Archive for the ‘Commentary’ Category

Tiscali in trouble, customers face uncertainty

Tuesday, March 10th, 2009


Tiscali, the ISP, had its shares suspended on the Italian stock exchange yesterday after warning it will not be able to meet interest payments, according to the Telegraph.

Over recent years the ISP has acquired several established ISPs in the UK. Tiscali then proceeded to reduce the quality of both the broadband and customer service that the customers of those ISPs, such as Pipex and Nildram, received. Both Pipex and Nildram previously had reputations as high quality or niche providers.

Tiscali had sought to sell its UK arm to another ISP and had been in talks with Sky but apparently was seeking more than Sky was willing to offer. The Telegraph puts Tiscali’s desired price at £500m whilst The Register puts the price at £600m for Tiscali’s 1.7 million UK subscribers. The Telegraph states that Sky was only prepared to pay £250m whilst The Register reckons Sky would pay no more than £450m. In today’s market with low margins on broadband connections, such prices are just plain silly if based solely on the customer list and not on Tiscali’s UK infrastructure.

Just last night on the first show in the new series of the Gadget Show on Channel Five, Tiscali’s telephone, TV and internet package was recommended as the best buy. Clearly the Gadget Show was only thinking about price and not quality of service. Whilst the Gadget Show may encourage new sign-ups to Tiscali, the recent news about the company may drive customers to request a MAC code and migrate away to another ISP before their broadband is cut off.

The Telegraph speculates that Sky may be waiting for Tiscali to enter administration before offering to buy the customer base at a discounted price. Such a move may be the only sensible course of action. Sky is attempting to maximise its market share, but not at any price.

If you are currently a subscriber to Tiscali but are looking for reliable broadband with excellent support, please call us on 0800 0199 340.

What’s happened to Carphone Warehouse, Charles?

Sunday, September 3rd, 2006

Customers of Carphone Warehouse (CW) may not realise that the company started life as a couple of concessions within large office supply superstores in London. As the company grew, and opened its own standalone branches it stressed its excellence in employee knowledge and customer service. However the standard of service provided by Carphone Warehouse today is indistinguishable from many other lousy organisations that epitomise the crappy British service sector.

This is no surprise to many of Carphone Warehouse’s customers, including Shirley Greening-Jackson. As reported by today’s Mail on Sunday, Mrs Greening-Jackson discovered that CW has adopted a policy of “no over-70s” for their TalkTalk broadband product, at least if they are unaccompanied by a younger member of their family.

A CW spokeswoman said that the discretionary policy was instituted in response to accusations that the company had mis-sold its products last year, presumably to more mature members of society. Sadly it didn’t instead choose to better train its staff so that they could explain the terms and conditions of their products to its customers in a clear and simple fashion.

As Mrs Greening-Jackson put it,

“Somebody has decided when you turn 70 you lose a lot of your mind. I find this is ridiculous.”

TalkTalk has come under fire for its poor service levels since it began offering its free broadband product earlier this year. Customers have waited months for their activation and welcome packs, only to be fobbed off by customer service staff when they eventually get through a TalkTalk call centre. Requests for a refund for service not provided are laughed off, according to one Support Lounge customer who realises that he made a mistake choosing the free broadband offer instead of paying for his service from a reliable provider.

Responding to complaints about the service from TalkTalk, CW founder and boss Charles Dunstone promised earlier this year that customer service staffing numbers would be increased to around 2,200 by this month, September, but had not made any pledges to improve the underlying processes which have caused such abysmal service in the first place.

Unlike other company bosses like Philip Green of BHS and the former chairmen of Marks and Spencer (M&S), for whom regular visits to their various branches were and are vitally important to their continued success, Charles Dunstone appears to be a Chief Executive in absentia. Aside from his latest of blog entries declaring that all is well, there has been little to indicate that Mr Dunstone actually understands how infuriating it is deal with his company, or that he ever visits his own stores.

Go shopping at Carphone Warehouse, Charles. Knowing the standard of staff at your branches, it’s doubtful they’d recognise you, so you’d experience what everyone else does – crappy service.

Free broadband – don’t get caught in the stampede

Monday, July 24th, 2006

It’s been a wild few months in the UK broadband industry. Only last week Sky threw its hat into the ring by offering a basic level of free broadband to its satellite TV subscribers. After all the initial hype. some questions are now being asked about whether such an offering is sustainable, and who the losers might be.

Since Carphone Warehouse’s TalkTalk announced its “free broadband forever” in April, it has struggled to keep up with demand From the outset of the TalkTalk offer, our customers have asked us if it was a good deal. And our response has been the same throughout:

You don’t get something for nothing. If your current broadband provider wants £15 a month to provide your broadband service and the infrastructure to deal with your queries and problems, how much investment do you think TalkTalk is making in the service department if they’re giving you broadband for free?

Of course it is a little more complex than that, because TalkTalk are providing these “free” broadband connections through Local Loop Unbundling (LLU), which means that they control the piece of wire between your premises and the telephone exchange instead of BT. This does allow them to save some money, but when things go wrong it’s not hard to see where the other savings lie.

One customer of ours waited 2 months for his welcome pack from TalkTalk, which included his modem. His request for a refund for the unusuable months fell on deaf ears. This is just the tip of the iceberg – consider the number of calls our customer made over the 2 months chasing his welcome pack.

According to the Sunday Times, TalkTalk is recruiting and training call centre staff as fast as it can, and hopes to have 2200 by September. That’s a lot of staff just answering the phone. Would they need so many if their systems were up to the job in the first place? Take our customer with the missing welcome pack. Would TalkTalk need to answer his repeated calls if it had just got his account dealt with in the first place?

TalkTalk has signed up 400,000 new customers since it launched its free broadband offer. Sky’s announcement last week, as well as Orange’s joining the scrum, has certainly moved the market to compete on price, or lack thereof.

Sky’s offering has a differentiating factor. They can provide an engineer to install broadband for you, albeit at a price. Will Sky invest enough in their self-help provisioning for customers so that they don’t resent forking out for a man in a van?

The broadband market has certainly been shaken up recently, but don’t count out the fee charging incumbents. Those customers who switch to a free alternative may be desperate enough to buy themselves out of their 18 month contracts and jump back into a subscription model if they are continually let down by a lack of service from the free alterantives.

See also

Broadband Rush May End In Bloodbath