France Telecom’s employees may refuse to let go of their civil servant status in order to adapt to the fiercely competitive, customer service-oriented telecommunications market, but they have conceded to some operational changes designed to improve customer satisfaction. Noting that his new corporate charge has a very good image with the public, chief executive Michel Bon said the company had decided, nonetheless, to go on the offensive. Thus, after 15 months of internal survey and reflection, the operator has initiated a series of new commitments vis-a-vis its service to both professional and residential customers. The customer service campaign is expected to cost approximately $8m. The sum is peanuts, compared with the yearly $20m France Telecom already spends, on average, to survey customer attitudes. Now, when residential customers move, for example, the operator will transfer service without the customer having to return the rented phone to the nearest France Telecom agency. When a repairman visits a residential customer, the operator also promises to fix an appointment within a two-hour time span. If the repairman arrives one minute late, France Telecom will offer two months of basic telephone subscription for free. Residential customers whose phone service breaks down will get it restored on the next working day, at the latest.
Business customers with more than 10 lines will have it restored in four hours. Phones purchased at France Telecom agencies that break down, so long as they are still under guarantee, will now benefit from a replacement phone while they are repaired. Customers must still visit a France Telecom agency, however. Sales director Jean-Jacques Damlamian explained, We can’t afford to send a repairman to repair purchased phones. If you do that for your television, for example, it costs $40. Economically, it’s impossible, particularly in view of the competition. The operator also extended its agency hours to Saturday afternoon. As for further extensions, Damlamian said, We’re discussing it, but not announcing anything today. It’s a sensitive topic. He added that, in any case, such rules would not be published centrally, in order to leave provincial agencies free to close when they have no traffic. France Telecom has clearly before her a new challenge in an extremely competitive world, to show that a public service organisation renders excellent service to the public, Bon quipped. He added that none of the changes involve any additional cost to the customer.