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Keeping Customers And Communities Connected: Cogeco’s COVID-19 Response

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By Martin Aubut An Internet connection may not be quite as important as food and water, but during COVID-19 it’s probably safe to say it became an important staple for consumers and businesses alike. For those living in a small, quarantined area, for example, services like phone, TV and Internet

By Martin Aubut

An Internet connection may not be quite as important as food and water, but during COVID-19 it’s probably safe to say it became an important staple for consumers and businesses alike.

For those living in a small, quarantined area, for example, services like phone, TV and Internet offered a critical link to the outside world. The need is even greater for frontline workers such as doctors in medical centres, or companies that helped keep our economy going.

At Cogeco, we faced a lot of pressure to maintain connectivity for all our residential and business customers — regardless of who they were — and to make sure they didn’t experience any disruption to vital digital services. We were able to achieve this in part by counting on our reliable and robust network, but also on our heroes in the field.

Sometimes we need these exceptional events to remind us how amazing our employees are. In this case, our team completely changed their operations schedule and worked tirelessly, making the most of the time when they were working on the network and self-install solutions.

It was not rare, for example, to see some of our technicians working at night when Quebec and Ontario were sleeping, to make sure that our clients would be able to work during the day. This was especially critical between periods like 11:00 am and 2:00 pm, when we saw major peaks in network utilization. Teams in our Network Operational Centres, meanwhile, were busy monitoring systems 24 hours a day in case of a network emergency.

Proving the value of planning ahead

Fortunately, Cogeco Connexion had conducted extensive business continuity preparations to ensure that our customers could maintain their access to services as the situation evolved. We have also invested heavily in our fibre-broadband infrastructure over the past years to build bandwidth capability and to achieve high levels of reliability and redundancy. All this allowed the network to accommodate increased levels of demand during this time, especially as work-from-home arrangements became increasingly necessary.

We didn’t just see an increase in network usage overall as COVID-19 unfolded. As social distancing became the norm in business and society, we also saw a massive change in some behaviours, such as the use of chat for customer service.

There was a drastic acceleration in the deployment of our self-install solutions. These became a fantastic way to reduce physical interaction between consumers and technicians for installation, product upgrades and equipment swap. If a customer was experiencing some issues with their installation, we equipped our technicians with a video application to continue supporting them directly from their trucks without going into the home.

Offering trusted local information

Collaboration was the key between teams: the digital, social media, PR and website teams did an amazing job quickly aligning content information to the organization’s strategic objectives and decisions.

The same was true across sales and marketing to keep customers updated in real time. It was amazing how everyone was playing their role; it made me remember my time at a startup! For example, we managed to forget the hierarchies we usually have in an organization and focused on being fully transparent and authentic. We also conducted meetings across the organization to plan how to face challenges and scope solutions. It was a process of ‘deploy, integrate, report, iterate and repeat.’

Cogeco also plays a special role in providing information to communities through our local TV stations. Creativity and adaptability were essential: our Community Relations team shifted from events to helping with food bank donations and gifts for medical employees. At every stage we shared information as soon as it became available, quickly becoming the trusted voice for news and information in all of our communities.

We worked closely with municipalities and were seen as an essential and unique vehicle to share important messages and information.

Interestingly, we saw our Net Promoter Score increase during the crisis. Salesforce Marketing cloud was key to orchestrating near real-time communication between Cogeco Connexion and the consumer base. Email was clearly the right channel to communicate in a timely manner with relevant information. We were able to turn around email creation from brief, design, integration, QA, and communication push in less than 3 hours.

Salesforce was at the centre of the successful self-install consumer experience, leveraging marketing automation capabilities to simplify the consumer onboarding process and collect customer feedback and NPS at the right moment after installation.

Demonstrating compassion and caring

Beyond ensuring customers had the services they needed, we had to make some important decisions as COVID-19 continued to unfold and their situation changed. In many cases this meant reviewing their options and taking steps to protect their safety.

Since the pandemic began, for instance, we have transitioned virtually all of our contact centre and office employees to work from home, and have converted customer visits to remote repairs in part through the use of new customer-friendly video technology. We have also transitioned all store operations to be handled either online, by phone or by mail, and increased network capacity in certain areas to handle higher traffic. We clearly see consumer behaviour shifting toward online tools such as chat, to browsing TV channels online, and buying via e-commerce.

“Supporting customers” takes on new meaning during a crisis like this, which is why Cogeco also offered a high number of free previews of movies, family, and local news channels. We also participated in the Connecting Families initiative, offering discounted Internet services to eligible lower income families, and we were among the first companies to commit to donate to the COVID-19 Emergency Fund of Centraide (United Way) of Greater Montreal aimed at ensuring food security during this crisis. Our company has also supported several food banks in its local communities across its network.

As the economy progressively reopens, our focus will remain on our customers—providing them the best customer experience by leveraging our tools and customer service expertise, as well as continuing to expand our reliable and redundant network. We will continue to focus on our goal to expand our network and connect more unserved or underserved areas aligned with our government’s ambition to connect all Canadians to high-speed internet.

This crisis may be taking longer to overcome than any of us would like, but in the meantime, we want to offer an end-to-end digital experience along the customer journey towards a post-pandemic world.

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