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Storm staff quit

Kimberly Guest
By Kimberly Guest
Johannesburg, 29 Feb 2008

Almost half of Storm Telecom's employees have chosen not to join new owner Vox Telecom.

Vox completed its R360 million acquisition of Storm at the end of last month. The company has said it hopes to integrate the business within a month.

Vox CEO Douglas Reed reveals that 56 staffers opted to take voluntary retrenchment, while the AltX-listed telecoms company employed the remaining 63 employees.

At the beginning of the month, Vox executive chairman Tony van Marken said it was not clear whether any Storm staffers would lose their jobs as the company was integrated into Vox's three operating divisions.

"There was a certain amount of attrition that reduced the number of Storm staffers following the initial announcement. Additionally, we have open positions across the group, so there certainly are opportunities. We are excited about the company and the people; there are a good number of great technical skills within Storm," said Van Marken.

Pushing integration

Reed says there has been no "nasty surprises" in the integration of the Storm business so far. However, he warns they are still in the planning stages.

"We intend to do the bulk of the cutover by the end of March. The integration process is fairly complex technically because the business is being put on Atlantic, DataPro and Orion platforms. But all the business units have done this before and the volumes are much smaller than an Absa Internet for example," he says.

The company has had some difficulties integrating the business of Absa Internet Access.

Reed says the most disruptive issue in this integration was an anomaly where changes in passwords done through the back-office changed the password to lower case and made them case-insensitive.

"This affected 8 900 people who had to manually phone in to get their passwords reset. Other than clogging up the call centre for the first week, that is the only issue we have had. In the process to date, we have had 50 cancellations and signed on 515 new customers."

Reed adds: "When you cut over 102 000 customers from one technical platform to another you are bound to upset a few of them. They resent being sold, some planned to move anyway and although we don't plan to upset anyone or not take it seriously, it happens. However, Neil Meyer, the MD of Atlantic, and I have our personal contact details on all communication and the senior management follow up as many complaints as possible."

Vox Telecom initially budgeted for a churn rate of 2 500 customers per month for the first four months. However, Reed says early indications are that it had been far too conservative "and it is unlikely to be 20% of this number".

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