Telus is fighting back against the consumer perception that Canada’s big telecommunications companies are all the same with a new brand platform and campaign.
Developed by The & Partnership, the “Expect More” platform reflects the company’s ongoing efforts in maintaining customer satisfaction. Aside from a tactical holiday campaign, it is The & Partnership’s first major work for Telus since winning the business last summer from the company’s longtime agency Taxi, which held the assignment for almost 18 years..
Denise Bombier, Telus’ Toronto-based director of marketing communications, said the company embarked on an internal strategy called “Customers First” just over five years ago.
“If it doesn’t enhance the customer experience, we’re not going to do it,” said Bombier. “If you stop anyone in our hallways and ask what our number one priority is, that’s what they’re going to say.”
The strategy has helped Telus maintain a customer churn rate below 1% for five consecutive quarters (tops among all North American telcos), while internal research suggests 95% of customers rate its customer service as excellent or good.
The company also claims it accounted for only 4.4% of complaints to the Commission for Complaints for Telecommunications Services (CCTS) in the first part of the year, despite boasting an estimated 28% of the country’s wireless user base, according to the CRTC’s 2014 Communications Monitoring Report.
However, Telus executives felt the company was still being unfairly lumped in with the industry as a whole when it came to negative customer perception. “We’ve felt over the last several years that although we’ve been talking about it, not enough people know that we’re different,” said Bombier.
“Many people fail to see any difference between Telus and the competition,” said Andrew Bailey, CEO and partner at The & Partnership. “In their minds, Telus is no different than Rogers or Bell, when [both] empirically and qualitatively there’s a big difference.”
The “Expect More” campaign launched with a 30-second spot called “Scream” that opens on a man on the phone, being told that his wait time to speak with a customer service representative is 47 minutes. The spot continues with a series of images of people screaming in frustration, backed by the Supremes’ 1966 Billboard No. 1 hit “You Keep Me Hanging On.”
The spots direct to the website Telus.com/ExpectMore, which highlights some of the company’s recent customer satisfaction scores. Anne-Marie LaBerge, VP of brand and communications, has also written a blog post underscoring the company’s commitment to better customer service.
“It’s the opening salvo if you will,” said Bailey of the “Scream” spot. “It’s really meant to acknowledge the frustration consumers feel around that service. We tried to dramatize that it in a way that resonates and is true. It’s a message that’s really honest, humble and true, and hopefully done in a way that’s quite breakthrough for the category.”
The TV spot is being supported by social media efforts, led by a real-time operation within The & Partnership that sees staffers crafting individual responses to questions/comments directed towards Telus on Facebook, even those that are less than complimentary.
In one recent Facebook exchange, for example, a man named Colton told Telus he had left Rogers for Bell, reasoning that all telcos are “pretty similar.” Asked by Telus if he would give the company a chance to woo him, he responded “Have a bear give a walrus a high five in a commercial.”
Within 45 minutes, the company had uploaded a 24-second commercial called “Hi Colton” to YouTube. The spot showed people wearing a bear and a walrus costume high-fiving and then hugging, accompanied by a Telus rep saying “Is this what you’d get anywhere else?” The man’s response: “Well I guess I lost that battle.”
“We believe that any modern campaign has to be one that not only encourages dialogue with consumers, but allows us to be very responsive to what consumers are saying,” said Bailey of the social media efforts.
The campaign’s second phase will launch within several weeks, and will feature what Bailey described as “very clear communication” underscoring the qualities that distinguish Telus from its competitors.
The campaign’s launch spot also features an appearance by the iconic Telus “critters,” with a hippopotamus featured against the familiar white backdrop. There was considerable speculation about whether The & Partnership would retain the critters, which have been the backbone of Telus’ consumer marketing for years.
However, Bailey told Marketing their future was never in doubt. “[They] are one of the most iconic branding vehicles in the Canadian marketplace,” he said. “It would have been really easy – and really foolish – for us to say ‘Let’s make a change’ for the sake of making of a change.
“What we’ve hopefully done well is deliver a message in a way that hopefully breaks through and clearly communicates what we’re trying to get across, while still incorporating the charm and wit of the critters.”
Added Bombier: “The critters will always remain as part of our creative toolbox; there’s new and interesting ways bring our messaging to life, and we’re open to looking at them, [but] critters remain part of the toolkit.”
Bailey was non-committal when asked if the hippo would feature in the campaign’s second phase. “You’ll have to watch,” he said.
The campaign comes amid increased consumer power in the wireless sector, courtesy of a new wireless code introduced by the CRTC that enables customers to opt out of their wireless contract after two years (compared to three previously) and requires them to give no more than 30 days notice with no cancellation fee.