Start-up challenges Yellow's 018 with free service

The Yellow Pages Group's 018 directory service may have a new rival next year. Three young Auckland entrepreneurs will launch a new free-to-call business directory – 0133 – on 17 January.

The Yellow Pages Group’s 018 directory service may have a new rival next year.

Three young Auckland entrepreneurs will launch a new free-to-call business directory – 0133 – on 17 January.

The financially-distressed Yellow copped flack after moving its 018 service to a contract call centre operator in the Philippines, where staff often seemed baffled by New Zealand place names, and the Kiwi accent.

The company already faces imminent competition in its core listings business from Localist, a new service being launched by NZ Post, initially in Auckland.

Local call centre
Friends Prentice Robb, Paul Aitken and Michael Chang, have been working on the project full time for more than a year, since Mr Aitken came up with the idea “in a very basic scenario” for their 0133 servcie in August last year.

The service will be free for consumers and provided from a local call-centre based in Parnell in Auckland. The company will open two more New Zealand-based call centres next year.

“Having a local call centre is logical, good for business and the economics are fine - provided you’re not paying for massive overheads or printed directories, or funding historic debt like some competitors, said Mr Robb.

“By having local people on the other end of the line there’s going to be the advantage that comes from familiarity and experience, not to mention understanding of New Zealanders’ quirks and the way we communicate.”

Mr Robb said instead of consumers, businesses will pay a listing fee to be part of the directory.

“Why should consumers have to pay to find a supplier? It’s an old business model and it is time it changed,” he said.

Businesses charged for listings
The standard listing fee is $199 per month on a 12-month contract, but now the company has an early bird offer up until the launch. It is $129 per month on a 12-month contract.

If a customer wants to cancel the contract for “whatever reason” within three months, the company will do that free of charge, said Mr Robb.

He said the new directory can be used by businesses across the country as a medium through which they can market their unique points to consumers.

“We offer businesses seven pages of real time data, which you have control over as a business owner to change at will to meet market.

“It’s up to the business who registers with us on our system to keep their data updated highlighting their unique selling points or their points of difference. The businesses get to market themselves and it’s not static; it’s real time information to promote their sales and specials.”

Registered companies can load any information, including lists of services and brand names, they want the caller to know.

They can update this information “24/7” and add and remove any specials or deals as they come up. They can also write their own text messages and upload PDFs, which could be a brochure, a menu, or directions, which are sent to clients.

Mr Robb said the new directory won’t have any perks for larger businesses that have more marketing capital.

“The information that we deliver is purely based on what the consumer requests.

“Although the customers have asked – believe me – you can’t pay us double, triple or a large sum of money to get a priority listing. It all comes down to how you market yourself and what the consumer is requesting.”

Sales trip
The 0133 sales team is currently on the road seeing companies throughout the country. They now have more than 3,200 companies registered and expect to have between 8,000 to 10,000 before Christmas and between 25,000 and 35,000 before the public launch.

“We have a whole raft of other services that we will be rolling out towards the end of next year but at this stage we are going to market with a fairly simplistic yet powerful our first proposition for the new Zealand market,” Mr Robb said.

Financially viable?
Yellow chief executive Bruce Cotterill has formerly told NBR that keeping the 018 service in New Zealand was not economic.

0133's Mr Robb told NBR that it was not true that to financially sustain such service you need to take your call centres offshore.

“It is feasible to base [a call centre] in this country,” he said.

“Our financial model stacks up.”

NBR asked Mr Cotterill to comment on the degree of success Yellow had enjoyed, or not, in its efforts to better train its Filipino contractor's staff. 

He did not immediately return calls.

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