Wednesday, May 27, 2009

I know how it feels to be mistreated by Telstra, Sol Trujillo

By Holly Byrnes

DEAR Sol Trujillo, I hear you're feeling put upon, mistreated, disrespected, made to jump through hoops by faceless millions who did everything they could to wreck your job.

Mate, I know how you feel. I just spent the day trying to get reconnected to Telstra after my mobile was stolen.

The mugging was a shock but it's the horror of trying to activate a new SIM card and dealing with your dysfunctional telco that has me rocking in the foetal position.

Stripped of my handbag and knocked to the ground during the attack last week was nothing compared to being stripped of my will to live while waiting on line to Telstra.

Reconnecting seemed simple -- after putting a temporary block on my mobile I went to a T Life store in George St, Sydney, to buy a SIM card (the little chip which makes it work, in case any Telstra call workers are reading this and are not familiar with the term).

After settling the outstanding bill, then helpfully being transferred to a more economical contract, I was assured by the first service operator it wouldn't be too long before the phone was up and running again.

And so the wait -- and phone calls -- began. When my handset flashed up a SIM card error message, I called for some of that customer service I'd heard about.

That call was answered by a service operator who asked me to phone back in an hour, when the account would be ready. I was given a 1800 number for direct "service"'.

An hour later that number reached a recorded Telstra message that informed me the number was no longer in service, and redirecting me to another "service".

That number told me I needed a reference number. Without one, I should access a Telstra website. But to do that I'd need an active mobile.

When another operator told me to call the first 1800 number I took a breath then updated him with the recorded message I'd received. He put me on hold to check.

When he returned, he asked to check my bona fides then quizzed me about the driver's licence number on the account.

He wasn't convinced when I told him I didn't know the number. Not because of bad recall but because I have never held a driver's license in my life.

His response? He put me on hold. When he asked me for my birthdate, I joked I should add a few years since I had aged some in the course of these phone calls. Laugh? Nope, he put me on hold.

Even after emailing a PR contact within Telstra, after an initial response, there was still no sign of my mobile service.

However, when I posted my aggravation on Facebook I was inundated.

One mate, David, was trying to prove to Telstra he lived where he said he did because they were refusing to connect a phone to his home. In his words: "Why would I want to connect a phone in a place I don't live?"

Another girlfriend directed me to a support group on Facebook called "Telstra SUX".

And the best bit? It doesn't ask for your name, birthdate, mother's maiden name, driver's licence or first-born child before you get the satisfaction of emptying your spleen.

So, Sol, save yourself a call to Telstra and log on, mate. For once, you'll be in good company.


Saturday, May 9, 2009

The new chairperson of Telstra

The profile below is laudatory but other comments suggest that she is more of a bureaucrat than a business person

HAVING accepted the job of chairman at one of Australia's largest and most important companies, Catherine Livingstone is facing the biggest challenge of her career.

The former accountant has been widely lauded for her role in transforming the bionic ear-maker Cochlear into an internationally renowned business. And she is no stranger to public company boardrooms or to dealing with government, having chaired the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation for five years.

But Telstra -- with more than 1.4 million individual shareholders, including the federal Government's Future Fund, and facing a critical time in its history -- is an entirely different beast.

Not that that should faze the self-confessed risk-taker, who lives on Sydney's lower-north shore with her husband, Saatchi & Saatchi finance chief Michael Sattherthwaite, and their three teenage children.

Those who have worked alongside Livingstone point out that she has taken seemingly large career jumps before, with repeated success. Her resume -- Telstra, Macquarie Group, Worley Parsons, and formerly Rural Press and Goodman Fielder -- speaks of an experienced and coveted commodity.

The Macquarie University honours graduate started her career at the accounting firm Pricewaterhouse in the late 1970s, working in Sydney and London, before making the switch to the publicly listed medical device group Nucleus, where she worked in various accounting roles.

Livingstone was soon promoted to chief finance officer and in 1994, following a takeover of the group by Pacific Dunlop, she was appointed chief executive of its subsidiary company, Cochlear.

One of her main tasks was to groom the emerging device maker for a public float.

One executive who worked closely with Livingstone throughout that period remembers her ability to communicate effectively with investors and the broader financial markets.

"She was able to build a phenomenal relationship with the financial community for the listing and then afterwards," said the executive, who declined to be identified.

"She's a very, very organised and systematic person -- very process driven, very detail-minded.

"She was also able to improve the internal processes within the company."

When Cochlear was floated for $125 million in 1995, it was bringing in $70 million a year in revenue.

When Livingstone left the company five years later, the device was being sold into 50 countries worldwide and sales had swelled to $150 million.

Its market capitalisation was almost $2 billion.

Born in Kenya in 1955, Livingstone had migrated with her family to Australia by the time she started school.

Her leadership skills emerged early, and as an 11-year-old she was appointed house leader for the school sports carnival.

Livingstone has said she was greatly influenced by her parents -- her mother was a teacher and her father served in the air force during World War II, later becoming an economist and investment banker.

In John Eales's book Learning From legends: Business, published last year, Livingstone recalls that her mother repeatedly emphasised to her: "If it's worth doing, do it properly."

"My parents have always influenced me strongly in terms of professionalism."

In a magazine interview published in 2007, Livingstone revealed that her parents had also encouraged her to take risks.

"You have to learn how to step out of your comfort zone. Being afraid is not something to be afraid of," she said.

Livingstone joined Telstra as a non-executive director in November 2000.

When the board ousted former chairman Bob Mansfield and later chief executive Ziggy Switkowski in 2004, she was briefly touted as a possible candidate for chairman but apparently declined to put her hand up for the role.

The job went instead to Donald McGauchie, whose surprise resignation yesterday has suggested that Livingstone's appointment didn't follow the orderly succession process to which boards typically aspire.

Some observers have highlighted her lack of direct telecommunications industry experience (outside of her Telstra board role), and some have questioned whether her fierce attention to detail could work against her in a role in which the big picture is important.

One of her key roles will be to rebuild the telco's fractured relationship with the Government, which hit an all-time low following its exclusion earlier this year from the tender process to build the multi-billion-dollar national broadband network. However, previous comments attributed to Livingstone suggest that she might be willing to take a more conciliatory approach to dealing with politicians than that of McGauchie and the company's outgoing chief executive, Sol Trujillo.

"You have to put yourself in other people's shoes and see how they're looking at something and then try and make the persuasive argument for the outcome you're seeking," she says in Eales's book.

"You can tell people what's happening but telling is not very constructive ... if you can persuade, that's better."

At her first press conference as Telstra chairman yesterday, Livingstone said the company was focused on "a very constructive engagement" with the federal Government.

Businessman Peter Yates, who chairs the board of scientific lobby group the Royal Institution of Australia, of which Livingstone is a director, praised her ability to deal with people.

"She's an extremely thoughtful person who inherently likes people and inherently gives people the opportunity to achieve their full potential," Yates said.

"I can imagine ... (that she) and the new chief executive, David Thodey, who I also know quite well, will make a very good team."

Chris Roberts, Cochlear's current chief executive, who worked alongside Livingstone in the 1980s, described her as highly intelligent, hard working and capable.

"As a shareholder of Telstra and someone who has known her for many years, I think she'll do a very good job.",28124,25450523-643,00.html

Friday, May 8, 2009

New bosses for Telstra

TELSTRA has replaced its two leaders, appointing current senior executive David Thodey as chief executive officer and current board member Catherine Livingstone as chair.

Ms Livingstone replaces Don McGauchie effective immediately. Mr Thodey's appointment takes effect when incumbent CEO Sol Trujillo leaves Telstra to return to the United States.

Mr Thodey said he was delighted to be appointed chief executive of Telstra and looked forward to building on the strong foundation left by Mr Trujillo's four years at the helm.

"Our strategy remains unchanged: to continue to provide customers with world-class products and services," he said. [World class bullsh*t, he means]

The key to Telstra continuing to win and to serve customers will be finishing our transformation that started nearly four years ago. [It sure needs a lot of finishing]

"Completing the transformation will enable us to deliver a superior customer experience [How about putting enough people on the helpline so customers aren't told to ring back later? That should be easy even for a Telstra CEO] and the financial outcomes that our shareholders expect."

Mr Thodey, 54, has been a senior executive at Telstra for eight years. He joined Telstra from IBM where he was chief executive of IBM's Australian and New Zealand operations. In his current position, he has been responsible for Telstra's corporate, government and large business customers in Australia, TelstraClear in New Zealand and Telstra's international sales division.

McGauchie quits, 'speculation a distraction'

With the chief executive selection process complete, Mr McGauchie resigned as Telstra Chairman and said he would leave the board immediately. "Telstra's strength and ongoing performance are the paramount priority," Mr McGauchie said. "It is my view that speculation on my tenure was a distraction to the business. "Nothing should be allowed to get in the way of David and the management team getting on with the important job ahead of them." [He means that he knows he was a deadhead who was no check on the slimy Trujillo]

The Telstra board also has appointed Telstra's chief financial officer John Stanhope, a contender for the CEO's position, as an executive director of the Telstra board.

The controversy surrounding building materials supplier James Hardie Industries' handling of its responsibilities to the asbestos diseases fund claimed another casualty when Telstra said another director, Peter Wilcox, also was leaving the board, "due to his concern that the James Hardie judgment may cause embarrassment to the company".

The Telstra board had asked Mr Willcox to stay on until the telco's annual general meeting in November, which he had agreed to do. Mr McGauchie also is a director of James Hardie.

Telstra's new chair, Ms Livingstone, has been a director of the company since 2000. [Is that all they can say about her? Sounds like she is a nothing too]


Friday, May 1, 2009

CHEEESH!! For once Telstra is doing the right thing and some !@#$%^& judge blocks them

These "Premium" SMS services seem to be almost entirely a con. Check your bills for them. I was billed for such services myself when I was with Vodafone, although I had never asked for or received such services. Voda promptly reversed the charges when I complained but refused to co-operate with any investigation of how the charges arose. And the TIO seemed to think that no investigation was needed because Voda had reversed the charges. Prevention of fraud is obviously not one of their priorities. I think I know how I got targeted but nobody wants to hear it apparently. I even wrote to ACMA but they too refused to take any interest. The crooks who targeted me were called "Mobile Messenger"

TELSTRA has been blocked in its bid to throw an SMS service off its network after it received a high number of complaints from annoyed customers. Telstra wants to disconnect premium SMS supplier Oxygen 8 because it has received a "disproportionately large" level of complaints about its service.

The NSW Federal Court was told traffic to Oxygen 8's services tripled between October 2007 and January 2009, The Australian has reported. The court also heard evidence from a report by the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman that nearly two-thirds of complaints about premium SMS services were from customers who said they had never signed up to receive them.

In February, Telstra gave Oxygen 8 60 days' notice that it would be dropped from its network, citing a clause in the contract between the two companies which would allow it to do so. Oxygen 8 was granted an injunction against being dropped while it challenged the action in the courts. It says Telstra's system for handling complaints is in breach of their contract and federal rules. Telstra had been trying to have that injunction dropped and Oxygen 8's claim dismissed, but in court yesterday Judge Geoffrey Flick ordered the injunction remain in place.

Judge Flick ordered the two companies to begin preparations for a trial starting on July 27. He gave Telstra leave to apply to vary the orders, including lifting the injunction. Telstra refused to enter into mediation with Oxygen 8 to settle the matter out of court.

A Telstra spokesman said: "Telstra is confident about the validity of its termination notice and its prospects on the final hearing. Telstra is committed to the responsible provision of premium SMS services."

Oxygen 8 has alleged that Telstra's SMS complaints handling systems and procedures are inadequate and in breach of the ACMA Telecommunications Service Provider (Mobile Premium Services) Determination 2005 (No1).