The 800-number is a thing of the past for Daily Tidings subscribers, who now have a local telephone number — 541-776-4455 — to reach customer service staff all day, every day about delivery issues.
Soon after assuming ownership of the Mail Tribune and Daily Tidings in June, Publisher Steven Saslow replaced a distant call center with local customer service employees, beefing up the circulation department with new hires to improve consistent delivery.
"One of the first changes that we did was to restore customer service," Saslow said. "It's one of the most important things to maintain the compact, that is the agreement between the newspapers and its subscribers, to not only get them the newspaper, or its digital version, in a timely manner, but to be there with a local force of people who can handle what they need — any issue they have 24/7 — not an off-site 800-number. We've accomplished that, and it's working well."
Saslow said it's important for customers to get what they've paid for, whether it's a missed paper, vacation stop or a new start.
Circulation operations manager Georgie Cook said the one-on-one contact has alleviated a lot of customer angst.
"Now that we're locally owned, we're able to speak with them directly and offer better service, pricing and better one-on-one contact versus being corporate and all the rigmarole that goes with that," Cook said. "We have more district managers so we can troubleshoot and get problems resolved immediately, whether it's placing the paper in a certain location or placing a tube."
Cook said carrier routes have been realigned to improve on-time delivery, and a third district manager was hired to improve follow-up.
Familiarity with the region and direct knowledge of local weather or other issues is helpful — and something that distant call-center employees lacked, said customer service representative Vicki Risner.
"We want to treat them like our neighbors, because we live next to them, we understand what's going on in the valley," Risner said. "A call center in a distant state or country doesn't have a clue what it's like to be in Southern Oregon. We're the same people they see at Albertsons, they see at the fairgrounds, that they see around the valley."
Saslow said delivery will be improved by adding more carriers and having more people on call to fill in when someone is sick.
"We want to make sure we are fulfilling the promise we've made," he said.