Is Excel Communications In Trouble?
By Damon Marturion
New Business News Staff Writer
DALLAS -- Excel Communications, Inc., one of the leading telecommunications providers in the United States, better watch where they step, because it just might stick to their shoes.
When in August 2001, VarTec Telecom Inc. acquired Excel Communications; their future was so bright you'd have to wear shades. Joe Mitchell Jr., Founder and Chairman of VarTec, stated, "This collaborative effort will create a more powerful force within the telecommunications industry as a major player in the consumer sector," as excitement ran through the network-marketing giant like a bolt of lightning in a thunderstorm.
The strength of Excel Communications (the fourth largest of the top telecommunications companies) lies in its unique marketing approach. Excel Communications does not advertise; instead, they use network marketing (a shirt-tailed cousin - although legal - of pyramid schemes).
The basis of their marketing modality is to recruit independent representatives that gather a few customers, who recruit independent representatives that gather a few customers, ad nauseum...
The tightly-knit system has worked for some time, even after its founder said, "goodbye," to the company that began a trend of being bought-and-sold more times that one cares to count.
A silent murmoring began within the network. Our news-line began to receive inquiries from new representatives within the organization, who questioned the ethics of Excel. Reports included a promise to pay bonuses based on certain performance requirements. After the representatives met the requirements, and the promises made, no bonuses were paid.
Then in November of 2001, many representatives who were lulled into a state of false security were shocked when Excel Communications announced that their provider was curtailing its branded Internet service. To ease the panic, Excel quickly made arrangements to receive services from IKANO.
The switchover was veiled as an "upgrade" (a common practice of companies in trouble) that promised its independent representatives increased features and pricing, although some services would be lost in the trade-off.
In their announcement of the official upgrade to their Internet service, Excel promised that the new service would include 100 megabytes of personal Web space, to all users -- a benefit that is expressly denied as a "false statement" by their own customer service support staff.
Again, Excel received late notice that, now, its portal provider was bailing out.
An urgent email was sent to all excel.com users dated December 25th, stating that, "Effective Sunday, December 30, 2001, our current portal provider will no longer be able to offer its portal services to Excel and its users."
As Excel scurries to enter into an agreement with a new provider for their portal, they assure users that the, "new portal site will be even more useful and make your Internet experience more enjoyable..."
Although, again, some features will be lost, but other ones will take their place, thanks to this "upgrade."
Other problems confronting Excel include an email server that is banned from many email processors. The reason, according to Excel is that, "some Representatives, in attempts to publicize their Excel business may violate Excel's spamming policy by sending mass email distributions to contacts," resulting in a ban of all users utilizing the "myexcel.com" email suffix.
Reportedly, "Excel's vendor IKANO is in the process of having Excel's domain removed from these spam lists," in, yet, another upgrade.
You can't help but wonder if the future for Excel Communications really is that bright? Since the aforementioned upgrades, their own telephone lines are so busy that a two-hour wait - on-hold - for customer service is not uncommon.
Excel promises to increase customer service staff and phone line capabilities in order to soften the blow to customer confidence, gone awry. In the meantime, most of the staff is on holiday, and un-obtainable for comment, by press-time.
It appears, by all indications, that Excel Communications, may be in more trouble than they are willing to admit...
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