Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/03/09/bt_cable_wireless/

Cheeky BT tries to poach 'displaced' C&W punters

Helpline for 'anxious' SMEs

By Tim Richardson

Posted in Small Biz, 9th March 2006 09:02 GMT

Cheeky BT has set up a free helpline to poach customers given the elbow by Cable & Wireless (C&W). Last week, C&W announced a major restructuring of its business that will see up to 3,000 jobs axed as the number of customers is cut from around 30,000 to just 3,000.

The alternative telco is turning its back on SMEs and instead wants to serve the UK's largest users of telecoms services such as corporates and public sector organisations. C&W has already issued 900 contract termination letters and expects to have sent out 8,000 by the end of the year. By September, the telco expects to have reduced customer numbers to 18,000.

Now BT has jumped in and is offering what it describes as "those displaced businesses" a chance to call "a dedicated team of advisors...to help them manage the unexpected requirement to move to another communications company with the minimum of hassle and disruption".

In a statement, BT said: "In the current uncertain times for businesses, with the shock withdrawal of a large company such as C&W, BT believes that customers need help to find a stable, long term and reliable provider."

"This uncertain situation could be damaging to a business," BT Business boss Bill Murphy said. "They could be without service while they choose another supplier, which could harm their prospects. That's why we have set up a free number for anxious customers, where they will be able to speak to a dedicated team of knowledgeable, trained staff. I can assure all businesses that BT still wants their custom."

A spokesman for BT denied the firm was cashing in on C&W's bid to turn the business around. "These poor people have been given three months to find a new telephony supplier," a spokesman told us. "We're not revelling in C&W new strategy...but we're in the business of getting as many customers as we can."

Last week, Glasgow-based telco Thus also made a play for C&W's client base saying it would be "delighted" to have them on board. This statement came amid reports that Thus could be preparing to make a bid for C&W's UK business. C&W bought alternative telco Energis last year, trumping a bid from Thus. More recently, Thus has splashed out £70m to acquire Your Communications and Legend Communications. ®