This Month's Comments:
Clicking To Stay Competitive
I just read your recent article, "Web-Enabling The Call
Center: Your Customers Are Only A Click Away" by Steven Haines (INTERNET
January 2000). The competitive playing field has become much larger
due, in part, to the ever expanding role of the Internet and electronic
Companies find their competitive advantage by refreshing and expanding
their information assets every day. Competition is affected by the speed
of collecting, analyzing, and delivering information.
The faster information can be delivered, the more valuable it is
assuming it is correct and that some action is taken with it. Because of
the accessibility of the Internet, when you fail to satisfy one customer,
he has the potential of sharing his unsatisfactory experience with
hundreds, if not thousands of others.
It is this freedom of choice that demands that companies become more
efficient at understanding not only what their customer wants today but
also what that customer wishes tomorrow.
[return to the top]
-- Jimmy Castro
Member, Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce
The Lunacy Of The Situation
Your recent article in INTERNET TELEPHONY magazine (January
2000, Reality Check) was very entertaining and I certainly agree that
telecom deregulation was a mixed blessing. Although I have not dealt with
the deep discounters and their poor customer service, I have an
interesting account of how a major player (AT&T) can treat their
customers poorly. This account also brings to light how other hidden costs
called "access charges" affect the overall costs.
During the holidays I visited my mother near Chicago. While there she
asked me to look at her December telephone bill and figure out why it was
so high. The local charges from Ameritech were about the same, but the
AT&T charges were about $30.00. This was truly amazing considering
that there were a total of about three minutes of AT&T long distance.
Closer analysis revealed that about 90 percent of the bill was due to
federal access charges and AT&T's $3.00 minimum monthly charges that
were billed quarterly. I called AT&T and asked how they could charge a
senior citizen living on a fixed income these charges. They basically
said, "Too bad," you must pay the bill. They had no calling
plans for seniors (or anyone else) where you could bypass the $3.00
minimum calling fee, and apparently since you now get a minimum monthly
bill from AT&T they can charge you the full federal access charge.
So here is the lunacy of the situation: A senior citizen on a fixed
income, lives frugally, and does their best to control their monthly
expenses. This person seldom makes any long-distance calls, but in order
to have this telephone lifeline they must pay:
- Access charges (fed or other) to the local telco (Ameritech): about
- Access charges (fed or other) to the long-distance provider
- Minimum monthly charges to AT&T: $3.00.
So without making any calls, this senior citizen must pay about
I know the federal access costs must be paid, but why are we apparently
hit for these types of charges by both the local telco and the
long-distance provider? Does anyone actually audit these companies to see
if they are using these charges to increase their bottom line?
I know that the AT&T monthly minimum can be avoided by going to
another provider. Would you know if it is possible to have long-distance
access without designating a long-distance provider and using either
calling card or the dial-around 10-10 providers?
-- Bill Kowalczyk
We would like to offer
up this question to our knowledgeable readers. Anyone who has a solution
for Mr. Kowalczyk may respond via e-mail to email@example.com.
[return to the top]
The Reality Of Telecom Perception
Just read your article "Telecom Mayhem -- Welcome to the
TELEPHONY January 2000). I try not to get on my soapbox when it
comes to long distance, and I fear I am beginning to sound like my parents
and their parents, but...
Who was it that said, "Reality is perception?" Or was it,
"Perception is reality?" The consumer will not become "the
winner" in all this, simply because... That's how it is... It's the
new way of life. By and large the consumer is not educated or informed
regarding the convoluted idiosyncrasies of long distance, i.e., interstate
vs. intrastate, peak and off-peak, etc.
The consumer is NOT interested in learning about this long-distance
"thing." He/she does not want to take the time to understand
his/her local phone bill, let alone the long-distance component. The
consumer IS, however, interested in convenience. He/she is interested in
going to the nearest phone, picking it up and expecting dial tone,
regardless of the cost! And, impatiently disposing of those that can't
provide instant convenience. And, most of the long-distance providers have
figured this out about the consumer and are giving them what they want.
We must, ...Pay the toll to the troll...[return to the top]
-- Pat Connor