1491960058491 - Don’t fall off your chair but … internet provider hopes to be first to tell customers they have a problem

Don’t fall off your chair but … internet provider hopes to be first to tell customers they have a problem

The country’s third-largest broadband provider plans to contact customers who appear to be experiencing poor broadband performance before they complain or switch provider. Australian-owned Vocus, which owns the Slingshot, Orcon, Flip and CallPlus brands, said it was trialling the service, which could help it stand out in the crowded broadband market. Vocus could detect if there was interference on a line, if a modem was frequently reconnecting, whether a customer had too many devices hanging off a wi-fi router, or if they were frequently doing line speed tests. Few New Zealanders would have had any experience of a utility proactively detecting problems, though the practice was more common overseas, consumer manager Taryn Hamilton said.

READ MORE:  * Amy Adams warns telecommunications firms about customer service * Slingshot to offer electricity and gas; Spark says it has considered a similar move * OPINION: Unhappy Kiwi customers call out telcos’ customer service

Vocus NZ chief executive Mark Callander said the first time a company knew a customer had a problem might be when they switched to another provider.

“This is ‘tier 0’ support which is about getting in before the customer leaves or even tries to contact you about a problem.”

InternetNZ chief executive Jordan Carter said he hadn’t heard of other companies taking that approach.

“It does sound like a ‘new thing’. It seems like a sensible thing to be doing.”

Vocus NZ employs about 800 staff and turned over about $350 million last year.

Callander said Vocus planned to “grandfather” its Flip brand and concentrate on promoting Slingshot and Orcon as its consumer brands so it didn’t have to spread its marketing too thinly.

Hamilton said the broadband market “looked very different” when the company, then called CallPlus, launched Flip in 2012 as a discount brand.

“There were no 2degrees fixed-lines, no Skinny or Bigpipe. The market is now a lot more cluttered and Flip lacks saliency.”

Vocus has so far shied away from big moves in the video content market.

Spark has launched its own internet television service, Lightbox, and Vodafone has courted a merger with Sky Television.

Callander said Vocus would be interested in partnering with Netflix and Sky but it was not a high priority.

It has instead limited its involvement in the content market to storing frequently-accessed Netflix, YouTube and Facebook Live content on its servers in New Zealand so it loads quicker for customers.

But Callander believed Vocus could encourage a quarter of its 200,000 broadband customers to also buy electricity or gas from the company, after it moved into the power market through its $14m acquisition of energy company Switch Utilities in December.

Hamilton said Vocus expected to start offering bundled broadband and power nationwide from early July.