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Is there any company that can provoke rage in customers more than their telecommunications provider?
That’s the theme of a new ad campaign – for a telco. Namely, Telus Corp.
The company is at the start of what executives say is a major shift in its brand platform, and that involved a hard look at consumer sentiment toward wireless providers.
“Consumers are right – you know how much people love to hate telcos. The relationship with telcos has not been what it should be for years,” said Anne-Marie Laberge, vice president of brand and marketing communications for Telus. “The first thing we need to tell consumers is, they’re right, they should expect more.”
The new television ad, which launched Wednesday, features a montage of people screaming in frustration after dealing with bad customer service.
It is meant to highlight the work that the company has been doing since 2010 to improve its customer service processes. That work has yielded some benefits: according to the federal Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services (CCTS), in the second half of 2014, Telus was the subject of far fewer complaints than the other big-three telcos in Canada, BCE Inc. and Rogers Communications. (BCE owns 15 per cent of The Globe and Mail.)
But as one of the three big telcos, Telus’s brand perception among many Canadians does not line up with those numbers, Ms. Laberge said.
“There was a big gap between what we are and what people believe we are,” she said. “We needed a huge lift in trust with consumers.”
Nearly one year ago, Telus announced it was ending an 18-year relationship with its ad agency, Taxi, and hired The&Partnership, a WPP PLC-backed amalgam of agencies.
While it has held on to its “friendly critters” – animals that Telus has used for years to project a relatable image – Ms. Laberge said that a major “change in tone” was needed.
“We have to have a massive humility and self-awareness moment, and tell consumers we recognize their frustration,” she said.
The campaign comes at a time of mounting competition in the industry.
Thanks to a new national wireless code that was imposed by the federal telecommunications regulator in 2013, three-year mobile phone contracts will end as of June 3.
This will liberate millions of subscribers who will be free to shop around for wireless services, in addition to customers with regular contracts that are expiring – a phenomenon referred to in the industry as the “double cohort.”
Ms. Laberge said the new marketing push has nothing to do with the double cohort. Work started on the initiative in November.
Regardless, the timing is good for any wireless providers hoping to warm up to customers, as competition increases.
“We are humanizing our brand. What that means is around transparency, humility, responsiveness,” she said. “Consumers don’t want to deal with a corporation. They want to deal with people.”