04/23/2013 11:18 EDT | Updated 06/23/2013 05:12 EDT

Rogers Customers Service Needs To Be 'Significantly' Improved, CEO Nadir Mohamed Says


TORONTO - Telecommunications giant Rogers plans to roll out a loyalty rewards program this year that gives bonuses for using a variety of its services, a move it hopes will keep customers from straying to a growing number of competitors.

Outgoing chief executive Nadir Mohamed said Tuesday the wireless, cable and media company needs to improve its customer service "significantly."

We "will actually further work to reinforce this idea that we value our customers (and) we reward our customers for staying with us," he told reporters before the Roger Communications (TSX:RCI.B) annual meeting in Toronto.

Customer service has been a longtime concern for Rogers, but its wireless operations have been under particular pressure in recent quarters as Bell (TSX:BCE) and Telus (TSX:T) have grabbed a larger share of postpaid phone subscribers.

During the fourth quarter, Rogers added 58,000 net postpaid subscribers, compared with Bell, which added almost 144,000 net postpaid customers, and Telus (TSX:T) which gained 123,000.

In the first quarter, reported Monday, Rogers said 32,000 postpaid accounts were signed up. Bell and Telus have yet to report their results.

Smaller competitors like Wind Mobile, Mobilicity and Public Mobile, have also added to an atmosphere where customers are expecting more service for less money.

Some longtime subscribers have turned to the Rogers customer service department to request discounts on their payments, and they want the company to demonstrate that it "values their tenure," Mohamed said.

The call for customer service improvements echoes comments Mohamed made when he took over the top job from company founder Ted Rogers in 2009. At that time, his speech focused on resolving technical and billing problems, and customer satisfaction.

Making customers happy can come at a big cost, especially when they demand discounts on their bills. A loyalty rewards system could help soften the financial blow to the company.

While details of the program weren't revealed, a broad range of the company's services will be included. It will also extend into Rogers banking and credit card services, which are expected to launch sometime this year.

"There's many things that tie in, but it's front and centre for us," Mohamed said.

Representatives for the company said a launch date announcement will happen in the near term.

During his speech to shareholders, Mohamed said the company will focus on resolving the top reasons for customer calls.

"There's no question we need to significantly improve customer service ... need to help our customers better understand what they get when they sign-up and we need to do a better job supporting them once they do," he said.

"This year we're focused on resolving the top reasons customers call, enhancing employee training and raising the bar on service levels."

Mohamed will step down as chief executive in January, and a search for his replacement is underway.

On Monday, Rogers reported a 15 per cent increase in first-quarter profit, helped partly by more subscribers upgrading their smartphones.

The company's stock closed down $1.80 at $50.28 on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

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