In This Edition: Immigration and Trade - Telecomination - Small Medium Enterprise Strategy - I Really Really Hate Banks
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Immigration and Trade
While not subscribing to some of the views being expressed by Winston Peters over the governments immigration policy, particularly his focus on Asian immigration, I am at a loss to understand the Prime Ministers comments in this regard (11 Nov).
Referring to New Zealand's increasing dependence on Asian trade, Miss Clark comments that "If we are turning our backs on people and saying please, please, please admit our goods but don't come here.... this is ridiculous, it's very damaging"
I would remind Miss Clark that this situation would probably never had eventuated had she and the Labour party applied the same consideration to our relationship with the US as it relates to free trade agreements and our anti-nuclear ship policy.
I'm not sure what all the fuss about Telecom's new schedule of new connection charges is about.
From my experience this heralds little change.
I'm living in a well built up part of the Kapiti Coast which is served by both Telecom and TelstraClear. When I moved here there had been no previous telephone service to the address, although there are underground cables running down the street, with a Telecom cable termination on one boundary peg, and a TelstraClear (Saturn then) on the other.
Ringing Telecom and Saturn produced diametrically opposite results. Saturn were prepared to do the installation at no cost to me, while Telecom were not. Saturn's line rental was cheaper, and calls from here to Wellington free. So I rang Telecom up and told them about all this and they would not budge. They wanted $61.88 plus GST as a connection fee, plus $15 a metre for trenching to install cable from the boundary, plus material and labour costs for the installation. It was going to cost around $500 before I started paying rental. Telecom would not budge from this position, even though they were going to lose a customer, and I had been a customer of theirs for roughly 15 years directly, and much longer indirectly.
It appears that Telecom is not prepared to make investments to protect their monopoly, and this seems extremely short sighted. TelstraClear enjoys a roughly 50% market share around here, much of that dating back to dissatisfaction with the Telcom decision to exclude Kapiti from the Wellington Free Calling area. Saturn exploited this, and competing on every front have done very well.
The capital supporting Saturn disappeared after 9-11 resulting in a firesale purchase by Telstra. Telstra combined this purchase with the aquisition of Clear Communications from British Telecom, and installed the existing Clear management structure at the head of Saturn giving us TelstraClear, and destroying what had been a very successful brand. Sadly this resulted in the replacement of the existing Saturn management and philosophy with a line much more similar to that of their competitor. This marriage has been so unsuccessful that as yet the existing Clear and Saturn accounting systems have not been combined. So much for economy of scale.
TelstraClear resiled from the aggressive rollout strategy which was Saturn's great strengths. They disposed of the philosphy that user satisfaction was extremely important, and fired the vast majority of their customer service people. Sadly it routinely takes 30 minutes to get a reply from their helpdesk now, and customer satisfaction has plummetted. Reliability has suffered badly. A fault recently resulted in the loss of telephone service (including the 111 service) for many hours over a weekend. No-one even told the local police. There are many old people here, and the risk that people may not have been able to access emergency services when they were required seems very real. People could have died. This event seemed to be suppressed in the media.
Being committed to the huge capital investment of running a ring of fibre optic cable around the country to give them a backbone to connect the major centres, this was completed. However they lacked the vision of Saturn's Jack Matthews that the big bottom end of the market was there for the taking, and plans for the rollout of their services to domestic customers in Auckland and Chrsitchurch have been severely curtailed, with the decision to adopt Clear's strategy of concentrating on business customers in major CBDs. Problems with environmental concerns with the overhead cables have not helped this, but where I live the cables are underground anyway. If they can do it cost effectively here, they must be able to do it elsewhere.
This decision to abandon Saturn's rollout strategy leaves TelstraClear with something very much that of the old Clear Communications is selfdefeating. If they want to challenge Telecom head on, they need to aim to complete a rollout of the major population centres as fast as possible in order to generate the cashflow required to service the capital investment of the fibre backbone. Clear's focus on business customers in the main centres has been spectacularly unsuccessful, resulting in around 10% of the market after many years. If more capital is required to achieve this then more capital is required, and Telstra are in a position to provide it.
The loss of Saturn's progressive attitude in the telecommunications market means that Telecom now have even less incentive to be competitive, even though they failed spectacularly to meet the challenge while it was there.
Obviously the costs involved in rollouts to rural areas are much higher, and Telecom does have special responsibilities under the Kiwi Share which do not bind their competitors, but they still need to attack the competition if they want to win the game. This means they need to concentrate on gathering new customers, and retaining old ones. The recent announcements from the government of their intent to assure that broadband connectivity was available to the rural community would appear to drive Telecom's announcement. They appear to be setting a position to capture the government funding which has been allocated for this purpose, rather than trying to attract the potential new rural broadband business directly.
So here we are. We have Telecom still refusing to confront the competition, and sadly that competition has dropped the ball. Perhaps this week's adjudication on the interconnection agreement will see these giants focus on the bigger picture - time will tell.
Remember all those TV ads about the Kiwi Share being carved in stone ? What a crock. It was carved in polystyrene by a colleague of mine, and it appears that the cracks in the plaster have let the water in.
Small Medium Enterprise Strategy
The reason that New Zealand is a country of predominantly small business does not necessarily mean that they all wish to remain small. It is because they are so heavily dumped upon with taxes, levies, legal restrictions and burdens that the opportunities to expand to any great size just aren't there.
We take great pride in the fact that the entrepreneurial spirit is so strong here. One has to wonder why, that in such a pool of spirit and sheer guts, do we not see a greater number of individuals shine through and become world leaders in their field. For me the reason is not hard to work out.
The single greatest problem standing in the way of small and medium size business is government. Michael Cullen, John Tamihere, Lianne Dalziel and Jim Anderton, who are the members of the SME Strategy Team, are among the worst offenders.
Nothing tangible will come of this exercise and I would advise other businessmen and women to ignore the calls for advice. You will not receive any relief from this government.
I Really Really Hate Banks
I really hate banks because they their arrogance and lack of communication have caused me a great deal of confusion.
A couple of years ago I went to one of The Banks and my accounts had been linked together without my knowledge or permission. I was told by a former employee that this is done sometimes to increase their fees.
The response by the manager was that it was not the bank but in fact my husband who was frequently using my accounts. He actually told me that!
I then complained to their state manager (in Australia) and was sent a letter to say sign here, take $50 and when you do you can't sue us. I sent it back. I got another one with the same thing for $100. I gave up as I obviously was never going to get an apology.
Then my husband and I in our complete stupidity got a home loan through this same bank.
They confused our accounts so much that when it came time to make a home payment there was no account to put it into. It was a disaster.
They had initially set up a home loan account into a personal account in my name only. This account could not have been more unsuitable if they had actually tried. Then the real fun started and after weeks of lost time standing in bank queues getting nowhere and speaking to mostly rude call centre staff I lost it.
The teller happened to be the manager and her sir name should have been "bitch from hell". One of my cards was taken from me and I am not sure why and was told that I voluntarily gave it up. Sure.
Anyway I got to the point of looking at their website that said "customer commitment" - they have that alright, committing their customers into mental institutions by their arrogance and lack of communication.
Having requested that I never ever speak to this specific "bitch from hell" ever again and also could they please contact me via email as my husband was ill and a shift worker and do not call me at work as I had just started a new and demanding job, who do I get calls from at work, none other than the "bitch from hell".
I know other people who have been to hell and back re a bank but I think this one deserves a place in the stories of why I really hate banks.
PS. They still haven't sorted it out.
PPS: Too Late! What a loser, I did not see the date on the competotion. Oh well. It was good therapy to get it out anyway.