One month before the launch of iPhone 3G, Steve Jobs addressed a crowd at the Apple Developers Connection. 30 days later one of the most embarrassing corporate SNAFUs in Canadian history occurred. It is yet to be seen whose head will roll for it.
It is highly unlikely that the company's namesake, founder Ted Rogers, will get the boot. It will more likely be someone listed on the company's Board of Directors page.
How serious the damage has been to Rogers bottom line is yet to be added up. The company's annual projections no doubt factored in strong sales for Apple's iPhone, which Rogers has locked up in an exclusive deal for the Canadian territory.
The day of Jobs announcement I decided to call a Rogers operator (I've been a wireless customer since 1998) to ask about the availability of the iPhone, rates, etc. I was bumrushed by the operator who said they had no info, and to go visit my local Rogers Wireless dealer.
When I visited the store later that day, they also were clued out on the terms. They only knew about the July 11th release date. They were taking deposits ($50) though, and I wound up number five on their list. I found out later that this "waiting list" was spiked by the head office the next day. Fortunately the dealer honoured the names collected on that first day.
What happened next would give you the impression that Rogers were a bunch of beet farmers, not a billion dollar communications service provider.
First there was the ridiculous data and voice packages. The packages themselves were designed for maximum pain, low in talk minutes with costly data usage plans. Howls of public protest ensued, and Rogers relented by offering a short term (expires before Labour Day) bargain data package for $30 per month. The company also clarified that existing talk packages could be retained by current Rogers customers.
This kind of "tweaking" just weeks before a monumental product launch demonstrates a severe corporate incompetence, not the ability to be flexible to consumers as the company tried to spin it.
The hiccups aside, Rogers looked to have saved themselves prior to July 11th. The breathless iPhone fanboys began to camp outside Rogers wireless dealerships. It smacked of Xbox 360 or Tickle Me Elmo sales. My Rogers store even called me at 5pm on July 10th warning me to stay away: "Don't come until Sunday – it's going to be too crazy here."
On the morning of July 11 I rode by another dealer and saw that by 11am there were no line-ups. I decided to visit my store at Oakridge. There were 4 counter sales people doing nothing, and one customer in the store.
Wha' happened?? Rogers computer system crashed. Ooops. Even Rogers Video rental business suffered under the weight of demand created hours earlier in the Eastern time zones.
People who queued for hours, even slept on the sidewalk overnight, were told to go home. No phone activations could be done.
As luck would have it, when I dropped in at noon the system began to work again, albeit VERY sloooowly. It would take FOUR HOURS for the phone activation to occur. I went back to my office, and returned at 4:30pm to pick up my iPhone.
I was the FIRST iPhone sold at that very busy Rogers store ALL DAY and it was almost closing time.
I can't even think of how many millions of dollars Rogers has lost thanks to this series of screw ups. If I was a stockholder I would be just a little annoyed, and looking for answers.
Rogers seems to have a sickness within that is infecting customer relations, their own efficiency, and possibly their bottom line. As one of the largest telecommunications companies in the world, they must evaluate their failure to launch iPhone 3G and take actions to make sure it doesn't happen again. Alternative providers are just waiting for the chance to take Rogers on.