Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Service Hazard

Since BT’s monopoly of directory services was removed earlier this year, there have been lots of competing directory services in the UK, all with the 118 prefix.

The quality of service has been generally poor, as reported by the Consumers Association (Which?) and the industry regulator (Oftel). A recent Oftel survey shows an average accuracy across the industry of only 62%.

Lesson One. Deregulation and competition doesn’t automatically guarantee quality or value for money.

Scottish telecoms company Thus, which the Oftel survey rated as one of the worst performers, has now withdrawn its 118 service.

Apparently, Thus had outsourced its 118 service to a competitor. Thus CEO Bill Allan complains that the service provider‘s own 118 service scored higher on the Oftel servey. In other words, it was able to deliver a higher quality of service to its own customers than to Thus customers.

In competitive situations, commercial success or failure may depend not only on absolute service levels, but on service levels relative to the competition. And in complex networks (although not in this case) you may need to do some network mapping (service modelling) to determine exactly where the competition lies.

Lesson Two. Effective service competition calls for sophisticated service level specification and management.

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