Monday, December 31, 2007


The sheer incompetence of Telstra has to be experienced to be believed. On Christmas eve I went through the mind-numbing experience of using Telstra's phone helpline to get my cellphone "plan" changed over from a monthly one to a six-monthly one.

After FOUR interminable calls to the line, I was told that the change in plan had been made but that it would take "2 or 3" days for it to show up in the account records. So, one week later, I have just phoned the account records line (1258888) and what do I find? NOTHING has been changed!

I realize that Christmas has intervened but what has happened since then? And why does it take ANY time for information to pass from one Telstra computer file to another? It sounds like they have the sort of system we had with mainframe computers in the '60s -- where large spools of magnetic tape has to be manually transferred from one tape reader to another by an operator. That is certainly the level at which Telstra is operating, whether or not that is the actual process.

And, for once, Optus is ahead of them. I also changed the "plan" on my Optus mobile phone and that registered in the accounts department immediately. If Optus can do it, why can Telstra not do it?

And it is not as if this is an immaterial issue. Somebody with plenty of money in his prepaid account could easily have his phone cut off -- as happened to me -- simply because the accounts department has not been told that he now has extra time to spend it.

It sounds like some doddering octogenerian must be in charge of their IT department. NOTHING gets through to them sometimes. I believe that Trujillo is riding for a fall. Telstra has a huge capacity to make customers angry and I would not be surprised if someone turned up to a Telstra AGM some day with a gun. So far Telstra has been able to rely on the easygoing good nature of their Australian customers for that not to happen. But there are now in Australia people from many lands -- some of whom might not be so easygoing. Given my own experiences with Telstra -- having my phone suddenly cut off, for instance -- it is probably lucky that I am one of those cool, calm old Anglo-Saxons who rely on words, not bullets.

I wonder if a letter to Donald McGauchie (chairman of the Telstra board) might do some good towards shaking them up? They sure need it. One step that would help a lot and which he could easily direct a solution to would be to put more staff on the helpline so that the long waits for attention do not occur. The wait is so long sometimes that the automated response warns callers that the wait will be long and advises people to call some other time! If they are aware of such a gross problem, why do they do nothing to solve it? I know from experience that it is a common occurrence and has been going on for a long time. That they let it go on shows great contempt for their customers.

I think that if Telstra's right hand has not managed to talk to its left hand by tomorrow I will write to McGauchie. Phoning them is obviously pointless (and difficult) and I have already written several letters of complaint about my "plan" to Trujillo's office with no result.

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