A recent article (dated 7/11/2006) in the Atlanta Journal & Constitution noted that BellSouth plans to cease its status as "carrier-of-last-resort". The company complains about how horrible it is to be the last choice for customers, and has began to warn builders that, if they choose to start with another company, they had better let their home buyers know that BellSouth won't be available should the consumer want to make the switch.
Let me make sure I understand this: BellSouth is letting people who won't care who provides the service in three years know that they are going to refuse to serve someone who actually wants them. Or, even clearer, BellSouth is telling consumers to shove it, we don't have to help you.
I am interested in this for several reasons. First, my husband has worked in the telecommunications business for years before forming his own low voltage wiring company, Redd Infinity. So, although we are no longer in that field, we still maintain interest. Even better, however, I am a defunct BellSouth customer who, after sitting on hold with them for three hours, called Comcast on my cell phone and switched my Internet to the cable company, rather than dealing with BellSouth's shoddy customer service (this came after several problems over the course of a year).
Most interesting of all, however, is my perspective as a small business owner. I concede that there are some customers we just don't want. Chief among those are the price surfers - those who are most concerned with price (research notes that less than 10% of customers list this as most important - the rest search for quality and service). Basically, you can never make someone who cares only about the bottom line happy, and if you have tried several times - and I highly encourage you try to win them over with your superior service and products - then you may as well give up. As soon as someone underbids or undercuts you, they will be gone.
But BellSouth isn't waiting to be undercut. Instead, they are taking potential customers who have no role in the decision-making process and saying, "Sorry, folks, we won't be offering you service." I have to tell you, if I move into a new neighborhood and the folks one block over have service, but BellSouth tells me they will not now or ever offer service because the builder didn't use them - not only will I smile and say, "Great, thanks for keeping my wallet out of your grubby paws," I will go on to tell everyone I know that BellSouth is exacting its revenge on the consumer. I will be persuasive. And so much the worse if I have been a long-time customer in good standing.
I understand that BellSouth is here to make a profit. We all are. But by pointing randomly at people and saying, "Sorry, we will never serve you, due to decisions you didn't even make (other than choosing to buy a house in the 'wrong' neighborhood," well, they make me wonder what their plans for the future are. If I were a builder, I'd start building to spite them.
In the meantime, all that worry I had about monopolies with the merger of BellSouth & AT&T, well, I guess they are unfound. Never mind that these small companies will have to take the leavings of whatever business they can scrounge up. Now is the time for small telecommunication companies to run to the builders with the article or letter in one hand and a plan in the other. "Let's kick BellSouth where it hurts," I'd say. As a telecommunications business owner, I'd be glad to know that BellSouth can't swoop in and steal away all of my customers like they've done thus far. And as a builder, I'd flaunt the fact that BellSouth refuses to do business with my neighborhoods. Maybe put up a huge sign: "BellSouth doesn't want us, and we don't want them!"