Stockholm Syndrome is a condition that causes hostages to develop a psychological alliance with their captors as a survival strategy during captivity. These feelings, resulting from a bond formed between captor and captives during intimate time spent together, are generally considered irrational in light of the danger or risk endured by the victims. Generally speaking, Stockholm syndrome consists of "strong emotional ties that develop between two persons where one person intermittently harasses, beats, threatens, abuses, or intimidates the other."
Having worked in the telecoms market in Hull since 2001 this description perfectly describes many businesses in Hull and it is bewildering. Since 2001 there have been some huge strides made in making telecoms in Hull a more competitive marketplace. From Least Cost Routing (LCR), to a wholesale tariff for resellers there have always been a handful of brave souls trying to make a difference in Hull. It is estimated around 1500 Hull business have seen the light and taken a leap of faith and moved their telecoms away from the local monopoly holder KCOM. Many have never looked back, enjoying much cheaper rates and better customer service. Both are really important things to demand from your telecoms provider. To accept high rates and poor service is a dereliction of duty in modern business and, whether you are an employee or a business owner, you should be aiming to get great service for a competitive price. Every pound saved is a pound earnt and goes straight on the bottom line!
There are however all those thousands of businesses in Hull still using KCOM. Many paying much higher rates than they have to and receiving poor, if any service from KCOM, which begs the question.......WHY?
Have they formed an irrational bond with their captor even though they are intermittently threatened and abused (in a commercial sense)? Over the years I've sat in front of numerous MD’s, FD’s, Telecoms & IT managers and lots of people in between who claim to be responsible for getting their business the best telecoms package. They talk passionately about how they are ‘fed up with KC’ or ‘can’t understand why KCOM still have a monopoly’ and even ‘I hate KC, they’ve been ripping us off for years’. But all too often they accept their fate and stay put. I’ve heard every excuse under the sun, from ‘if it were up to me I would move but the MD gets taken to the football every week’ to the very annoying, ‘after seeing you we spoke to KCOM and they’ve matched your deal’ (Translation – we told KCOM what you’d offered and they’ve instantly agreed to match your rates so never mind the fact they hadn’t had the courtesy to give us an account review for a decade and if we didn’t ring them we would have continued on the extortionately high tariff for another decade).
Aside from these crazy excuses, the most common response we get is one of lethargy and general malaise. People aren’t willing to say yes or no, they just shuffle it around on their desk until they find something more interesting to do. KCOM have been successful in one thing and that is brainwashing and extinguishing any interest these people had in a fair telecoms deal, even when one is right in front of them they can’t summon up the urge to grab it. Sadly, most of the time they don’t even have the good manners to respond, such is the depth of their disinterest in telecoms. In a city where there has only ever been one option you’d have thought when an exciting new opportunity arrives to move supplier, get better rates, enjoy genuine customer service that it would be an easy decision. Alas this is not the case.
It harks back to the days when IT managers avoided the sack as long as they used IBM or the archaic mantra of ‘no one gets the sack for using British Telecom’. Well the rest of country woke up! Throughout the nineties and the noughties hundreds if not thousands of new telco’s emerged taking advantage of deregulation and finally liberating businesses strangled and swamped by BT’s ineffectualness. It had to happen to make the market competitive and to drive technological advances. 30 years on, the UK on the whole has a thriving, competitive communications market full of innovation.
Hull, however remains in the dark ages. KCOM continue to programme the masses and the real message struggles to get much airtime. With the exception of KCOM’s heavily funded fibre broadband service, Lightstream (which has taken them from delivering the worst internet service in the UK to something acceptable) there is very little change happening in Hull and it’s not all KCOM’s fault. The alternative options are there. There is a choice but the business owners of Hull have to do their bit too. They must listen, and engage with a small but knowledgeable group of local protagonists desperate to free Hull from its shackles.
The advent of VOIP should herald a new day for businesses in Hull. Previously with the UK’s worst internet broadband service VOIP was impossible. It needs bandwidth and KCOM notoriously delivered very little of that over their aging copper network. Lightstream is a chink of light at the end of the tunnel which KCOM have kept very dark for 113 years. VOIP is now feasible, in fact it works a dream. The rest of the UK embraced VOIP years ago and indeed much of the country already use SIP and Hosted IP solutions. Businesses in Hull can now do the same and they need to. Communications are business critical to all organisations and as the world evolves, the importance grows. Fail to communicate and you will fail. Fail to engage with your customers the way they want to and they will go elsewhere. Fail to embrace technology and you with get left behind, simple as that.
In a city which has celebrated its rich history & culture this year people now need to look to the future. The 21st century is upon us and by embracing new technology, engaging with new suppliers and exploring a new way of thinking you will be able to obtain enormous financial, operational and technology benefit for your business. There’s a saying which goes ‘If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll only ever get what you’ve always got. I know for a fact, in a city that has just been voted as the most enterprising place to live in the UK, that this cannot be true of our business men and women.
ASHLEY HUNTER Managing Director - River Business Services Limited