WorldCom Should Finish What's On Its Plate

BOSTON (06/26/2000) - WorldCom Inc. is continuing to push hard for its merger with Sprint Corp., now offering to dispose of one of the Internet's unappreciated jewels, Sprint's Internet business. All this is in the name of competition, since WorldCom would presumably control more or less all the packets, phone calls and fiber optics in the world if no one was watching.

I have one request to make of the regulators in Brussels and Washington:

Please, please, please, don't let WorldCom and Sprint merge. My plea has nothing to do with competition; it has everything to do with customer service.

In his insatiable quest to beat Bill Gates and Larry Ellison to become the richest technodude in North America, WorldCom CEO Bernie Ebbers has forgotten those poor people who actually made him rich -the customers.

Since the megamonolithic-monstrosity of WorldCom was created, service has gone to hell. Nothing can be done in real time; nobody is empowered to solve problems. Oh, and prices have gone up. Way up.

All WorldCom has brought to the table is an enormous cadre of obsequious customer service reps ("I'm terribly sorry you had to hold, sir"), manning the phones 24 hours a day, who don't seem to be able to do anything.

As a customer of the new, improved, WorldCom, my company hasn't seen the benefits of consolidation. One bill for all services? That would be OK if the bill were correct. But when WorldCom acquired Brooks Fiber in 1998, errors were made in moving the billing data from one system to another. We've been complaining about it for 20 months, and WorldCom still hasn't figured it out.

One contact for sales? Sounds great, but the benefits escape us. Line installs and deinstalls now have to move through the WorldCom bureaucracy, and a six-month delay to do anything is average.

One company for all your needs? That would be wonderful if it were really one company. In March we ordered a circuit from UUNET Technologies Inc., WorldCom's Internet service provider division, and had every expectation that it would be installed within 30 days. The official UUNET service-level agreement (SLA) is 40 business days. We're still waiting for that line to be installed - they blew the SLA a long time ago. Meanwhile, the UUNET techs are trying to figure out a way to make the combined fiber networks of UUNET, MCI, MFS and WorldCom stretch from Tucson to Phoenix.

Sprint customers, beware! Inside WorldCom there are pockets of excellence, people who know their stuff and make the network run. But the bureaucratic monstrosity smothering them makes WorldCom a darn hard company to do business with.

Will things get better? Perhaps. WorldCom certainly can't continue to do business this way. As long-term contracts begin to end, customers will search for other suppliers. The end result, today, is that WorldCom hasn't been able to completely merge the companies it already has. And now it's hungry for more?

Someone should tell Bernie Ebbers he can't have dessert until he finishes his peas.

Snyder, a Network World Test Alliance partner, is a senior partner at Opus One in Tucson, Arizona. He can be reached at Joel.Snyder@opus1.com.

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