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Rogers CEO: telecom industry must provide better time-savings for its customers

TORONTO - The head of Rogers Communications says the telecom sector needs to do a better job in providing technology that reduces how much time their customers spend on daily tasks like shopping, banking and travelling.

"If we don't understand how valuable their time is, and design what do with this in mind, then we will be irrelevant," Rogers CEO Guy Laurence said Monday at the Canadian Telecom Summit, an annual industry event.

He said consumers — especially since the recession — want to do their day-to-day tasks online while business and public sector customers want technology to improve company productivity.

He said busy parents, for example, are willing to pay more to have their groceries delivered to the door.

"Let's be clear. It's not that they're trying to avoid the groceries, it's about buying back two hours of their life every week."

Laurence said Canada's wireless industry hasn't done enough deliver on time-savings, pointing to thousands of pricing plans that force consumers to spend time researching telecom companies' best buys online and to customers forced to cool their heels waiting for assistance from call centres.

"Lots of people don't want to call a call centre. They want to go online and solve it in three minutes, not 30," Laurence said.

"Don't get me wrong. I think there will always be call centres but are we really bringing in enough simplicity to our customers?"

Laurence didn't provide any specifics on what improvements Rogers' has planned but he recently announced changes to simplify the Toronto-based company's organizational structure, a move that he said will make it more responsive to market trends. He said management positiions would be cut but suggested there may be more front-line jobs dealing with customers.

In terms of the Canadian economy, Laurence said both business and the public sector are looking for ways to improve their productivity.

He said it's estimated that mobile apps save businesses almost 600 million hours annually, from handling logistics to inventories.

"I think we can do a lot more," Laurence said "I think Canadian business and the public sector are underserved by technology in the quest to be more productive and give back more time."

He said statistics show only 5.3 per cent of Canadian retail sales are done online, even though half of the public browses retail stores online.

"Maybe you think that's OK. Maybe you think it will develop over time," Laurence said. "I don't think it's OK. I don't think we have a choice but to rapidly develop our efforts in giving customers more time. "

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