I re-read the minutes of the Sri Lankan operational review earlier this morning to double check that I had advised the various people on the required follow up actions. When we first started transferring services from North Sydney to Colombo almost three years ago we set an objective of answering all residential support, provisioning and sales telephone enquiries within an average of less than 60 seconds. (our goal to answer corporate support queries has remained at "within five rings") For the majority of the last year we achieved those, fairly tough, objectives though the support service answering times have risen to almost 2 minutes due to some ill considered transfer of residential engineers to corporate services. We will correct that by hiring additional engineers for residential services as soon as possible.
We track the performance of the larger companies with which we compete by calling their support and sales number on a regular basis and seldom find that any of them answer their support numbers in less than 20 minutes and many not answering within 30+ minutes with one hour wait times not being uncommon. Exetel publishes 'live' feeds of its residential provisioning, support and sales telephone 'queues' and has done for almost the whole of its existence. Those details are available on the pricing pages of our web site as well as the 'contact Exetel' page. Almost invariably they show either no waiting time or very short wait times. The only other ISP 'brave' enough to publish such statistics (that I know of) is Internode. I was sent this view of Internode's answering statistics a day or so ago:
which isn't much of an advertisement for a company claiming to offer a 'premium' service' (maybe this was just an aberration) but it is consistent with the sort of wait times that many large providers actually deliver to their users.
Of course support or provisioning 'answer times' are only one measure of a 'premium' service with the quality of the advice received once a customer's call is answered of critical importance. That can't be measured by a simple automatically generated statistic as can be done with call answer times. It certainly isn't possible to 'measure' other companies support quality and quite difficult to measure your own let alone demostrate that quality to your own customers or prospective customers. For almost two years now Exetel has published complete personnel lists for every person we employ that, in the case of residential services, show their photograph, tertiary qualifications and time employed by Exetel. This can show the quality of the individuals if not the quality of their ability to handle the specific requirement of their jobs. I know of no other company that is 'brave' enough to do this.
Similarly Exetel, almost from 'day one' of our existence, has published an MRTG report of total IP bandwidth usage over our network to demonstrate to prospective users that the Exetel network is uncontended and therefore runs as fast as anything under our control can make it. An Exetel customer has complete access to every link within our network which will show him/her the exact status of link capacity/usage at any second of any day. I know of no other provider 'brave' enough to provide such information to their users. Looking at the various ADSL complaint forums it seems quite obvious that more than a few larger ISPs under provision their networks - some under provision quite extensively.
It will be interesting to see as the competitive actions of the various providers bite ever more deeply in to profits how the providers who claim to offer 'quality/premium' services re-act.
Apart from simply going out of business as Eftel recently did perhaps that recent 'aberration' in support answer times by Internode is an indication of where cost 'savings' are being made by some self claimed "premium" service providers? How can any company that doesn't provision its support centres adequately claim to offer a 'premium' service? As margins on mobile and ADSL continue to fall what is a "premium" service?
The other night I lost authentication. After a while I rang the Exetel support line. It answered immediately with an automated menu. That took me to a series of automated questions and I was finally told that an engineer would look at it within 2 hours.
90 minutes later authentication resumed.
I think that is a pretty good effort and I was quite happy with the automated system.
As for the economics of the NBN. I suppose similar questions could be asked of a national highway network or national railway network. As I recall in Europe and the US, the 19th century builders of railways typically failed quickly. And yet the railways continue to be of value.
If a National Railway Network included building tracks to the vast majority of people's front doors - whether they want to use rail transport or not - I would respectfully decline investing in that project.