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Good customer relations takes multiple strategies. (Perspective).

One of the main goals of a rural telecommnunications company is to maintain good relationships with its customers. At Egyptian Telephone Cooperative Association, in Steeleville, Ill., we focus heavily on creating a bond with our members/customers. As with most telecommunications companies, we want customers to feel a strong relationship with our company and be compelled to trust us with all their telecommunications needs.

Rather than trying to choose our most valuable line of communication with the customer, we think of all our sources as playing an equal role in our communications processes. Each service technician, customer service representative and staff member, as well as our monthly local service statement, monthly newsletter, bill stuffers newspaper ads, radio ads, billboard ads, etc., represents Egyptian as a whole and portrays our image and message to our customers.

We use our monthly newsletter as a basis for getting information to customers. Updates on specials such as giveaways, new service offerings, new products and overall happenings at Egyptian are included in the newsletter.

We also strive to connect with customers by offering specials that entice them to act by either mailing in a bill stuffer for a new service feature, or by placing a call to one of our customer service representatives for details. Advertisements for features also are placed on all service trucks as "driving billboards."

To further strengthen our relationship with customers, we educate them about the cooperative's business decisions. At our yearly meetings, we bring members up to date on industry changes, as well as changes within the cooperative. We also put detailed messages in our bill statements to inform them of any news.

Often, we give away a low-penetrated or low revenue-generating product to customers. In December, we mailed prepaid calling cards as a retention tool to customers and as a thank-you for their loyalty Our primary goal is to have a positive impact on customers when they receive the card, plus get them in the habit of using Egyptian calling cards.

We also offer long-distance, digital subscriber line (DSL), call waiting and voice mail services at a sharply discounted rate. When customers use multiple services, they generally are more loyal to the company, and the long-term revenue from multiple-service use adds up for the cooperative.

Even if the threat of basic telephone service competition isn't knocking on your door, it is still looming. As technology changes and prices lower, basic services will become even more vuinerable.

To compensate for this, we continually work to offer unique benefits that make Egyptian stand out from the competition.

For example, we offer the convenience of e-biling and discounted rates for customers who use bank-deduct or prepayment for Internet charges. We also offer local service, calling features and long-distance minutes as a bundled package to help strengthen our one-stop-shop image.

Our philosophy is that it doesn't matter what we perceive to be good customer relations, it's what the customer thinks that counts.

We all want customers to know us as the progressive, state-of-the-art companies that we have become. At Egyptian Telephone, we listen to customer inquiries and respond, because no telco can afford to sit back and ignore the importance of forming relationships with customers. Years ago, it was the product that built the telephone company. Today, it's the service-oriented company that will survive.

Karen Middendorf is marketing manager at Egyptian Telephone Cooperative Association []. She can be reached at
COPYRIGHT 2003 National Telephone Cooperative Association
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Author:Middendorf, Karen
Publication:Rural Telecommunications
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2003
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