Why Telstra Sucks – A Lesson in Poor Service

Telstra has gone from one of the most respected entities in Australia to a joke among it customers. Here is one reason why.

 

TelstraIt is a truism that good service is good marketing. Certainly it is easier and cheaper to keep an existing customer that it is to get a new one. Smart managers know this at put a lot of effort into retaining their existing customers.

 The last twelve months have seen me go from a very long term Telstra customer into a very disgruntled ex-customer.

This saga began when my business partner, who also is my son, was facing surgery and a protracted hospital stay. He had formerly worked from the office, and had not had a mobile phone. I use the mobile phone diffidently, usually to allow people to contact me, rather than me calling out. So the business had a low cost business plan with two mobiles sharing one data plan. It was economical and activated it in 2009.

So in October 2012 I went into a Telstra shop to activate a third phone.

Enter the clowns…

Our business plan was no longer available, to add a new phone we would have to move to a plan that was 20% more expensive. That was a shame, but not a deal breaker. I had an existing handset, and simply wanted a SIM and a connection to our business plan that allowed us to call between phones.

For some reason that was never explained, the phone first had to be activated with a 10$ pay as you go SIM. This was explained after the SIM was installed. This was annoying, because I already have three unused $10 PAYG SIMs in my desk drawer.

I waited for two hours while repeated calls where made, forms filled out and signed, whispered consultations and trips into the back room, and more calls. I left to get back to work, and returned the next day for another two hours. Just before the store closed I was assured they would get everything working the next day, and call me if there where problems. The phone was working, but I had data turned off until I was sure it was on a data plan. Given Telstra’s outrageous charges for casual data I was not taking risks.

All seemed well, the next phone bill looked about what I had expected. I paid it.

This is not my account number!

Then on the 11th of December I got a notice that my mobile phone account was in arrears. It was a account number I did not recognise. The Telstra shop had created a new account for my third mobile phone. Calls between it and the other two business phones where being charged and full rates. And a data pack had been added each month. In the meantime my existing phones had been moved to a more expensive plan, and both phones now had data packs, even though one handset did not have data capability. My mobile phone charges had gone up more that 300%.

Between 11 December 2012 and May 2013 I spent over eight hours on the phone over multiple calls trying to rectify the problem. The second account was cancelled, but I still had to pay the three months charges including multiple $15 data packs that had never been touched. My two existing phones where now being billed at almost three times the rate I had paid previously. All told the three phones where costing five times as much as the two had. And the Testra support lines could do nothing but promise it would be fixed NEXT month, just pay this bill, it will be fixed next time. It never was. 

They never missed sending a bill on time, though!

At the end of May, in total frustration, I moved to another carrier, and Telstra promptly billed me $344 for exiting my contracts early. I had been a mobile customer since the days of analog phones, my first being a Motorola brick that would just fit in a briefcase without bending the aerial.

I had been on a Telstra business plan for more than five years. But I was billed for early termination of my contract because Telstra had forced me to move to another plan so I could add my third phone.

Another 45 minute phone call got that termination fee halved. and I decided $172.02 was a small price to pay for finally being free of the worst customer service experience I have ever been through.

It was too much to hope for… When the SIM cards arrived from our new carrier, one phone demanded an unlock code. This was a handset I had bought outright from a Telstra shop more than two years before. I did not know it was network locked, because I was using it on the Telstra network.

Once again I went back to Telstra phone support. A 15 minute call gave me the assurance that I would have an unlock code within five working days. A week later I called again, and got the same assurance, and again a week later. On the fifth attempt I was a little more forceful. My problem was escalated to a supervisor, and I would get a call back within one hour.

Fortunately, I have a drawer full of old feature phones, and we pressed one back into service to keep us working. Because once again, nothing happened.

I called back in another week. I got the same routine. “Sorry sir, it is a priority, we will call back before close of business”.

$15 and 5 minutes accomplished what Telstra could not do in six weeks

The next day I  Googled unlocking Telstra handsets and in five minutes had payed $15 via Paypal to an individual in Australia. I thought the money might just disappear, but 30 minutes later I had the unlock code, instructions, and a phone number I could call if I had problems. within 10 minutes the phone was working again.

Something that Telstra should have done free, and had been promising for more than six weeks was done in 30 minutes for $15.

Like the previous fees, I considered it money well spent. I am now totally free of the bloated and inept Telstra. The total cost of getting that extra handset working ran to $480.42 above what I should have been charged. and when it was finally working with three phones on one light usage business plan it was costing 2.5 times as much as I am paying on my new carrier. And I am enjoying  four times as much data per month.  

Goodbye Telstra. Do something about your customer service or you will find yourself going the way of the dinosaurs. Too slow and stupid to respond to a changing world of social media and fast responding competition.

Photo Credit: Indigo Skies Photography via Compfight cc

Not all Marketers are in the Marketing Department

 

A Big Opportunity

A Workstation - Courtesy Wilson Afonso
A Workstation – Courtesy Wilson Afonso

Some years ago I worked for a computer company that was (at that time) the sixth largest computer company in the world. We had just won a contract to supply 22,000 color computer work-stations to one of the biggest government departments in Australia. This was pre-Internet, and almost pre-PC. Microsoft was selling MS/DOS (probably 2.2) and a good computer had one floppy- disk and a 10Mb  hard-disk.

Our sales department had made some foolish compromises to win the contract, one being free training. Training is one area that companies like ours actually made money in, and it had been given away. We needed a smooth transition to the new equipment.

A Big Problem

Then the Union got involved. The keyboards for the new terminals where too stiff. Staff would get RSI (repetitive strain injury) from using the new, stiff keyboards. The keyboards had to be modified.

The keyboards were a new type, much like the typical computer keyboard today. They had extra dedicated function keys, but were similar in design to the keyboard you probably have in front of you now. Key pressure was controlled by a spring under every key. changing the key pressure required replacing the springs in 22,000 workstations, 2.64 million springs.

The company was fighting for it’s life. The government department wanted its terminals installed, and the Union (like most Unions) would not be moved. We had a meeting of all parties to try and resolve the issue.

The Union representatives sat and typed. Sorry, too hard on the hands, we need a solution. The three parties went to and fro for an hour with no solution. We were looking at the biggest financial disaster in the company’s history.

Then the service technician, who was on hand to make sure there where no problems with the terminal during the meeting stepped up and offered to provide a solution.

He sat and made a couple of changes and the stepped back saying “that should do it, but I can go a bit further”. The Union rep sat and typed. Then she called in her number two, who also sat and typed for a minute or two. They agreed it needed a little more work. The technician went back to the terminal, unruffled, and made another change.

This time the Union reps where unanimous, the changes where acceptable. Crisis averted. We left the meeting relieved but puzzled. What had our tech. done?

A lateral Solution

He admitted that he had simply lowered the volume of the click that was produced through the terminal speaker to make up for the lack of a physical click by these new keyboards. It had made no difference to the feel of the keyboard, the effect was purely psychological. Nonetheless, the workstations went into service and lived a long life.

A sudden piece of lateral thinking had changed a potential disaster into a victory. And that thinking had not come from the sales department or management, it had come from a field technician with an idea.