Thursday, March 26, 2009

Telstra fails the public respect test

TELSTRA'S efforts to cast itself as a good corporate citizen appear to have failed. The telecommunications and media company has come near the bottom of the class for corporate behaviour on such hot topics as executive salaries and fair wages for staff.

Woolworths, on the other hand, came top of a Herald survey that explored consumer expectations of large Australian and Australian-domiciled international companies.

Taken during the fall-out over Pacific Brands and the huge payouts to executives at the failed insurance group AIG, the survey by a researcher, The Leading Edge, records what people believe companies should be doing to gain their respect and trust.

Most large corporates are failing to rein in excessive salaries of their executives but are recognised to be doing more about paying their staff fair wages, the survey of 1500 people shows.

Overall, companies are performing badly in three areas consumers regard as important - what companies are doing to limit their impact on the environment, whether they conduct their business in an open and transparent manner, and whether they impose limits on executive pay and bonuses.

However, all of the large companies included in the report (see below) were, to varying degrees, seen to be providing equal opportunities to staff, paying fair wages and treating their customers with respect.

Areas that are often the focus of corporate marketing campaigns, such as supporting charities, community projects and activity in developing nations, are not regarded as important by Australian consumers.

The study also highlights how much responsibility individuals assign to governments and business to get the country out of the current doldrums; a third of that falls to the Federal Government, a third to big business, and the remainder shared by state governments, local communities and, lastly, the individual.

The survey will make uncomfortable reading for Telstra. Of the 10 companies in the survey only international packaged goods giants Unilever and Procter & Gamble recorded lower scores. People said they were least likely to speak favourably about Telstra than any other company and, more worrying, almost a quarter said they were more likely to bad-mouth Telstra - nearly four times the number for Woolworths, Coles and Nestle.

Conversely, three quarters of the people surveyed said they were most likely to talk favourably about Woolworths than any other company. Woolworths, which registered the highest score in the key criteria, was also regarded as the most ethical company, twice that of its nearest competitor, St George.

Karen Phillips managing director of TLE Sydney, said the research shows Woolworths is more successful in bridging the gap between the corporate face it projects and the day-to-day experience of customers.

"From a corporate perspective Woolworths has done very well, largely because it's put a lot behind a very effective [marketing] campaign that gives a warm human face to the company.

"But I think as much as Telstra may have worked at it [corporate social responsibility], they have not really generated a level of connectivity at a human level with their recent campaign."

A Telstra spokesman acknowledged it had work to do. He said: "Telstra treats with great seriousness any feedback about the company's reputation."

Telstra cannot take criticism

Not terribly surprising, given how much there is to criticize

LESLIE Nassar, aka Fake Stephen Conroy on Twitter, says he has been fired from his job as Telstra's iPhone expert for speaking out about the telco.

Mr Nassar, who only yesterday revealed his fears about his job to The Daily Telegraph, this morning said he had been sacked by Dr Hugh Bradlow, who is Telstra's Chief Technology Officer, and Greg Callaghan, a director in that Office.

Telstra says it has begun a "disciplinary process" against Mr Nassar, but not fired him.

Still, when Mr Nassar got off a flight from Melbourne to Sydney this morning he posted this following on Twitter under Fake Stephen Conroy.

"Just landed in Sydney. If I have been fired, nobody has told me about it."

That was at about 8.20am.

Then at 8.50am: "Okay, I've been fired for contravening Telstra's AWA that mandates that you don't criticise Telstra - ever - even in jest."

A minute later: "Let me make it absolutely clear; the folks working in the CTO do extraordinary work. I'm sorry to lose my workmates."

Then two minutes after: "Hugh Bradlow (Telstra CTO) and Greg Callaghan are both good, smart guys. They're enforcers in this, not puppet-masters."

When The Daily Teleraph then asked if Mr Nassar if he had been sacked, he said: "Yep. Just now, by Hugh Bradlow and Greg Callaghan for, they say, contravening the Satirical Smack-Talk policy."

A Telstra spokesman said: "Leslie Nassar has not been fired. However, we have started a disciplinary process against him - not because of his Fake Stephen Conroy blogs but because of his ongoing unauthorised public statements about Telstra, including abusive comments towards a Telstra employee."


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Arrogance and incompetence from Telstra yet again

Footscray family's Telstra battle lasts 18 months -- and again it was only media attention that got any action

TELSTRA has admitted to double dipping a battling Footscray family's internet account - and 18 months later it has still not paid back the money.

Musician Wade English discovered by accident that the company had been charging him for broadband and dial-up internet services at the same time.

He lodged a complaint with the Ombudsman and was then told by Telstra the matter would be fixed within 24 hours.

Mr English's was one of a staggering 52,304 billing issues lodged against telecommunication, internet and phone service providers in Australia last year.

It took 40 complaints before Telstra offered to reimburse him $646.80 and cancel his dial-up service last December.

At the time of the error, the Aussie telco admitted in writing that Mr English was entitled to a refund. It said it would terminate his dial-up service and hand over the refund within 30 days. What followed was a nightmare.

"They didn't follow up with any money, but what they did do was totally disconnect my internet service, both dial-up and broadband. I went six or seven weeks without it," Mr English said. "I finally gave up and switched to Optus. "But in that time I reckon I lost about $10,000 in work that would've been booked through my internet site."

When Mr English called Telstra to see where his refund was, he was told he did not have an account and so could not be traced on the Telstra computer system.

Mr English said he wanted to encourage other people to challenge Telstra and other large corporations.

In documents seen by the Herald Sun, Telstra acknowledged it overcharged Mr English for two years and offered to pay back $646.80. Only after the Herald Sun contacted Telstra did the company offer to send a cheque.

"We have spoken to the customer and apologised for the inconvenience caused," Telstra spokesman Martin Barr said, adding the matter was being investigated.