Case Study

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CASE 2

FOUR CUSTOMERS IN SEARCH OF SOLUTIONS

OVERVIEW

Four telephone subscribers from the same street in a suburb of Toronto complain individually to Bell Canada about a variety of different problems. Is there more to each problem than might appear on the surface? Does it offer Bell a marketing opportunity?

TEACHING OBJECTIVES

• Provoke a discussion of the potential underlying causes of consumer complaints.

• Highlight the fact that complaints are often opportunities in disguise, because they may enable the firm to satisfy the customer by not only resolving the immediate problem, but also selling additional services that provide useful solutions to ongoing needs.

STUDY QUESTIONS

1.Based strictly on the information in the case, how many possibilities do you see to segment the telecommunications market?

2.As a customer service representative at the telephone company, how would you address each of the problems and complaints reported?

3.Do you see any marketing opportunities for Bell Canada in any of these complaints?

ANALYSIS

1. Based strictly on the information in the case, how many possibilities do you see to segment the telecommunications market?

The background information for the case already highlights geographic segmentation (all the customers live on the same street in the same suburb of Toronto) and segmentation on socio-economic grounds, because the location is a “middle-class suburb.”

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Copyright © 2007 Christopher H. Lovelock

Additional segmentation possibilities raised by the case include:

• Value of usage: Winston Chen is in the ninety-eighth percentile of all Canadian household bills—a big spender on telecommunications; Robbins is a relatively heavy user, being at the seventy-fifth percentile; Portillo is average, being at the median level. Finally, Vanderbilt is a low spender, being in the bottom 10 percent of all household subscribers.

• Location of numbers called: International calls are made by Chen to Southeast Asia, by Portillo to Mexico and South America, and by Robbins to the United States. Long-distance calls within Canada are made by Chen and Robbins. Presumably, all four subscribers make local calls.

• Time of calling: Calls are readily identified by time of day and date. We know about Chen and Robbins’ calling patterns, but the phone company would be able to identify dates and times for all charged calls.

• Nature of problems encountered: Chen is concerned about overcharging, Portillo about missed calls, Vanderbilt about obscene calls, and Robbins about poor sound quality.

• Types of services and equipment used: The phone company will have records of what value-added services (e.g., call waiting, caller ID, call forwarding) each customer subscribes to. If the customer has purchased equipment—such as an answering machine or fax—directly from the company, hew or she will know about that, too (some phone companies sell equipment, others don’t). The case tells us only that Portillo subscribes to no value-added services and that Robbins has an answering machine.

2.As a customer service representative, how would you address each of the problems and complaints reported?

An important start is to gain further information about the nature of the problem by asking questions of the customer.

Chen: Is the problem one of charging for calls that were never made? Does he recognize all the phone numbers actually dialed? Alternatively, is he being charged too much for a specific call? Does the length of each call as identified on the bill seem too long? Chen’s complaint may simply be that Bell’s prices are too high. If he says he never made a specific call, then it would probably be best to give him the benefit of the doubt and offer a refund on that call without further argument—unless the record shows that he...
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