got more important things to do than think about it,” he said. “But if elements in that service start to improve, at some point that will reach your consciousness, and you start to reframe your view of a particular brand. And at some point, you become comfortable with that brand and you become an advocate for it. But that process takes years. It’s like the old thing about ‘How do you eat an elephant?’ One bite at a time.”
A report earlier this month offered some tentative signs of success for Laurence, while still suggesting Rogers has a distance to go in regaining consumers’ trust. Complaints from customers have dropped by nearly 28% over the past six months, according to a mid-year report from the Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services. “I think we’re the best improved player. We’re not the best, but we’ll get there,” Laurence said. Indeed, Rogers still faced 1,240 complaints about its service between August 1, 2014 and January 31, 2015. Only Bell received more complaints over the same period, with 1,989.