I got an iPhone on Thursday.
This post has nothing to do with the iPhone..everything to do with where I got it. Being in Canada, Roger’s is the only carrier that has the iPhone. Roger’s is particularly clueless when it comes to brand integrity (perhaps rivaled only by Air Canada in my home and native land). And this was made abundantly clear to me.
I went to a local mobile store. While the store is run by a licensee, the branding is all Roger’s. For all intents and purposes, it’s a Roger’s store. I walked up to the counter and what appeared to be a 13 year old with a five o’clock shadow who managed the store siddled over to wait on me. His assistant, a petulant female, rolled her eyes and went in the back.
I currently have a Roger’s plan, put in place almost 4 years ago. At the time, I put a plan in place that would cover my somewhat limited data needs. To be honest, I don’t really monitor the bills and my assistant finally showed me one. I hit the roof. Because my device now syncs with our mail server while I’m in Canada (I’m on another plan when I’m in the US) my data traffic has increased substantially. Here’s the details of the plan I was on..get this..25 Megs per month for $25 bucks..and 5 cents a kilobyte for overages! 5 cents a kilobyte! My relatively modest data needs were racking up hundreds of dollars in charges. Was I stupid for letting it go? Absolutely. But obviously Roger’s was perfectly happy to leave me on the stupidest plan in the world and rake in the money. That’s their bad.
So, after hitting the roof, I decided to change the plan. Roger’s plans are still highway robbery, but at least Apple forced them to ease the data plan usury in order to get exclusives on the iPhone. Now..I could get 1 GB of data monthly, plus a limited voice plan, for about $70 a month..all in. I could get an iPhone (which I’ve been salivating over for some time) and still save hundreds a month. I still had to deal with Roger’s, but to be honest, their competition is no better (Twitter recently had to discontinue SMS notifications in Canada because our mobile carriers are uniformly stupid). So, hence my visit to the local store.
I informed Skippy, the wonder manager, of all this and he said, “Well, I can get you set up with the iPhone dude, but I can’t change your plan. You need to call Roger’s to do that”.
The answer was painfully incoherent, but it came down to Roger’s not trusting their licensees (remember, this is Skippy’s take on the situation) and trying to lock me into a package that maximized profit for them and minimized usability for me. Skippy walked me through the routine (with many interjections of “Sorry dude, Roger’s makes us do this”) and, as we were wrapping up, pulled out the check lists to make sure he had done all the things he was supposed to. By this time, I was looking for the nearest exit to escape. Yes..you had shown me how the iPhone works. Yes, you explained all the nickle and dime charges imposed on me. Yes, you explained how Roger’s repossesses my home if I cancel early. Yes, you explained why the writing on the contract might not be what I actually get. Just let me go home.
And then, the final straw.
“Okay..you’re probably going to get a call from Roger’s to make sure I did my job right. I only get my points if you answer that you were ‘definitely satisfied'”
“No..I mean it. That’s the only answer that will give me the score I need. Will you answer that.” At this point, I swear to God, he gives me a photocopied sheet of paper with the right answer printed on it, circled with a check mark beside, just to jog my memory for the call. “You will say ‘Definitely Satisfied’, right?”
At this point, I was either ready to beat my self to death with my shiny new iPhone, or burst out laughing. Skippy was on the verge of tears. I could have launched into an explanation of how this was not the way to ensure customer satisfaction (but the irony is, he does this with every customer and it probably works most of the time. Whoever thought up this approach had done their psychological homework) but that would have cost me more precious hours of my life. I smiled my best paternal, sympathetic older dude to younger dude smile and said, “Sure man.”
Obviously, Roger’s is trying to police the quality of these licensee touchpoints through these ridiculous QA checklists and follow up phone calls, but it made the entire experience bizarre. I think a better approach would be to create reasonable plans, be proactive with existing customers in moving them into the right plans, be more transparent and fair with promotional deals, insist on better hiring practices and provide more value to customers. If they did all these things, their brand integrity could survive the odd fumble in the hands of a Skippy.