TELECOM

Incoming Rogers CEO expected to spark culture shift at cable giant

The Globe and Mail

Incoming Rogers’ CEO Guy Laurence. ‘One of the things that Guy brings is depth of experience on the customer experience and customer experience road map.’ (Carl Court/PA Archive/Press Association Ima)

There are high hopes at Rogers Communications Inc. that British telecom executive Guy Laurence has the expertise to solve the cable and wireless giant’s customer loyalty problems once he starts the top job later this year.

Chief financial officer Anthony Staffieri gave investors the first hints of what they can expect from his new boss who takes over as Rogers’s chief executive officer on Dec. 2. He will replace outgoing CEO Nadir Mohamed.

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“One of the things that Guy brings is depth of experience on the customer experience and customer experience road map. He has very much hands-on experience in having executed leading an organization to get a culture that really is customer first,” said Mr. Staffieri, addressing delegates at a telecom conference sponsored by the Bank of Nova Scotia on Thursday.

“That’s one area that I think we could really benefit from – notwithstanding the efforts that we’ve made on customer service and customer experience. There’s a real whole fundamental shift, not only for us but for the industry, on that front.”

Mr. Laurence, 51, most recently served as the CEO of Vodafone UK Ltd., where he grappled with many of the same challenges that Rogers now faces. He earned himself a reputation as being a seasoned turnaround specialist who was not afraid to employ unconventional methods.

At Vodafone UK, Mr. Laurence got rid of executive offices, eliminated the dress code, shook up the senior ranks, slashed costs, cut jobs and overhauled customer service with a new loyalty program – all in a bid to revamp its corporate culture.

The stakes are high for Rogers. As Canada’s largest carrier, the Toronto-based carrier is grappling with a maturing smartphone market and weaker customer retention relative to its incumbent peers.

During the third-quarter of 2013, Rogers trailed both Telus Corp. and BCE Inc. on its monthly postpaid churn rate, a measure that reflects how many top-end mobile customers leave the company.

Rogers reported a postpaid churn rate of 1.23 per cent. That compared with 1.2 per cent for BCE and 0.99 per cent for Telus.

But Rogers has taken some steps to address its customer-relations problem. Earlier this week, it announced that a new loyalty program was being launched in the Greater Toronto Area, and would soon be rolled out in Ottawa, Kingston, Sudbury and other Ontario communities.

Mr. Mohamed had previously spearheaded the creation of an ombudsman’s office, simplified the complaints process for customers and put a focus on tackling client grievances on social media platforms such as Twitter.

For his part, Mr. Laurence takes the helm at the height of the holiday shopping season – the busiest time for wireless carriers to attract new customers.

Sources say Mr. Laurence won the top job at Rogers with his focus on the customer. He prepared for job interviews by conducting mystery shopping excursions to some Rogers retail stores and those of its rivals. He even took part in discussions on online blogs so he could ask participants about products and services.

“Clearly, he brings a lot of energy, but significantly, operational depth and experience with a specific set of assets that we have. You quickly get the sense that he is an operator and a very hands-on operator,” Mr. Staffieri said.

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