AND THE WORD IS: Good service can kill you

AND THE WORD IS: Good service can kill you

If you’re looking for a speedy way to cleanse your organisation of joy, sell it to Optus, put your feet up and consider your work done. It has taken the SingTel subsidiary exactly 18-months to spoil all the brilliant aspects of mobile provider, RSL Com (subsequently renamed RSL Com Mobile and not to be confused with Commander’s recent acquisition). It’s a mere technicality that the Bermudan mobile company was headed for bankruptcy in 2001 when Optus took it over, but from a customer’s point of view they were divine. They engaged in the novel activity of actually answering their customer service line rather than the current system of automated options with no return to the main menu. You hit the wrong option and sayonara babe, hang up and try again. This makes ringing RSL Com Mobile’s customer service line similar to negotiating a German Autobahn, take one wrong exit and you’re drafted halfway across the country before you can fight your way back.

It also leads to hazardous scenarios like the following. You dial the RSL Com Mobile customer service number three times to get the right option, sit on hold for 20 minutes in which time you consume two cups of coffee and need to use the bathroom. You clench for as long is humanly possible, then decide that the chances of the operator picking up in the 90 seconds it takes you to dash to the toilet are marginal. You make a run for it, put undue pressure on your body to express pee and return just in time to hear the crisp click of the customer service rep hanging up and that infuriating ‘bleep, bleep’. This experience is so traumatic that you’re not brave enough to call back and besides not being able to access message bank is a trivial issue really. If it’s important whoever it is will call back.

Strategically Optus could be onto something here. It’s quite possible the reason RSL Com went bankrupt in the first place was because they were too nice to customers. We’ll have none of that in the telco business thanks. Bring on the brutality.

Dell finds itself a new playground

With a no-holds-barred approach Dell announced last month that it is setting its sights on the services game. Now, nobody would have taken any notice of these wild executive assertions but for the fact that the declaree, Dell second-in-charge, Kevin Rollins, took a 30-hour plane ride to Australia in winter to make them. It goes without saying that all US CEOs visiting in summer are marrying holidays with tax benefits.

Now that the gauntlet has been downed the questions remains: Does Dell have the cojones to take on the incumbents EDS, CSC and IBM Global Services? I mean a lean supply-chain and five-hour inventory is one thing but services, as the channel knows better than most, requires a lot of customer lovin’.

The direct-seller seems to have two things in its favour. Dell is certainly not afraid to loss-lead to crack a new market. It proved this with servers and SANs (storage area networks) and actually managed to turn some of them into high profile referrals and profitable upgrades. Dell also has a large install base of PC customers currently sourcing product through third party consultants. These third party resellers add tidy margins to these transactions to fatten their own wallets, which gives Dell the opportunity to open doors in environments already committed to its brand by slashing the bill. It may only secure PC maintenance contracts in the initial stages but the size of the fleets will keep the kitty stocked and it’s only a short leap from there to the server room.

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