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A View from the "other side" (Read 27,412 times)
Operations_Directo
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A View from the "other side"
Aug 1st, 2005 at 9:36pm
 
I have been reading this forum with a great deal of professional interest over the past few months and felt it was time to put forward a view from “the other side”. As someone who has been involved with the telecommunications industry and call centres for more than 23 years and is currently an Operations Director with an organisation with a number of call centres I feel I can talk on the subject as an expert.

There is a great deal of misinformation perpetuated in some parts of the media and on-line (mostly on this site) about companies using 0845 and 0870 numbers simply to earn revenue. While it may be true in a small number of cases it is blatantly untrue in the vast majority. I accept that there are valid grounds for complaint about 0870 and Ofcom really do need to address the issues, but the case against 0845 is less clear cut.

In our business we use 0845 across the board. We do not earn a penny from them. In fact, it is the exact opposite. We currently pay our telecommunications supplier a (very small) “pence per minute charge”. I accept that with the volumes that we generate there are one or two small Telecommunications companies who would revenue share with us; however, none of these offer the type of services, reliability or support that we require.

We operate over multiple sites. By using 0845 numbers and automated menus we have greater flexibility in routing calls to the most appropriate location and ensuring our customers speak to the right person first time. This network level routing is also a critical part of our Business Recovery plan. In the event of us having serious technical problems at one of our sites or if we suffer an event that causes a building to be unusable we can immediately route calls to another location or to one of our disaster recovery partners sites. Doing that with standard geographic numbers is almost impossible.

The other complaint I hear about 0845 numbers is that it costs callers who are on inclusive call plans or 18866 type providers more to call 0845 than it does a standard number. This may be true but again it does not apply to everyone. We receive more than 95% of our total call volume on weekdays between 08:00 and 18:00. During these times it would cost someone on BT’s Option 1 Tariff the same to call either a standard geographic number or 0845 number; 3 pence per minute. Our average call duration is less than four minutes; therefore the vast majority of customers calling either a geographic number or 0845 on BT Option 1 will pay around 12p per call.

I pointed out to a customer recently that his threat to write to us each time he had an enquiry would cost him more. A stamp costs between 21p (Second Class) and 30p (First Class) but an average call to us would cost 12p. It would also take him around 7 days to get a reply whereas our average time to answer a call in our contact centre is 7 seconds.

To those who think every business should provide a 0800 number I would put this to you:-

If you go commodity shopping does the retailer refund your travel costs or parking charges? I do not know any that do. So why should I pay for you to call me?

At the end of the day a business is there to make money. If Telcos did not make money from 0845/0870 they would have to look elsewhere. That would result in higher charges for other services. If I had to use 0800 in all my operations I would have to fund it by making products more expensive.
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idb
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Re: A View from the "other side"
Reply #1 - Aug 1st, 2005 at 9:39pm
 
Quote:
I have been reading this forum with a great deal of professional interest over the past few months and felt it was time to put forward a view from “the other side”. As someone who has been involved with the telecommunications industry and call centres for more than 23 years and is currently an Operations Director with an organisation with a number of call centres I feel I can talk on the subject as an expert.
Please tell me how I am expected to call certain organizations in the UK (bank, airline, government, health providers) when many providers here (the United States) either do not route calls to 0870 and the like, or charge a very large premium.

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Smasher
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Re: A View from the "other side"
Reply #2 - Aug 1st, 2005 at 9:56pm
 
Quote:
To those who think every business should provide a 0800 number I would put this to you:-

If you go commodity shopping does the retailer refund your travel costs or parking charges? I do not know any that do. So why should I pay for you to call me?


There is a new retail complex near my home.  They charge to enter the car park but having bought anything in any of the stores on site they will refund the car parking charges.  This also applies to the new Morrisons and Waitrose which also refund customers' parking charges when goods are bought.

However, Tesco and Sainsburys offer free unlimited parking and this is why these stores are usually packed full in comparison to the above-mentioned others.  It is an incentive to visit Tesco and Sainsburys in the same way that 0800 numbers are an incentive to phone a company. 

I am currently looking for car and home insurance and have made a point over the past few years of only taking out policies with companies who offer 0800 numbers for customer service and claims, or those who openly disclose their geographical numbers - this option costs nothing extra to the company concerned.  It shows that the company cares about its customers before and after sales.  This doesn't stop banks like A&L from not answering calls made to their geo number and harrassing customers to call their 0870 number and is therefore conclusive evidence that they wish to profit from the 0870 numbers.

So, what do you have to say about 0800 numbers now?
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Operations_Directo
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Re: A View from the "other side"
Reply #3 - Aug 1st, 2005 at 10:20pm
 
Quote:
Please tell me how I am expected to call certain organizations in the UK (bank, airline, government, health providers) when many providers here (the United States) either do not route calls to 0870 and the like, or charge a very large premium.


We have many overseas customers to whom we provide a geographic number that has a higher priority in our call queues. For this reason we do not publish it.
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Dave
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Re: A View from the "other side"
Reply #4 - Aug 1st, 2005 at 10:21pm
 
Quote:
There is a great deal of misinformation perpetuated in some parts of the media and on-line (mostly on this site) about companies using 0845 and 0870 numbers simply to earn revenue. While it may be true in a small number of cases it is blatantly untrue in the vast majority. I accept that there are valid grounds for complaint about 0870 and Ofcom really do need to address the issues, but the case against 0845 is less clear cut.

What misinformation? Please elaborate.

Quote:
We operate over multiple sites. By using 0845 numbers and automated menus we have greater flexibility in routing calls to the most appropriate location and ensuring our customers speak to the right person first time. This network level routing is also a critical part of our Business Recovery plan. In the event of us having serious technical problems at one of our sites or if we suffer an event that causes a building to be unusable we can immediately route calls to another location or to one of our disaster recovery partners sites. Doing that with standard geographic numbers is almost impossible.

That does not justify why I should have to pay more to call you. Had I called the geographical number directly it would have cost me a 'normal' call charge. Thus, the extra expense incurred is for the receiver's benefit. Why should such 'services' be charged at more than a normal call to the caller? Surely the rest should be borne by the receiving party who are using the NTS?

Quote:
The other complaint I hear about 0845 numbers is that it costs callers who are on inclusive call plans or 18866 type providers more to call 0845 than it does a standard number. This may be true but again it does not apply to everyone.

But it does more and more due to competition in the telecommunications industry. These numbers stiffle that competition! For someone in your position I would have thought you would have realised that basic fact.

Quote:
If Telcos did not make money from 0845/0870 they would have to look elsewhere. That would result in higher charges for other services.

Yes, and they make their money by 'selling' their 'product' to people like you and getting us to pay them for it! The fact that you may pay your NGN provider is irrelevant. They receive money from you and the caller, and you are happy with that!
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idb
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Re: A View from the "other side"
Reply #5 - Aug 1st, 2005 at 10:23pm
 
Quote:
We have many overseas customers to whom we provide a geographic number that has a higher priority in our call queues. For this reason we do not publish it.
Common sense - you clearly understand the problem, however I suspect you are in a minority in your industry by providing alternative numbers. What is your view on, say, organizations such as NEG that go to extraordinary lengths to hide geographic numbers.
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As from November 21, 2013, I no longer participate in the forum and am unable to receive private messages.
 
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Operations_Directo
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Re: A View from the "other side"
Reply #6 - Aug 1st, 2005 at 10:32pm
 
Quote:
There is a new retail complex near my home.  They charge to enter the car park but having bought anything in any of the stores on site they will refund the car parking charges.  This also applies to the new Morrisons and Waitrose which also refund customers' parking charges when goods are bought.

However, Tesco and Sainsburys offer free unlimited parking and this is why these stores are usually packed full in comparison to the above-mentioned others.  It is an incentive to visit Tesco and Sainsburys in the same way that 0800 numbers are an incentive to phone a company.


The car parking is only part of your expense in going shopping. What about the travel costs? Do the stores refund these? Using the current Inland Revenue mileage rate of 40p per mile do you think my local Sainburys will give me £1.60 off the cost of my purchases to cover my costs - pertol, depreciation, wear & tear?

Quote:
I am currently looking for car and home insurance and have made a point over the past few years of only taking out policies with companies who offer 0800 numbers for customer service and claims, or those who openly disclose their geographical numbers.


If you can find suppliers who use 0800 and who provide the same cover and charge the same or less than competitors who use 0845 then feel free to sign-up with them.

Quote:
this option costs nothing extra to the company concerned. 


Yes it does. If I switched to 0800 from 0845 my costs would almost triple.

Quote:
So, what do you have to say about 0800 numbers now?


My statements remain valid.
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« Last Edit: Aug 1st, 2005 at 10:35pm by N/A »  
 
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Tanllan
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Re: A View from the "other side"
Reply #7 - Aug 1st, 2005 at 10:47pm
 
More seriously I gather that there was never any intention of revenue share when these codes were introduced. They were designed to do exactly what they were originally called:
0345 Local rate - callee paid the balance
0990 National rate - no extra charge to callee.

So why is the change suddenly deemed acceptable? Let aside the PTO's desperation to retain the income?
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dorf
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Re: A View from the "other side"
Reply #8 - Aug 1st, 2005 at 10:53pm
 
This stuff by a so-called "Operations Director" is typical drivel from someone with a commercial interest in the maintenance of the status quo. It is significant that all through this lengthy attempted defence of using NGNs all the pronouns used are "we" and "I". (We are of course sick to death of the excuse "but we do not receive any revenue from this.....")

This is the typical scenario of a non-market-oriented business run by amateurs. There is no consideration at any time of what their customers, who provide their revenue and profit, want - only what is easiest and least costly for our business - "We" and "Us" and "I"!

It might be good idea to go to business school for a couple of years to learn what market orientation is all about. It seems it might take you that long. You do not obtain new customers and retain existing customers by concentrating on what is easiest and cheapest for your business. You do that by concentrating on what your existing and potential customers want!

No one expects you to provide freephone numbers for customers to call. That is now not really necessary since competition in the domestic telecommunications market has brought down the cost of normal geographic calls to an unprecedented level. Customers can now call you for as long as necessary even with queuing from anywhere in the country for 2 p only on a geographic number. You are clearly out of touch even with reality with regard to BT call costs. On Option 1 which almost everyone has been forced to no call to an NGN is the same cost as a call to any normal geographic number at any time.

If you look on this forum you will find information concerning the fact that all of the features desired by businesses for call centres may be configured on normal geographic lines. (These features are not however desired by customers, and again this is all about whether a company is truly market oriented or not.)

Your comments about the quality of data on this site are just completely wrong. I think that seems to be because in reality you are not truly a professional. You have probably been misinformed by your telecommunications provider who has a hidden agenda, and you have just accepted what they have told you.

Despite your denegration of this forum, you should be aware that there are many contributors to this forum who are themselves actual experts in telecommunications engineering and business management. The quality of data on this forum is on the whole sound and in some cases is world class information from experienced experts.
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« Last Edit: Aug 2nd, 2005 at 11:40am by dorf »  

Ofcom are completely ineffectual
 
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Operations_Directo
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Re: A View from the "other side"
Reply #9 - Aug 1st, 2005 at 10:57pm
 
Quote:
What misinformation? Please elaborate.


"about companies using 0845 and 0870 numbers simply to earn revenue."

From discussions with others in the industry I know that very few organisations receive revenue from their use of 0845. Therefore to keep trotting this out is misleading.

Quote:
That does not justify why I should have to pay more to call you. Had I called the geographical number directly it would have cost me a 'normal' call charge.


In my view it does justify it. If you had called the geographic number directly we would have to have an automated menu on our call centre switch replicating functionality we already have in the network. This doubles the management overhead. Depending on the option selected we would have to route you over our private network and make sure it there was sufficient capacity. As I said in my original post if we had a technical problem or lost the site we would not be able to easily reroute a geographic number.

Quote:
Thus, the extra expense incurred is for the receiver's benefit. Why should such 'services' be charged at more than a normal call to the caller? Surely the rest should be borne by the receiving party who are using the NTS?


I choose to drive about 5 miles further to do my food shopping at a shopping centre that has a M&S and Sainburys rather than shop at my local Tesco. I pay more for a premium service.

Quote:
  Yes, and they make their money by 'selling' their 'product' to people like you and getting us to pay them for it! The fact that you may pay your NGN provider is irrelevant. They receive money from you and the caller, and you are happy with that!


It does not bother me one little bit. If I buy a newspaper it has adverts in it. The advertisers have paid. I have paid. The newspaper is being paid twice. Is that so different from a Telco?
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NonGeographicalMan
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Re: A View from the "other side"
Reply #10 - Aug 1st, 2005 at 11:06pm
 
Quote:
We operate over multiple sites. By using 0845 numbers and automated menus we have greater flexibility in routing calls to the most appropriate location and ensuring our customers speak to the right person first time. This network level routing is also a critical part of our Business Recovery plan. In the event of us having serious technical problems at one of our sites or if we suffer an event that causes a building to be unusable we can immediately route calls to another location or to one of our disaster recovery partners sites. Doing that with standard geographic numbers is almost impossible.

Doing what you want to with these calls with standard geographical numbers is not impossible it is just that you have been uncritically hoodwinked into believing it is impossible by a sharp BT or Cable & Wireless 084/7 salesman.

I have had a long conversation with a director of one of the largest and most reputable companies selling NGN services to companies like yours and he says that for him a geographic number could be as easily configured to reroute round numerous different regional call centres at different times of day as an NGN.  The only difference is in the price the call centre customer has to pay for the service.

We do not want your company to have to use an 0800 number.  They are part of the same NGN ripoff as 084/7x and you will be overcharged for receiving the incoming calls at unfair anticompetitive rates whilst all mobile phone users, apart from Orange contract customers, will have to pay more to call an 0800 number than an ordinary geographical number starting 01 or 02.

If you employ the correct professional call routing company they can receive the calls for you on a geographic number on their switch and then push them to wherever you need them to go using Voip.  Ok you probably may be using some crungy old analogue call centre system that can't handle VoIP but that is your problem not ours.  The world is going the VoIP way so you may as well go that way sooner rather than later.  Unless of course you look as though you are in danger of going bust next month or next year.

If you have old analogue equipment and NTS really does provide call direction capabilities that are just not possible with 01 or 02 numbers (which from the research I have done I highly doubt) then your company should pay extra for this convenience and not your customers.

For anyone based mainly at home (retired unemployed etc) it is not at all difficult to make 20 minutes of calls a day to an 0870 number in the weekday daytime.  That costs £1.50 a day compared to nothing for a geographic number on BT Options 3 and cheaper equivalents elsewhere.  There are 5 days in a working week so that's £7.50.  There are 13 weeks in a BT billing quarter so that's £97.50 compared to just £10 or so for an inclusive calling plan to all 01 and 02 numbers. So for someone on a pension or social security at £4,000 to £5,000 a year that's a huge extra annual cost of nearly £400 that they shouldn't have to pay.  Ok you are on 0845 but most abusers are on 0870 or 0871.  The customer has no choice if they are an existing customer -you just decide how much you want to scam them for.

So ok for you as Operations Director of a big call centre on say £80,000 a year and out of touch with actually being short of money it may seem like a few pennies a day but its not.  The NTS industry is now 25% of all uk call volumes and £1.5bn a year.  It is like a cancer eating price competition out of the uk fixed line calling network.  There is no competition for these calls because BT is allowed to charge its competitors more for terminating them than it charges itself.

If the NTS market was competitive and if we the customers truly got added value then fine.  But as it is not competitive and you the call centres get all the extra benefits from handling calls in this way you, and not the customer, should pay the extra cost.
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« Last Edit: Aug 1st, 2005 at 11:10pm by N/A »  
 
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bigjohn
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Re: A View from the "other side"
Reply #11 - Aug 1st, 2005 at 11:51pm
 
OD. What about the folks who have to contact your call centres from mobile phones or call boxes.Have you no thought for the extra charges they incur by having to ring 0845 numbers.Or dont they matter?

While you are at it ,would you mind posting your 0845 numbers, and the alternative geographic ones, if we dont already have them.
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« Last Edit: Aug 1st, 2005 at 11:53pm by bigjohn »  

BJ.
 
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Operations_Directo
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Re: A View from the "other side"
Reply #12 - Aug 1st, 2005 at 11:52pm
 
Quote:
Doing what you want to with these calls with standard geographical numbers is not impossible it is just that you have been uncritically hoodwinked into believing it is impossible by a sharp BT or Cable & Wireless 084/7 salesman.


I worked for a major international Telco for many years
in various roles including a lengthy spell in the NGN arena.

Quote:
I have had a long conversation with a director of one of the largest and most reputable companies selling NGN services to companies like yours and he says that for him a geographic number could be as easily configured to reroute round numerous different regional call centres at different times of day as an NGN.  The only difference is in the price the call centre customer has to pay for the service.


I do not doubt this. In fact I know it is possible. In the 90s Mercury offered a service called something like "AreaCall". It offered NGN services on Geographic numbers. They had number ranges for major towns and cities. It allowed national companies to have a "local" presence. The rates to the number owner were the same as 0645 (Mercury's equivalent of 0345).

If Telcos could offer the same service today it would negate the need for non-geographics. However, as the revenue to the Telco would be less they would pass the cost to the number owner and we are back in the "who pays" cost trap.
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NonGeographicalMan
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Re:
Reply #13 - Aug 2nd, 2005 at 12:09am
 
Quote:


Without wishing to sound hostile to a newbie Alex how can we be sure you are on our side when you only just got here?

The comments you have made so far appear to show a certain naivety and do not really seem to show that you appreciate what we are actually up against on the whole NTS issue
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NonGeographicalMan
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Re: A View from the "other side"
Reply #14 - Aug 2nd, 2005 at 12:12am
 
I would like to make clear that Alex deleted himself as a member of the forum before he read my last comments so I don't think I can be held to blame.

I can only assume that perhaps he suddenly realised his cover was blown.  I can't believe any genuine supporter of this forum could possibly start defending Patientline's use of a 49p per minute personal number for incoming calls.
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