Wednesday 22 August 2012

Failure  of  Bell  Canada (phone company) to resolve problems again
I very rarely quote literally an entire article written by another writer but the following recent article written by Ellen Roseman was written so well, any attempt to change the wording of her article would lessen the impact of the message she has conveyed to her readers. Her article was an open letter to George Cope, chief executive of Bell Canada Enterprises. I will give my own commentary at the end of her article.

Dear Mr. Cope:  

We’ve never met, talked on the phone or exchanged emails, but I know Bell very well. I’ve handled thousands of your customers’ complaints since starting my Star consumer column in 1999.
You’re in London at the Olympics and you’re extending Bell’s partnership with the Canadian Olympic Committee for four more years.

I want to talk to you about customer service, which matters even more than Olympic gold to the millions of people who rely on you for phone, Internet and TV service.
Your customers are angry. People write to me every day, saying they can’t reach anyone in authority who can fix their problems.

Bell has no ombudsman. It has no customer service zealot.
Let me tell you a story about how Bell’s culture of sell, sell, sell leads to treating some clients with disrespect.

Jessie and Michael Houseley were happy customers for 52 years until someone called to offer a few dollars off their cellphone bill. Jessie has an account with Solo Mobile, a Bell subsidiary.
“The caller knew all kinds of personal information she had given to Solo. She thought she was being rewarded for continuing to use the same phones beyond her three-year contract, rather than accept new ones as offered,” says husband Michael.

When asked for her credit card number, which she didn’t want to give to an unsolicited caller, she got nervous and hung up.
Though she didn’t agree to anything, she found a parcel outside her door a few days later.

“It contained two cellphones of inferior quality with push-button keyboards that neither my wife nor I could read,” says Michael. (They’re both 78 years old.)
After tracking down the unsolicited caller, who worked for Bell Mobility, they said they didn’t want the phones and would return them to a Bell store.

The salesman pleaded with them to return the phones by Purolator in a prepaid package. They did so, “at some inconvenience,” on April 10.
On April 24, Jessie got her first Bell Mobility bill for $55.38. (She was still getting bills from Solo, too.) She returned it with a note, saying she didn’t have the phones or the service.

The salesman promised to take care of the problem. But a second bill arrived in May and a third bill in June.
In July, they received a threatening letter from Kerry Arbour, vice-president of credit and collections, saying they owed $105.65.

They wrote to Arbour. No reply. A second letter arrived with another threat.
Jessie called Bell collections in Montreal and spoke to two representatives. One hung up on her when she refused to give her date of birth at the start. The other kept asking if she was going to pay by credit card.

“This is horrible treatment,” Michael said. “There is no way we are going to pay for a service set up by a ‘cowboy’ salesman at Bell Mobility, a service we never asked for, didn’t need or want, didn’t receive and couldn’t use.”
The Houseleys are happy to get an apology, but want me to send you a message, George. I’m doing it in public for the benefit of those who run their own Bell marathons.

Do you know how it feels as a customer to be shut out and denied access to your system? It’s a dark and disturbing place, where all attempts to resolve problems are met by breathless ineptitude.
What about those who never approach the media and give up in frustration? Can Bell provide (in Michael’s words) a socially adept person to listen and to be accessible to customers of all its business units?

George, you have done a great job financially. BCE shareholders have earned almost 20 per cent a year on average in the past three years.
Now it’s time to work your magic on customer service. I’m talking about a real investment and not a quick fix.

“Incidents like this are unfortunate, but the positive is that we resolve them and use them as an opportunity to improve,” says spokesman Jason Laszlo.
Despite all the opportunities for improvement, I don’t see much progress.

George, let’s see your best Olympian effort. Let’s see you win a gold medal for service by the time the 2014 Games roll around.

 End of Roseman’s article

 My own commentary

 Expecting that Bell Canada will win a gold medal in the marketing Olympics is futile considering the number of competitors they are competing with. Just as in horse racing, the last horse to start from the starting gate is hardly going to be the first horse that reaches the finishing line.

 Years ago, a judge was so fed up with the non-responses he was getting from Bell Canada with respect to his complaints, he yanked the phone from the wall of his living room and drove to the main office of Bell Canada in Toronto and threw his phone through their glass door. He was charged with mischief. The trial judge suspended the sentence after stating that he fully understood the anger of the defendant as it related to his dealings with Bell Canada.  

 The problem with Bell Canada and other large companies is that they hire stupid people who have no concept of the marketing efforts of their employers and smash their way through the company’s reputation like a bull smashes its way through a china shop.

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