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April 2005

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New Zealand Telecom Sold

April 29, 2005

It can be fairly argued that we cover New Zealand news a bit closer because a) this reporter's wife is a Kiwi, and b) it's the most beautiful place on earth, but beside all that, New Zealand's telecom industry is one of the most robust on earth:

Telecom Corp. of New Zealand, whose dividend yield is twice that of Verizon Communications Inc., agreed to sell a media investment to Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., boosting its ability to increase payments to shareholders.

New Zealand's largest telephone company plans to sell its 12 percent stake in Independent Newspapers Ltd., a cashed-up former publisher, to News Corp. for NZ$6.19 a share, or NZ$272 million (US$198 million), Telecom said in a statement in Wellington today.

Telecom raised dividend payments this year to 85 percent of earnings from as little as 50 percent after the company slashed debt it had used to expand the past three years. Telecom, whose stock has an indicated gross yield of 8.9 percent, has said it may pay special dividends should it have excess cash.

"They have got reasonable capacity to pay some sort of increased distribution and this helps,” said Jeremy Simpson, an analyst at Forsyth Barr in Auckland, who rates Telecom a “buy.” The brokerage is New Zealand's largest for private clients.
Shares of Telecom rose 0.8 percent to NZ$6.06 at the 5 p.m. market close in Wellington. The stock's 1.5 percent decline this year lags a 2.7 percent drop in the benchmark NZSX 50 Index. Of 12 analysts who follow the stock, eight rate the stock a ``Buy'' and four a “Hol."

Chief Executive Theresa Gattung, 43, whom Fortune magazine ranked the 32nd most powerful woman in business outside the U.S.

Terrible Service Costs Caiman.com Another Customer

April 29, 2005

Got an e-mail from yet another erstwhile customer of Caiman.com, the online secondhand and used CD company infamous for their terrible service and rudeness.

No need to identify her, but it's the same old screw-the-customer attitude Caiman.com's famous for:

"Dear David,

"I found an article of yours while trying to find some information on Caiman.com… a company who has jerked me around for the past week.

"If it helps you and your readers, I have obtained some further contact information for them from the Better Business Bureau:

"Local Phone Number: (305) 262-4973 Fax Number: (305) 468-3892 Membership Status: This company is not a member. TOB Classification: Internet Shopping Services.

"It should be noted that, while I eventually got through, they were extremely unhelpful and border-line rude...

No More Free Verizon Wi-Fi In Gotham

April 29, 2005

The Associated Press is reporting that Verizon Communications Inc. is turning off the free wireless Internet access it beams from New York City telephone booths for DSL subscribers who use laptops away from home or the office.

The company revealed the decision on Wednesday as its Verizon Wireless unit announced plans to accelerate the deployment of a fee-based cellular Internet service in the New York area.

The free service, which will be phased out over the next two months, was provided by installing short-range Wi-Fi transmitters in hundreds of telephone booths starting in May 2003.

Back then, Wi-Fi was exploding in popularity and Verizon was trying to jump-start its DSL business in a bid to catch up with rival providers of high-speed broadband service, particularly cable TV companies.

May... I... Take... Your... Order?

April 29, 2005

RoboServer Systems Corp., developer of the self-serve system that enables quick-service restaurant customers to process their own orders on a touch-screen kiosk, is targeting installations with numerous franchised restaurants of six of the top 15 quick-service restaurant chains.

RoboServer's kiosk-like Self-Serve System is similar to an ATM machine or self-checkout stand found in grocery stores -- but its proprietary software systems are designed specifically for self-ordering at fast-food and quick-serve restaurants. Customers can process their own orders by selecting a few buttons on the touch-screen, pay for their order with the machine's bill acceptor or credit card processor, and pick up their order at the counter. Industry estimates show that self-serve technologies can cut customer waiting time by as much as 33%.

Qwest-Verizon-MCI Primer

April 28, 2005

This reporter’s been covering the Qwest-MCI-Verizon saga for months now. It can get pretty complicated, but USA Today has printed an excellent Q&A on the basics:

For two months, Qwest has been in relentless pursuit of MCI, hoping to break up Verizon's own deal to acquire MCI.

MCI's board has declared Qwest's latest bid for MCI of $30 a share to be "superior" to Verizon's $23.10 bid. Verizon has until May 3 to raise its offer.

USA TODAY reporter Leslie Cauley explains the tug of war.

MCI's Price Goes Up.

April 23, 2005

Looks like Qwest's hyperdesperate efforts to acquire MCI are going to cost Verizon a bit more cash when they finally get it.

The fight to take over MCI Inc. intensified on Saturday after the long-distance firm's board said that Qwest Communications International's recently revised $9.7 billion bid is superior to its acquisition agreement with Verizon Communications.

The bid by Qwest, worth $30 a share, sends Verizon back to the drawing board if it wants to hold onto MCI with its $7.6 billion agreement, worth $23.10 a share.

Qwest on Thursday said it was making its "best and final" offer for MC.

In a statement, MCI said Saturday that Verizon has five business days until April 29, to respond with a revised proposal.

During this time, Ashburn, Va.-based MCI added that it will continue to recommend its agreement with Verizon.

Unsolicited Faxes and E-mails Harm Small Businesses

April 18, 2005

I’ve excerpted this e-mail on the Friday mailbags, here’s the whole thing. Readers like Mr. Davis are one of the upsides of this columnist gig, his perspective on the cost of doing business of unsolicited e-mails and faxes, not only in time and aggravation but the accompanying cost in quality of customer service, is provocative.

Hello David:

I really enjoyed your article...

I personally feel that this sort of issue is a difficult thing to deal with but would love to see the unsolicited FAX and call scenario go away.

I am a "small business owner" in Palm Springs, CA, and I find that both are real drains on resources for a small company. I must get 250 unsolicited FAXes a week; no way to determine how many unsolicited sales calls. I have always hated having to talk to an unattended answering system but in all honesty, it does eliminate much of the unsolicited calling.

While I would far rather have a live person answering my phones, I have given in and moved in that direction instead of having a pleasant, reasonably intelligent human being answer the phone just because of the quantity of unsolicited calls.

Today In CRM History:

April 18, 2005

Okay, what’s today’s important date in customer relationship history? Multiple guess:

  1. In 1775, Paul Revere took his legendary midnight ride to warn “The British are coming! The British are coming!”
  1. In 1857 famous lawyer Clarence Darrow, who lost the Scopes Monkey Trial, was born in Kinsman, Ohio
  1. In 1906 an earthquake in San Francisco killed 500 people and destroyed 3,000 acres in the heart of the city.
  1. In 1918 Clifton Keith Hillegass was born in Rising City, Nebraska. You know him as the founder of Cliff’s Notes.
  1. In 1923 Yankee Stadium opened with an attendance of 74,200 before the fire marshal ordered the gates closed. The Bronx Bombers beat the Boston Red Sox with a three-run Babe Ruth homer.

Bumblin' and Fumblin' With Qwest

April 15, 2005

Floyd Norris of the New York Times offers his take on why, even at the lower price, Verizon is still the better option for MCI than Qwest, which is punching far above its weight class:

MAJOR institutional investors are up in arms over the way MCIhas conducted itself in finding a buyer. Its board so far has backed the lower bid from the company that can best afford it, Verizon, rather than the higher bid from Qwest, a company that is, to put it gently, financially challenged.

"The question is not whether Verizon is a larger, more financially sound company that possesses assets, such as wireless, that Qwest lacks," Bill Miller, the chief investment officer at Legg Mason, wrote in an angry letter to MCI. "It is and it does.

Happy Birthday McDonald's!

April 14, 2005

Say what you will about their food, McDonald's, 50 years old today, is one of the greatest customer service organizations the world will ever see.

If you look closely, according to my mom, you'll probably be able to see her on a date with Dad in the window. According to Mom this McDonald's, the first one in Des Plaines, Illinois, near their college in Wheaton, was the only place Dad ever took her on dates. "It was new, it was a novelty," Dad said.

"It was cheap," Mom said.

Must. Have. That. Red. Car.

Protectionism's Historical Cost

April 14, 2005

As Congress decides what it wants to do about the telecom industry, we here at Telecom and CRM Blog warn them not to protect obsolete industries out of short-term thinking.

James Carlini’s great article on the historical dangers of protecting obsolete industries gives a sobering lesson from history:

"Restricting options and closing down innovation in order to protect obsolete infrastructures and business models is as dangerous as demanding rickety bridges to be kept open because of their quaint reflection of the past.

"A better comparison (and one that really happened) is the last big infrastructure issue facing Chicago and St. Louis back in the late 1800s after the Civil War. See below:


Still testing...

April 14, 2005

We'll get around to telecoms, CRM, VoIP and why this reporter doesn't have it on his computer yet, and why some guy named Slim was holding 13.7% of MCI stock, but we're still noodling around, playing and figuring out how this thing works (your reporter is not the most technically proficient business writer alive). Let's see if this works:

It was on this day in 1828 that Noah Webster published
his American Dictionary of the English Language
. He was a man who'd
grown up in America at a time when Americans from different states could barely
understand each other, because they spoke with such different accents and even
different languages. Americans in Vermont spoke French, New Yorkers spoke Dutch,
and the settlers in Pennsylvania spoke German.

Secrets Of Business Writing #1: The Right Music

April 14, 2005

In order to write properly about telecom issues, CRM and Qwest's unending folly you need the appropriate music in the background, such as:

The Journalist In His Natural Habitat:

April 13, 2005

Ever been to the Hofbrauhaus in Munich? Great place.

The journalist is on the left. The man on the right can be identified by watching Episode #46, "Motorcyle Apaches," of the popular 1960s TV show Speed Racer.

Testing, one, two, three...

April 13, 2005

Testing, testing... [obnoxious tapping of microphone] Hey, is this thing on? Hey... HEY... I have outlawed the Soviet Union, we will commence bombing in five minutes...

About Me

April 13, 2005

My name is David Sims and I am a writer covering the CRM and telecom industries with a focus in particular on VoIP (Voice over IP), Customer Relationship Management, Turkish coffee, Contact Center Management, speech recognition technologies, pre-Islamic lunar cultic worship of southern Arabia and astroichthyology.
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