With less than a month to before the launch of Connect to Business, BT is floundering on exactly what the content of its online business service should contain.
Four hundred SMEs took part in the 6-month trial of the Connect to Business service, which began in February, but BT was unable to confirm whether any of these companies would be taking up the service when it launches next month.
Paul Hewitt, marketing manager for Connect-to-Business, said: "We are still finalising what will go into the end service; there were a number of issues that came out of the trial."
He cited log-on problems, navigation around the site and misunderstanding of certain features as the main areas of concern. He added: "Customers didn't like anything related to lifestyle and wanted information directly relevant to their business and issues around their business."
Connect-to-Business has a shopping facility, "for all your business needs" - which boils down to stationery, however. "We are still deciding whether to keep this in," said Hewitt.
BT was also unable to clearly define how this service fits in with its other Internet services such as LineOne. BT claims LineOne, a joint venture set up over a year ago in partnership with News International, is geared towards domestic users rather than the business market.
Simon Weedon, telecoms analyst at Deutsche Morgan Grenfell was scathing of BT's new service: "BT is like a bull in a china shop with its Internet services, it wants to be everywhere immediately but is doing none of them very well."
He added: "Customers who have never used the Internet don't have a clue, so it is crucial for BT to sort out the navigation issue. The entry level Web page template (for companies to set up their own Web sites) is a dead duck, as brand presence is very important to companies of all sizes and they won't be prepared to settle for something naff."
BT claims the service will be updated regularly but could not say how frequently, adding that it would also offer news alerts by industry sector.
There will be additional charges for users of Connect to Business who want full company financial reports, in-depth company news articles and full market briefings. BT was unable to say how much this charge is likely to be, however.
BT'S ONLINE SERVICE
Connect-to-Business is primarily a content service which is divided into three zones.
The first is information on subjects including finance, legal issues, computing, management, travel and international markets.The second zone, called communications, offers an Email client with integrated voice and fax which can be accessed remotely via a Web browser.
Trade is the last zone offering up to 10Mb of Web space and an entry-level template for users to set up their own company homepage. A database of all the subscribers to the service is included in this zone, which BT believes will be a useful resource for possible trading partners or suppliers. There will be links from Connect-to-Business to other subscriber sites. The service will cost #12 a month, including Internet access.
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