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What do telecom managers want? . . . It’s simple

May 31, 20043 mins
NetworkingTelecommunications Industry

Freud once famously asked, “What do women want?” The question is amusing because it implies that half the human race has desires that are complex, unfathomable and incomprehensible – so much so that the very guy who made his living fathoming the unfathomable was stumped.

It’s also funny because the answer’s so obvious. Women want respect, happiness, power, status, money, fulfilling relationships – basically, all the same things that motivate pretty much every other Homo sapien.

I sometimes have the same reaction when carriers ask, “But what do telecom managers want?” Folks, don’t make this question harder than it sounds. Try the basics:

Clear, comprehensible contracts. Your average telecom contract reads as though its development has been offshored to Mars. The worst offender by far is a little outfit in New Jersey, which has invented an entire language that telco managers must learn if they wish to do business with this provider. Spare us the Esperanto – just tell us in English what services are and aren’t included.

Meaningful service-level agreements. So the latency between backbone routers in your network is a maximum of 25 millisec? Whoopee. That and several pounds of change will get you a grande decaf-half-skim at Starbucks. What we telco managers really want to know is the total delay between points A and B on our networks – and what you’re going to do about it if it unexpectedly spikes.

No finger-pointing when problems occur. I don’t care if it’s the local exchange carrier’s (LEC) fault or the moon is in Pluto or Mercury is in retrograde – just find and fix the problem, fast. Some IT executives I’ve worked with report hosting conference calls between the LEC, the international provider and the domestic provider just to troubleshoot the problem. That shouldn’t have to happen. Our day jobs involve running networks, not peace negotiations.

Responsiveness. When we call or e-mail you, it’s not because we’re feeling lonely and looking for company. It’s because we really need something. So get back to us pronto, OK? (It might help to keep reminding yourself that you’re in the service business.)

Speedier installation times. It typically takes four to 12 weeks to install a T-1 circuit (average is about six weeks). Worse, there’s no clear justification. “There are always a million and one excuses,” says the communications director for a large government agency. Carriers: Please explain exactly how long installation will take and why.

Accurate bills. I recently spoke with an executive in the financial services industry who terminated his company’s contract with a well-known cellular provider that couldn’t generate bills that were within an order of magnitude of being correct. “Adding a zero to the number of users we have, that’s a pretty egregious mistake,” he says.

In other words: Telco managers want solid performance and fulfilling relationships with their providers. How difficult is that?