Every Business is a Partnership

When a company chooses another company as a vendor for services, it’s more than just a customer-provider relationship. It’s a partnership. Both entities depend on each other, and companies that don’t treat every customer as a partner are not getting (or giving) the full benefit out of the relationship.

Every decision about who to use for outsourced services is weighed carefully. Should a company bring a service in house? Should it be outsourced to a local vendor, a smaller national company, or one of the big companies? These decisions require time to consider and planning – one decision can lead to other decisions, which can lead to other dependencies.

Now, when a “provider” company fails to treat their consumers as a partnership, the process begins to break down. Changes get made to services that come out of the blue. These changes have ramifications to the “customer” company that can range from some time lost finding a new provider to a mandatory complete rework of how business is done.

In the telecom world, things move slower than the rest of business. Most of the time, it can take weeks, even months to add, change, or cancel services. Anyone who has ever tried to move (either for personal or business service) quickly has found that the phone companies can have delays that can leave customers without telephone service for a significant period of time. In business, communication is key, which is why a company must trust wholeheartedly in the partnership that they form with their communications provider.

This is why Accu-Rate Communications works hard every day to meet our customers’ needs. Our slogan of “customer driven technology” is something that we take to heart. Many of our features originated as suggestions from our customers. We work every day to foster partnerships with our customers and strive to constantly think of ways to improve upon our relationships.

Other companies in the communications field are not as interested in fostering a relationship. Late last year, Accu-Rate was informed that one of our carriers (Xspedius Communications) was bought by Time Warner Telecom. We spoke to our sales people, and to our technical contacts, who assured us that business would continue as usual with our partnership. This was a partnership that we have worked on and build over several years, and have come to a perfect symbiosis with.

Having never heard anything else, we assumed that all was well and that nothing would change. This afternoon May 17th 2007, we received a fax (not a phone call, not a face-to-face meeting, not a video conference – but a fax) from a person at Time Warner Telecom (Tom Marx – no title was listed anywhere in the fax) that stated that they were ending our relationship in 30 days unless we choose to call them and make new arrangements. I guess this is how Time Warner Telecom renegotiates contracts? I tried to call Tom Marx twice on the afternoon of the 17th and got voice mail. I waited an hour and called again. Again got nothing! When you get 30 days notice of a carrier shutting you off for NO REASON at all for some reason my blood pressure was soaring! I have thousands of customers that expect us to provide them a reliable service and I get this fax that states after over 4 years of service (very good service by the way), Never a late payment by us, that the new company who bought out Xspedius is canceling our service without reason in 30 days! What kind of Customer Service is this? What kind of Company just shuts you off with a fax and nothing else? What kind of company lets their people send a fax and then not answer their phone to tell you why they are terminating the long standing relationship that has prospered? What kind of company does this when large accounts are hard to find? What kind of company turns off paying customers? What kind of company doesn’t even tell you why they are terminating their agreement? Can you tell I am frustrated? Can any company or household afford to do business with a company that treats a customer this way? I am asking because I am bewildered and shocked at the way Time Warner Telecom has handled this situation. As it stands we still have not heard from Tom Marx. Who is Tom Marx and what does he do at Time Warner Telecom? You can find him on the web site? He is only mentioned on the web once on a press release from 2006. Sorry again for my rambling!

In my search for Tom Marx I clicked on “Our Management Team” and read the information about Larissa L. Herda Chairman, President and CEO of Time Warner Telecom Inc. (Nasdaq:  TWTC). Very nice biography etc. My question was does she have any idea of what Tom Marx is doing? Does she approve of canceling accounts that have a nice history and payment record with the previous company they bought? Why buy companies if you are going to cancel the customers and put a very bad taste in their mouth? I don’t understand? I would like to hear what others think on this blog? This is a shout out to find out if other companies do business and succeed in business this way?

The good news for our customers is they will not see any downtime or issues with our service because we only operate at 50% of our peak capacity and have redundant systems and locations. The bad news for our customers is we will lose 30 days of development because our IT staff will be moving out of the Time Warner Telecom facility and reinstalling our equipment in another location.

Now, 30 days is not a long time in the telecom world. Most of the time, it would take longer than this to get ten new phone lines. We are talking about thousands of phone lines. Needless to say, it will be difficult, but Accu-Rate is committed to taking care of our customer-partners, and we will solve this with minimal inconveniences to our customers. Already, plans are in motion to prevent any downtime while our entire business is moved to new service providers.

Here is the text of the fax:

May 17, 2007
Re: Accu-Rate Services Agreement with Xspedius Communications
To Accu-Rate Communications, Inc.:

This letter concerns the Accu-Rate Communications Services Agreement and Addendum #1 entered into by and between Accu-Rate Communications and Xspedius Communications LLC effect ive December 1, 2003 (the “Agreement”). Time Warner Telecom Holdings Inc. is currently the sole member and owner of Xspedius Communications LLC as the result of acquisition which occurred on October 31, 2006.

This letter is to provide notice that the Agreement has expired. Please consider this letter to be thirty (30) days written notice that Xspedius/TWTC will not be providing further services under the Agreement. Furthermore, the rebate programs set forth in the Agreement are not being renewed and will terminate thirty (30) days from the date of this letter.

If Accu-Rate Communications is interested in continuing with other services from Xspedius/TWTC, we are available to discuss doing so. However, such understanding must be set forth in a mutually agreeable writing executed by both parties. Please contact me at (XXX) XXX-XXXX if you wish to discuss a possible new business arrangement. If we do not timely hear from you, we will assume that you do not have any further interest.

Sincerely,
Tom Marx

Some things to note in this fax:

  1. Tom Marx does not have a title. We have never met nor heard of him.
  2. The fax appears to be a form letter, with “Accu-Rate Communications” filled in.
  3. The fax was sent at 4:11PM on a Thursday. Attempts to call Tom Marx were met with voice mail (several attempts were made)
  4. Our Xspedius sales person that transferred to Time Warner Telecom is out of the office until the following week.
  5. No “welcome” letter, “welcome” call, or meeting was ever set up with an official representative of Time Warner Telecom. This fax is the first communication we have received.
  6. The letter provides no room for any debate. It is a termination (similar to an eviction) letter that states that if we want to continue our “partnership” that it will be on TWTC’s terms, and we will have to accept their terms. The issue with 30 days is we don’t have time to renegotiate because if we don’t like their terms we wont have time to move our circuits. 30 days is not enough time even with our strong relationships with other carriers we are going to have to call in a ton of favors. As it stands now we only have 29 days to get out of Time Warner Telecom location. If we don’t have something renegotiated by noon on the 18th of May we will have to contact our back up carriers and order circuits with rush id’s.
  7. We are going to have issues getting new phone lines installed in our office in 30 days.
  8. I guess the lesson to be learned here is trust no company because you are only as good as what’s in the four corners of your agreement and get a 90 cancel policy instead of 30 days! Have a back up plan. We had back up plans in place for all kinds of disasters but never thought a company we had history with would just wake up one day and send a fax saying we don’t want your business anymore!

Accu-Rate not only pledges never to do business with our customers like this but would never even think about leaving a customer hanging. We will rely on the backup options we have put into place and transplant our entire operation to alternate carriers. If all goes as planned, our customers will not have to experience any outage, and will not have to worry about the partnership that we have worked to build over the last 20 years. Take this Time Warner Telecom as a cautionary tale – know your partners. Someday I would like to know how Time Warner Telecom thought sending a cancel notice via fax would help you grow their business?

Trust is a hard thing to earn and easy to lose!

I am sad because XMC had some great folks in the sales team, support team, and in the COLO. XMC had folks that cared about the customers and the growth of the business. We don’t even have time to wait until our sales folks get back from vacation to go over what this fax is about and why we got it. We have to be decisive and start our move by Noon CST on the 18th of May 2007. Hopefully we will find out who Tom Marx is and why he sent this fax before noon or there is no reason to even wonder about the past if we don’t have our contract back in force as it was before, but now with a 90 day clause! I learn from my mistakes.

I guess Time Warner Telecom…. No, I am not going to guess or assume!

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