Monday, 22 June 2015

Exploited? Remarkable what customers put up with!

We all have stories to tell about double glazing salesmen, estate agents and of course telecom companies!  Some of these businesses are notorious for bad press, whether it be awful customer service or using unscrupulous methods to rip their customers off.

There are of course, good guys and bad guys in every business and it can be a minefield trying to judge who will actually give you the service you are after and who will  really look after your best interests.

The problem is, a few bad eggs spoil it for the rest and it is easy to then become tarred with the same brush, so to speak.

We have come across some rather extraordinary scenarios recently that  we would like to share with you.  

These situations have made us very angry and although we would love to “name and shame” we won’t, but would like to draw your attention to some of the antics some of our fellow competitors and support companies get up to.

First off, a firm of Lawyers who wanted to move a second office over to us were advised by their existing telecoms provider that they were in a contract for three years and if they wanted to leave they had to pay an exit penalty equivalent of  three years up front.  As their typical spend was something in the region of £500 per month it would equate to a fee of approximately £15,000 - £18,000.

It transpired on investigation, there was no written contract, only a verbal one. A dispute ensued and eventually the phones were moved over to us, three years later. During this period, the law firm were plagued with calls and at one point were told they may lose connectivity on the day of the switchover.  The telecoms company would never speak to the Director of the law firm, only the office manager and the calls were so frequent and with a tone of harassment, Merlin  were asked to put call recording on the line (we held) that they rang.  Strangely, the calls stopped soon after!

Another recent instance.  A veterinary firm were paying a large sum of money for a support contract from their telecoms provider,  but did not receive any support whatsoever!   When the firm withheld payment to their telecoms provider it appears they now get support, although it can take up to four weeks to get feedback or a result.  

A small firm of Financial Advisors have also been told they will need to pay an exit fee of £8,000 before they can move to us.  Again, they have been tied into a long term contract with two years remaining.

Another veterinary practice were moving their broadband over to us.  Their Practice Management Software company advised them they would have to send out an engineer to re-configure the router that is owned by the practice.  Their fee to do this was £200, literally for a ten minute job that could have been  carried out remotely and without any charge.  They would not give out the username and password to the client and after a week of calls going to and fro they organised an engineer to go on site on the Friday, although the broadband was moving over on the Wednesday.  After a productive call from us, the router was configured by them remotely and the broadband went live on the correct day.  Imagine the stress caused for the poor practice owner believing that they would have no phones or broadband/internet access for a couple of days!

These “sharp” practice methods leave a very nasty taste in the mouth.  Merlin was conceived with total honesty and transparency in mind.  We have always been fed up with customers being ripped off by the big brands’ pricing and service.  We do not want to tie anyone into a contract or have any hidden charges.  We want our clients to stay with us because they are totally happy with our services and if anyone wants to move, we will help them do so quickly and without going through any painful process.  

So the moral is, to check your contract (if there is one) very carefully to see what the service level agreement is and what the exit fees are, should you decide to leave.  Speak to some  other users and read testimonials.  Carry out an in depth analysis of any call tariffs you are given, to see whether you really are getting a good deal or not.  Often, you will lose out with a bundle or capped call tariff in the long run.  

We are more than happy to analyse bills and rates for you, we really don’t mind.  Remember we are here to help your business run better.

The Merlin Team

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Poor broadband speeds? Is it all the provider's fault?

Ofcom (Telecoms regulator) wants to help users break out of their broadband contracts if ISP (internet service providers) have not been totally transparent and upfront about potential broadband speeds.

When a customer signs up to broadband the ISP will provide a range of speeds the customer can expect. However the MGALS (minimum guaranteed access line speed) is not often quoted. This speed in effect, means the fastest download speed delivered to the slowest 10% of customers on a similar service. In other words, the slowest of the slowest speed.

The new ruling means that customers will be able to back out of their contract within the first three months, without paying a penalty, if their broadband speeds do not meet with certain criteria. The ISP will be given a "reasonable" opportunity to fix any problem.

Clearly, if speeds are slow, moving to another provider isn't necessarily going to fix the problem if the same copper lines are used. Also, how will the customer prove their property is in the slowest percentage?

We certainly applaud any action that backs the consumer being able to rescind their contract due to misrepresentation of speeds or shoddy customer service, but would like to point out that there are other factors that will undoubtedly affect broadband speeds and these should therefore be taken into account, before automatically blaming the internet service provider.

1.  The quality of the copper line from the exchange to the property can be incredibly old and although good speeds are attainable, the quality can affect the consistency of the broadband, often causing dips and drops. If you have fibre to the cabinet, the fibre to the actual cabinet travels through fibre optic cable, but reverts to copper cable from the cabinet to your home or office, so bear this in mind.

2.  Internal networking and cabling in the home or office could be to blame.

3.  If you are downloading masses of data, this will impact on speeds and when the children are streaming videos to their mobile devices and TV on demand is running at the same time, the speed of the connection will be affected. The downloading of data at certain times of the day i.e. after school when the children are home means a strain is put on speeds.

We often see companies with one broadband and with many of their staff downloading information on their personal android phones or laptops, which will have an impact on speed, and often the employer doesn't even have a clue!

4.  The router itself can be a problem.  We often see routers that are old, have out of date firmware installed or are simply not up to the job. It is a case that a cheap buy is not necessarily a good buy! Buy the best you can afford and keep it updated.

5. Wireless networks, often used at home, will affect the speed of the connection. The further away from the wireless router the weaker the signal.  So if the router is on one floor and you on another you are going to encounter a slower speed, which you cannot blame the broadband for.  It's a wireless issue.

If you are suffering from slow broadband, just check your situation carefully before complaining.  Give us a call for more guidance on routers or networking and broadband speeds.

Read full BBC article here


The Merlin Team

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Would you love the benefits of Hot Desking? Read on!

image courtesy of

Believe it or not, the term “hot-desking” comes from the nautical practice of “hot bunking” where a sailor would come off duty and leap into the bunk of the sailor who was off to do his turn!  A great space saving solution, although perhaps not such a hygienic one!

We are seeing more and more change in the way office space is utilised.  Less office space and property means cheaper overheads and of course, working from home has never been more popular.
The concept of the traditional office set up i.e. one desk and computer per member of staff is now challenged, particularly in view of the amount of part time workers and those who travel from office to office as part of their role.  

Many companies have realised that to become more efficient and make cost savings, flexible working is essential.  Many jobs that have always needed to be “full time in the office” really do not have to be.  Think of “call centres”, where in fact, the staff are sitting in the comfort of their own home or the outsourcing of typing to India or other locations.

One key ingredient for making desk sharing work is to utilise VoIP telephony.

VoIP telephony gives users the ability to log into any phone at any location on the system and associate their account, telephone number, features and settings populated to that device.  Very neat if you travel from office to office to work, or indeed if you are re-locating for a period of time to carry out holiday cover.  A mobile worker can make and receive calls and voicemails and manage all of their features from a temporary device.  Unlike using Call Forwarding or Follow Me, which only redirects calls to a user, using VoIP means that you take complete control of another phone.  All the users settings apply to that phone until they log off or disassociate with it.  

So, the benefits of “hot desking” are:-

  • Reduction of office space costs by increasing shared employee work space or working from home
  • Reduced mobile call charges
  • Improve productivity for remote and mobile workers that frequently travel to other office locations.
  • More efficient call handling, leading to productivity savings.

If you feel this would benefit your business then just ring us on 08008778810
Tina Bricknell for The Merlin Team