IT heads cry foul over telco costs, service

Recent revelations about levels of service in New Zealand's telecommunications companies are borne out by this week's Computerworld Top 1000 survey. We polled IT managers at 30 of New Zealand's leading businesses and discovered a high level of dissatisfaction with telecommunications companies and their service. Twenty of the respondents were unhappy with the costs involved with telecommunications services.

Recent revelations about levels of service in New Zealand's telecommunications companies are borne out by this week's Computerworld Top 1000 survey.

We polled IT managers at 30 of New Zealand's leading businesses and discovered a high level of dissatisfaction with telecommunications companies and their service.

Twenty of the respondents were unhappy with the costs involved with telecommunications services.

"I think Telecom is engaged in a ‘smoke and mirrors' exercise when it comes to ISDN," says one manager, who did not wish to be named.

"The costs of ISDN are prohibitive and it's impacting on Internet development around New Zealand." He says Telecom charges too much for what he believes is a fairly straightforward service.

The manager, who works with a large tourism company, thinks Telecom's customer service is getting better, but would like to see a level playing field in the telecommunications field.

"I think government should be more involved in regulation — not in running the market but in ensuring the market is run fairly."

But Mark Winnard, financial controller for BHP Steel Building Products, believes that in our deregulated economy, government intervention would be inappropriate.

"You can't say ‘give me a return but you're not allowed to do XYZ'."

Winnard believes his company is "being milked" with regards to data transfer costs but wouldn't look at changing providers unless there was a significant saving involved.

"Yes, we'd look at anything that would save us a large amount of money, but for a small amount we're not interested. We try to stay loyal to the people who supply our services."

Quality of service was a big issue among respondents. While 24 out of 30 respondents were generally pleased with the quality of service, all qualified their responses with statements like "it's Okay", "could be better," and "very little choice in the matter".

Winnard says the technical support BHP receives is excellent, but the customer service provided by Clear is second to none.

Pat Roy, a consultant with Card Smart, a financial services company, would jump at the chance to unify his telecommunications package under one provider, preferably not Telecom. "Telecom's customer service attitude borders on arrogance. If I worked that way, I'd be hung, drawn and quartered." Roy cites problems with correcting account errors as one area Telecom should improve. He signed up with Telecom believing that dealing with one company would make business easier, but now says that if any other company offered a package deal of tolls, ISP and cellular, he would move regardless of cost.

"Even if it were slightly more expensive I'd still seriously look at it. If there's one area Telecom hasn't factored in, I guess it's quality customer service."

The majority of respondents use Telecom for their entire telecommunications package — local calls, toll, cellular and ISP — but the smaller players are slowly gaining ground. Clear is the second most popular ISP and toll provider.

Some respondents felt that Telecom was abusing its "monopoly position" and stifling other companies' ability to offer a complete package deal.

On a personal note, the majority of respondents believe Rod Deane is paid too much as CEO, despite Telecom's $800 million profit result.

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