"We know how much you rely on our networks and I sincerely apologize."
I'm not sure what makes me more upset...
The fact that Rogers let me (and millions of other Canadians) down this past weekend when we were forced to go without the cell or internet services on which we rely so heavily (and for which we pay the company such exorbitant monthly fees)...
... or the lazy corporate apology that followed once services were finally restored.
So I'm going to talk about both, and then suggest what needs to happen next.
I had it better than most Rogers customers on Friday.
As a knowledge worker who relies on the internet to make a living, I wasn't able to be productive on Friday, and I'll need to make up for that this week. I'm not happy about that.
But I wasn't a retailer that lost revenue because I couldn't accept payments via Interac.
I wasn't a traveller trying to get back into the country.
And I didn't need any emergency services, thankfully, although the fact that both my cell and internet are with Rogers (and I don't have a landline) is suddenly very concerning to me.
For me, the outage was annoying and inconvenient, but not devastating.
It could have been much worse. And for many people, it was.
The internet is no longer a "nice to have" for Canadians, it's a "need to have".
And while mistakes happen, the fact that it took Rogers so long to restore critical services for many people and businesses is a real problem that should not be ignored... or excused.
Tony Staffieri, President and CEO of Rogers Communications, sent me (and presumably, millions of other Canadians) an apology email on Sunday morning.
You'd think a company that makes as many mistakes as Rogers would know how to apologize properly, but that's clearly not the case.
Let's have a look at some of the email's messaging, shall we?
(If you were lucky enough not to be a Rogers customer this weekend, you probably didn't get the email... so I've included a screenshot of the full text at the end of this post.)
From: Rogers <email@example.com>
It would have been really easy to have these apology emails sent from Tony Staffieri's actual email address and then have any replies sent directly to him for review. Instead, the email came from "firstname.lastname@example.org" and replies were directed to "reply-febb107870610174-1517_HTMLemail@example.com". But, hey, why bother to make an apology email personal and human, right?
"Dear Valued Customer"
I know that Rogers knows my name because it's at the very top of every monthly invoice they send me. So why is the email addressed to "Valued Customer" instead of to me, personally? Rogers, it doesn't take much effort to set up a mail merge and at least pretend to care.
"I am reaching out to share our services have been restored..."
Does this section need to be included, or could you have simply assumed that when I got an EMAIL from you, I was smart enough to know my email services had been restored?
"We know how much you rely on our networks and I sincerely apologize."
Thanks, Tony... but why this was the eighth sentence in your email instead of the first?
"We will proactively credit your account for Friday’s outage. This credit will be automatically applied and no action is required from you."
So you're not going to charge me for the services you didn't deliver and I don't have to spend an hour of my time with your customer service team to ask that I not be charged? Tony, that's literally the very least you can do. Now, how will you compensate me, and the millions of other Canadians who went without service, for the inconvenience you caused?
"As CEO, I take full responsibility for ensuring we at Rogers earn back your full trust, and am focused on the following action plan to further strengthen the resiliency of our network..."
Right after the apology, what you're going to do to ensure this doesn't happen again is the most important part of your email.
But your action plan is "get services back online", "figure out what happened", and then "make any necessary changes"... without committing to any specific changes.
This leaves a lot to be desired, to say the least.
What Needs to Happen Next
I doubt there's a single person impacted by this weekend's service outage that doesn't believe this won't happen again eventually.
After all, a similar outage affecting all Rogers wireless customers happened just last year, in April 2021... so why should we expect this one was the last?
And since the "action plan" communicated in Tony Staffieri's email was essentially non-existent, allow me to suggest what needs to happen next to ensure Rogers is truly motivated to do better.
1. Introduction of a Telecommunications Customer Bill of Rights
In 2019, the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) finalized the Air Passenger Protection Regulations. The regulations, while not perfect, protect passengers by forcing airlines to adhere to a minimum set of standards when it comes to the services they deliver... and to compensate passengers when those minimum standards aren't delivered.
I'd argue that because telecommunication services are much more critical than travel for most Canadians, a Telecommunications Customer Bill of Rights is long overdue.
It's not enough for Rogers to simply credit inconvenienced customers for a day's worth of missed service. Not charging customers for services not delivered to them is hardly a reward for customers; where's the compensation for a customer's inconvenience? And it's not a material loss for Rogers, so what's the company's incentive to get better?
Now, what would happen if the federal government were to introduce rules that penalized telecommunication companies for inadequate services?
For example, what if one of these rules said that if the company can't deliver internet services for more than four consecutive hours, individuals are entitled to their entire month of services for free and businesses are entitled to a percentage of lost revenues directly associated with the outage?
Do you think this type of financial penalty might encourage Rogers to be more careful with their system updates, and have better backup plans in place for when mistakes happen?
I certainly do.
After all, Rogers doesn't hesitate to charge me a penalty if I fail to pay my monthly bill on time... so why shouldn't they be forced to pay me a penalty if they fail to deliver the services I'm paying to receive? That seems fair, doesn't it?
2. Incentivize Increased Competition in the Canadian Telecommunications Sector
Do you know why Rogers didn't proactively offer customers compensation for the inconvenience they caused us this weekend?
Because they don't have to.
The competition in Canada's telecommunication sector is essentially non-existent, and so Canadians unhappy with Rogers' performance this weekend have very few options.
This needs to change.
The federal government needs to not only invite foreign competitors to enter the Canadian market but also take steps to actively encourage it.
How? Offer low-interest loans to build parallel communication networks. Give new entrants priority on all future spectrum auctions. Offer tax incentives for companies to come to Canada and offer affordable services to Canadians. These are just three ideas, and I don't even work in the sector... I'm sure those that do can come up with better incentives.
How nonchalant do you think Rogers would be about a service outage if angry customers could easily switch to giants like AT&T, Verizon, and Google for their communication needs?
They're not worried about customer churn because they have no reason to be.
So let's give them a reason.
3. Monotorium on any Industry Consolidation
Needless to say, Rogers proposed merger with Shaw needs to be stopped, immediately.
Further, there needs to be a moratorium on any proposed consolidation going forward.
Because, as above, we need more competition in the market... not less.
Sometimes "sorry" isn't enough.
We all make mistakes.
It's an inevitable part of being human. (And let's remember, companies are run by humans.)
But when mistakes happen, people need to be held accountable.
A sincere apology is a good and necessary first step.
But it's only the first step.
Rogers has claimed to be "Canada's Most Reliable Network" in countless advertisements, and doing so has no doubt gained them new customers who want (or need) that level of reliability. But when they can't live up to that promise, "sorry" isn't enough.
Not for failing to deliver services that so many Canadians rely upon.
Rogers needs to not only be held accountable for what happened, but also penalized so they have a real incentive to ensure it doesn't happen again.
And given the lack of competition in Canada's telecommunications sector, it's long past time the federal government stepped in to ensure Canadians get the type of service we deserve.
UPDATE: Just as I was about to hit publish on this post, I learned that François-Philippe Champagne, Canada's Industry Minister, will meet with the CEOs of Rogers Communications Inc. and other major telecommunications companies on Monday to discuss improving network reliability. Let's hope Minister Champagne's agenda extends far beyond that.
P.S. If you're interested, below is a screenshot of the email Rogers sent me this weekend.