Telecom New Zealand announced today that it will continue to offer its Yahoo! Xtra email service with Yahoo as its email provider, after receiving strong feedback from customers around the high value they place on it and obtaining a commitment from Yahoo! that it would work with Telecom to improve the customer experience of the service.
The decision follows a comprehensive review of Yahoo! Xtra email, which Telecom announced in February after a series of customer impacts - including a malicious email incident in which a significant number of Xtra accounts were compromised. As part of the review, Telecom carried out research with customers and potential customers on the importance of having an email service supplied by their broadband provider.
Telecom Retail CEO Chris Quin says: “What came through loud and clear was that customers put a lot of value on the Yahoo! Xtra email service and rate it very highly. Many have used an Xtra address for a number of years and see it as an important part of their online identity. We looked seriously at whether we should continue offering an email service at all, and the overwhelming feedback from our customers was that we should.
“Of course there are those customers who use Telecom’s Broadband or Ultra Fibre services but choose not to have a Yahoo! Xtra email address, and so we are also looking at how we can better cater for those customers in the future. This is particularly common amongst new customers, who usually come to us with an existing email account. While a Yahoo! Xtra account is available to all of our Broadband customers if they see value in it, it is by no means mandatory for them to take it up.
Mr Quin said that the review showed that email security is very much a global issue – it is by no means a problem limited to Yahoo!.
“All email providers are engaged in a continuous battle against online crime and spam. Yahoo!, as one of the biggest global providers of email, is at the frontline of this battle - they alone block more than 600 billion spam messages a month. They’ve made it clear to us how seriously they take the overall security of their systems and our customers’ data.” Mr Quin adds.
Following the February incident, Telecom urged customers to improve their online security by changing their email password, and continuing to do so regularly.
“More than 200,000 customers have now changed their passwords, demonstrating a growing understanding amongst our customers of how to keep themselves secure online. We encourage customers to change their passwords monthly as part of good online practice.”
Mr Quin says that as a result of the review, Telecom and Yahoo! are taking steps to improve both the security and the customer experience of the Yahoo! Xtra service.
“In the short term, Telecom is working with Yahoo! to implement a much simpler process for alerting customers whose accounts have been compromised and helping them re-secure those accounts. This will involve automatically directing customers to a webpage that advises them their accounts have been compromised and then steps them through changing their password, and making any necessary changes to their settings.
“We are also evaluating a solution that would see us move to Yahoo! standardised infrastructure, rather than the bespoke service they provide us with today. We believe this would offer a more robust and flexible platform, with greater redundancy than our current setup, improving the reliability of the service, and reducing the impact of any incident if something does go wrong.”
Mr Quin says Telecom looked very seriously at whether it should continue to partner with Yahoo! to deliver Yahoo! Xtra email. Discussions were held with the Yahoo! CEO and senior executives and with other large international telcos who, like Telecom, use Yahoo as an email service.
“After a thorough review of our partnership with Yahoo!, we have decided that continuing this partnership is in the best interests of our customers. We are confident that Yahoo! are as committed to improving the customer experience of Yahoo! Xtra email as we are and with 400,000 customers using the Yahoo! Xtra service regularly, any decision to change the service has significant implications and could not be undertaken lightly.
“While the reality of today’s online world means that future security incidents cannot be entirely avoided, we will continue to take constant steps towards mitigating risks and improving the experience of our customers.
“Our review is not the end of this chapter. We’ll continue to work closely with Yahoo! to monitor issues, and ensure that any potential risks are mitigated so that we can deliver the best overall experience for our customers.”