Dispatches: "Making it easy for you"?

For Australia to succeed in the new Internet economy, Telstra must be driven by its customers' success. We are all doomedTwo years back we changed ISPs. The service we were receiving from our original provider really wasn't up to scratch, in fact you would be hard pressed to describe it as service at all. So let's just say the work wasn't up to scratch. Actually you would be pushing the definition to even describe it as work, so let's just say we weren't happy with the stuff we were buying from them.

As we were pushing the limits of our little 64K link at the time we also decided to upgrade the pipe.

Given our traffic growth of the previous 18 months, a simple jump to 128K ISDN seemed reasonable, so we contacted the suppliers and put out the tenders.

The cost spread was dramatic. For virtually identical services the lowest bid came in from Telstra, which cost us about $12K a year plus about another $8K for other services. The highest bid for pretty much the same service came in at 210 thousand dollars! We won't embarress that supplier by naming them, although we should. The market will sort them out soon enough.

So bully to Telstra for being the good guy for once, ah but of course in life, everything regresses towards the meanAfter about eight months of quite reasonable service from Telstra we were generally pretty happy with the service. You can imagine our surprise earlier this year when we suddenly dropped off the air.

Basically our previous supplier took it upon itself to send in a work cancellation order on our line. Telstra executed the order without checking first with its customer -- us -- hence the white screen of death.

What happened next turned an irritating problem into a minor disaster. To understand the significance of the problem to us you should realise that we deliver product to over 15,000 people a day via our link. Telstra is so Kafkaesque in its management structures, so removed from its customers, and so hamstrung by regulation that it took it four days to reconnect the services.

Since the problem was resolved, and since we insisted on a single point of customer contact things have run smoothly enough, which brings us to the present day.

God forbid you might want to upgrade to Telstra's DDS service. There is a 40-working day waiting list. We know about it because our partners, our suppliers, our customers and yes we, are all stuck in the queue.

Telstra may be partly privatised, operating in a deregulated environment and run by highly paid private sector executives, but at its kernel it's still a monopoly, still a government enterprise, still as slack as ever. Bless its tiny little public service heart.

Postscript -- You still have to be weary of The What the Market Will Bear crowd these days. We recently had a graphical design house quote us almost $1000 to modify the design of a logo. When we queried the price, the sales rep claimed this was based on 10 hours work.

We told him his quote allowed us only one of two conclusions about his company, either they were incompetent for taking ten hours to change one word on a logo, or they were dishonest for quoting 10 hours work. Needless to say the new quote is in the mail although I suspect this has more to do with the fact that we will be launching about another 20 Web sites and they want the business, than any desire for spiritual redemption on the part of the supplier.

Andrew Birmingham is the Chief Operating Officer of IDG Communications.andrew_birmingham@idg.com.au

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