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Building customer trust with a real voice

How working with Rogers helped a 150-year old family business stay in touch with their customers 

Zac Sutherland, Vice-President at Sutherland Insurance

Insurance isn’t something most people think about every day—at least, not until they need it. But when they do, insurance companies have the opportunity to earn loyal customers.

“Being a 150-year-old business, we really value the interaction with our clients,” says Zac Sutherland, Vice-President at Sutherland Insurance in Guelph, Ontario. “We believe the experience starts the moment somebody picks up the phone.”

As the fifth generation Sutherland to join the family firm, Zac has seen firsthand how responsive communication translates into customer confidence. “I don't believe you can create that trust if someone's on hold for half an hour,” explains Zac.  

Greeting every customer with a live response and never sending a call to voicemail (unless requested) is something Sutherland takes great pride in. Having the right business phone system is a vital part of delivering on that promise. When COVID-19 hit the business world, Sutherland Insurance needed a way to keep communications open, even when the office had to close.


With an office closure looming, Rick Charron, IT System Administrator and Manager, was tasked with making Sutherland’s mobile teams as effective outside the office as inside. “Continuing to answer every call live was a business priority” says Rick. “Designing a system that could both accommodate our outside clients as well as the internal staff was incredibly important.”

Rick Charron, IT System Administrator and Manager at Sutherland Insurance

Sutherland’s aging phone system wasn’t meeting their existing needs and limited their options for a mobile workforce. “We had Rogers for our cell phones, but our other services were scattered,” explains Zac. “Internet was with one provider and phones were with a third-party VoIP provider.”

When the pandemic hit, Sutherland’s planning kicked into high gear. “I asked Rick what else we needed to work remotely from an IT perspective,” recounts Zac. It turns out, they were already pretty close.


Like many companies that found themselves adapting to new ways of doing business when their office doors closed, Sutherland had embraced a remote work environment as part of their improvements. They started with Rogers UnisonTM, “the thing we loved most about it was its capability, and the fact that it’s built on a cellular network,” explains Zac. “It was a huge step up for us because our sales people were moving to an entirely mobile way of doing work.”

Enabling a mobile workforce was the goal, but to continue providing live-answer responses, receptionists play a key role. “In our case, Reception needs to know who's on the phone and when,” explains Rick. "And Rogers Unison lets them do that from anywhere.”

As the pandemic continued, more customers reached out with questions and adjustments to policies—making call volumes spike. This is where the scalability of the Hunt Groups feature of Rogers Unison was put into action. “We already had one hunt group set up for Reception pre-pandemic,” says Rick. “Then we set up a second Hunt Group for our customer service. Reception looks up the account and, if the rep is already on a call, we can give the customer the option to leave a voicemail or speak with someone else immediately.”

Rick wanted to ensure the customer would not be sent to voicemail automatically if everyone in the hunt group were on another call. “We wanted to give people the option to get back to Reception to get to a live person, so we put in the Auto Attendant feature after one ring,” says Rick.

Determining how to leverage features like Hunt Groups and Auto Attendant was part of the implementation process. “I don’t think we could have asked for a smoother transition,” says Zac. “We’d simply ask how to do it and the Rogers team helped us make the customer experience as tight as possible.”

Zac Sutherland, Vice-President at Sutherland Insurance


With the consolidated internet and business phone services live and in place, the next step was to test drive the remote experience. To ensure they identified any potential kinks, they tested the solution with staff who had almost never worked remotely.  Those results came in handy when the time came to trigger the emergency plan. “95% of our staff switched over on day one with no down time at all,” recalls Zac. “And that's thanks to our technology partners.”

The timing for consolidating internet and phone services with Rogers was ideal. “We were ready to go by the beginning of March,” says Rick. “When we asked our customers about the new phone system, a couple of comments came back saying they couldn't even tell that we had started working from home.”

Despite where their staff are located—most at home, with some now back in the office—responding to their customers in real time continues to be a top priority. As Zac notes, “the ability to connect seamlessly and to have all of our communications via cell phone, computer or whatever, that’s what gave us the confidence to make the move.” By letting a 150-year tradition of service guide how technology supports their business, Sutherland is able to navigate a time of upheaval while still helping customers prepare for the unexpected.