EDITORIAL: Xtra's sorry ploy as cold as charity

LOUIS PIERARD
Telecom really does need to consider its public profile. The company, which has had the pleasure of monopoly status for so long, seems to be infected with the belief that a captive public will forgive it anything.
But it won't. And the decision to prise its fingers free of the monopoly with unbundling that throws telecoms open to true competition, means that if it does not change its ways then few will stick around to wait.
Two weeks ago, Telecom switched its Xtra email service Yahoo!Xtra Bubble. Despite soothing assurances it would be trouble-free, it was chaos.
Thousands of customers were shut out of their email, some for more than a week - irritating enough for families, but disastrous for businesses that depend increasingly on the service.
To rub salt into the wound, there was little in the way of contrition from Telecom, which played down the problem, failed to anticipate the need for a help line and denied that it owed compensation to those who had lost business as result of the bungled changeover.
An IT company - of which efficiency and reliability are assumed - fumbling the ball so comprehensively is one thing, but spitting in the customer's eye as well has proved too much for some and they have changed their internet providers.
However, no better was to follow. This week Telecom issued an apology, saying it would give a week's free internet access, costing up to $6 million, and donate $1 million to charity for the problems with its new service.
Generous? With its broadband plans priced from between $29.95 and $149.95 a month Telecom's gesture to Xtra customers has been described as the equivalent of less than a Chinese takeaway.
But worse is the sanctimonious gesture of offering money to charity.

It is a shabby way of buying absolution, as if a conspicuous act of virtue should put Telecom beyond reach of criticism.
Telecom had a total broadband and internet revenue of $325 million in the year to June 30 and recorded a net profit of nearly $1 billion. Its customers, while it still has them, would rather it appreciated that charity begins at home.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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