Budd Best Service Is No Service

In language that reminded me of a utility company, Sky’s agent Rhys told me that the recent price rise in line rental and call charges were just to bring themselves up the levels other suppliers had risen to.

I don’t normally ring up about price rises. But given they were circa 10% at a time when UK plc could do with less not more inflation and Sky is flying high, I thought I’d not just let it ride. Particular because I just signed on the old prices.

His comment and the actual inflation riled me. It suggested to me the brand of inflation- making-Brexit-promoting-media controlling Rupert Murdoch. Rather than Sky’s hard won positive brand for its efforts to really improve service.

And then I moved on and did what they relied on. Nothing.

I’d forgotten all about it until I received a survey to remind me how riled I was. Of course they just wanted to score Rhys’ performance. We weren’t on first name terms, but I don’t blame Rhys for saying what he was trained to say.

And the survey asked about my effort to (not) get resolution. Which reminded me how, having agreed to stay with Sky in December they now have put their arm in. Leaving me with the choice of going to the effort of changing supplier or paying.

The argument used that we’re just moving our prices up to the rest in the market is fatuous – showing that competition in the telco market is not working. A quick search showed there’s an Ofcom investigation and judging by the graph, for a good reason. All the vendors have gone steadily up together whilst their costs are coming down.

At the same time something is happening on quality. I tried during December to stop using my home phone completely. It doesn’t have my address book programmed in and I’m mostly not there to receive calls even if anyone uses the number. Of course I couldn’t drop the line rental because you have to have it for broadband. Surely the time has come to change that.

But there was another reason too. The quality of the line is poor and we find it difficult to use. Compression. But the mobile is worse: for reception, for quality of voice, for drop outs. Three have just brought in a new wifi capability that is now integrated into your phone properly, so that has eased things a lot. But it cuts out when every five or ten minutes the phone picks up a drop of signal.

So we’re stuck with a debate I remember from the 1980s about quality of service. Or are we.

Not unlike what has happened to utilities, the idea of sticking together when prices rise is appealing with fewer big players in the market now things have consolidated.

But look what is happening there. Their lunch has been eaten by new entrants whilst they were being complacent and more and more regulated, whilst customers were losing trust in all main players. Customers did not believe there was real competition. Perfect storm? More like steady rain which suppliers ignored until they found the damage had been done.

So my advice to Sky and the other players is do not force the regulator to intervene because you are being anti-competitive. Do not rip customers off with large rises. Yes it’s only £1.79 so no-one will notice. But it is circa 10%. Particularly do not all do it at the the same time. Because in telco there’s a very simple option. We use FaceTime and WhatsApp most of the time now. The quality of the line is distinctly better.

Does it matter to the telcos? Not yet, but it will. Many people already just live on mobile data. Watch who is eating your lunch and who has an appetite. Minnows can become pike when customers decide they can.

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