Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The latest Telstra bungle

Just hours after Telstra switched off its CDMA network, farmers, bushfolk and residents of regional Australia are eager to determine whether the Next G network is equal or better than the old service.

Telstra already has heralded the conversion as a success but Don Jackson says many of his neighbours in Osborne St, Scarborough, would disagree. Mr Jackson lives just a few minutes from Redcliffe City, but still needs an expensive external aerial to make a call on his Next G-compatible mobile from the comfort of his lounge. "Scarborough is not exactly an Outback suburb," Mr Jackson, 76, said. "If it's not going to work in the middle of civilisation, I can't see how it's going to work in the back blocks."

Mr Jackson said he bought his Next G-compatible mobile phone a few months ago in anticipation of the changeover. While he conceded the problem existed since he bought his mobile, he said the Next G network was not equal or better to CDMA, as promised by the Rudd Government. He said a Telstra employee showed him a map, indicating he could get reception from his street. He said his partner could get reception from her Optus phone in and outside their home. But because he couldn't, he had to cough up about $200 for an external aerial. He said that if he stood in the middle of his street he could sometimes get reception without the aerial. "Once you get past Oxley Ave, you lose it," he said.

The Courier-Mail rang Telstra on behalf of Mr Jackson and was told his story was "strange" because it would know if there was a blackspot in Osborne St. The spokeswoman said Telstra would send someone out.

About 550km northwest of Scarborough, at Banana, Tim Larsen remains sceptical of the Next G network, although he admitted he had no problem with it yesterday. Mr Larsen, 38, said he was angry at what the change had cost him. His car needs a special kit which has to be installed by a professional. All up, he faces up to $700 in costs. "What's annoying is the cost of the outlay . . . was made by someone else for me," he said.

It's the same sentiment for Mark Driscoll, a cattle farmer on a property about 100km from Moura. "Frustrated, you've got no idea," Mr Driscoll said. "I've never spent as much time on an issue as Telstra in the last three-to-four months." He said he had rang Telstra about 17 times without success to find out how the new service would affect him.

Queensland Senator Barnaby Joyce said 25 per cent of the service was not equivalent or better. And Nationals stalwart Ron Boswell said many telco providers, including Optus and Pivotel Globstar, which piggybacked on the CDMA network, were shut out of the market, leaving only Telstra with the infrastructure to service customers.

Telstra said the switch-off at midnight on Monday went to plan without incident. Communications Minister Stephen Conroy, who approved the transition this month, said Telstra would be forced to reveal its drop-out rates.


Saturday, April 19, 2008

If only Australians were as feisty as Americans

America's Comcast cable company seems to be on a par with Telstra for bad service and arrogance. But some Americans push back. Some excerpts:

Inspired by March Madness, the folks at the Consumerist blog recently set up brackets to determine America’s worst company. The tournament was still going on as this column went to press, but I’m not afraid to predict the winner. It will be Comcast — in a rout.

Sure, you skeptics are thinking, “What about Wal-Mart? Exxon? Halliburton?” I’ll admit that we can’t (yet) connect Comcast to child labor, environmental destruction or Dick Cheney (although clearly you’ve never sat for seven hours on a Saturday waiting for a new DVR). But I’m not alone in my seething rage for the nation’s largest cable company.

The Internet is filled with sites — like, and — dedicated to the company. Comcast customer Brian Finkelstein’s video of one of its technicians sleeping on his couch has been watched more than 1 million times on YouTube.

Then there’s Mona Shaw. This once mild-mannered retired nurse from northern Virginia (a square-dancing Unitarian, no less) got so fed up with Comcast’s lousy customer service that she went down to the local office armed with a claw hammer. Here’s the play-by-by from a Washington Post profile of Shaw:
Shaw storms in the company’s office. BAM! She whacks the keyboard of the customer service rep. BAM! Down goes the monitor. BAM! She totals the telephone. People scatter, scream, cops show up and what does she do? POW! A parting shot to the phone!

Shaw was arrested and earned a $345 fine, along with the admiration of millions.

More here

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Merry-go-round of telecom customers proves costly

Whatever it costs the moronic b***s is still not enough in my opinion. That they tolerate the huge turnover rate described below shows what morons they are

CUSTOMER churn costs local businesses $1.5 billion a year, with telecommunications companies the biggest losers. A poll of more than 600 Australian consumers found that over the past 12 months, telephone, mobile phone and broadband companies suffered the most from customer turnover, ahead of electricity providers, banks and insurance firms. Seventy-nine per cent of respondents singled out pricing as the main factor for leaving a company, followed by a lack of incentives to stay loyal (48 per cent).

Poor customer service continued to be the bane of many consumers, with 42 per cent saying their suppliers could not adequately solve their problems, while 20 per cent had issues with inexperienced staff manning their calls.

The survey, commissioned by IT vendor BMC Software, said six out of 10 consumers had changed a supplier in the past year. "This switching merry-go-round is costing Australian business approximately $1.58 billion per annum when the cost of a single customer is multiplied by the average number of churns per year and the adult population (13.2 million)," the survey said. "Furthermore, when the impact of negative word of mouth is taken into account, these costs will rise still further to a conservative estimate of $2.376 billion."

The results do not surprise marketing expert Adrian Payne, a professor of marketing at the University of NSW. Dr Payne said telephone companies had a great deal of difficulty in becoming the "corner-shop corporation". "How can you look, think and feel like a corner shop when you have tens of thousands of customers? This is what they're grappling with," he said.

Organisations with high churn rates should conduct a "defection analysis" to determine the root cause of the loss, rather than ramp up advertising. "It's the leaking bucket syndrome," Dr Payne said. "If they can't do anything about it, they pump money into customer acquisition and there are many problems related to this approach when you don't know why you're losing those customers in the first place."

The study, conducted by Ciao Research, surveyed participants between the ages of 18 and 64 with a yearly income of below $30,000 to over $130,000.


Friday, April 11, 2008


In response to my email of 27 March, I got the following reply from the TIO. Below the reply I reproduce my reply to the reply

From: "TIO Investigations Team"

Subject: TIO ref: 08/061042

Dear Dr Ray,

Thank you for your email received by the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) on 28 March 2008. I am responding to you on the Ombudsman's behalf, in accordance with my responsibilities as Enquiry Manager.

The TIO did receive your letter dated 21 December 2007, however it was mistakenly assumed to be related to your previous Optus complaint. The letter was added to your file, but no further action was taken due to this oversight. I sincerely apologise for any inconvenience this has caused.

The person who was handling your file has since left the TIO and therefore, the matter was passed on to Lou to action. It is my understanding that you believe Lou has misunderstood the issues of your complaint. I have had an opportunity to read the case notes left by Lou and see no evidence that this was the case. Lou has advised that she contacted you to clarify whether this was a different complaint to that originally lodged on 14 December 2007. Lou is an experienced Enquiry
Officer and while I have no doubt that she was attempting to assist you with your complaint, I do apologise if there was any confusion.

The TIO has since received a letter from the Honourable Kevin Rudd, MP on your behalf. I will be responding to your complaint directly via Mr Rudd's office as requested.

In closing, I regret that you feel that the handling of your complaint was less than satisfactory, however, I trust that this has addressed your concerns and a response to your recent correspondence will be forwarded via Mr Rudd's office.

Yours Sincerely

Tanya Erdos, Enquiry Manager

I replied:

Good to hear from you.

I am still amazed that it took three letters -- all of which were (as I expected) in fact received by the TIO -- to get a response out of the TIO. You've definitely got some dumb bunnies working there. And Lou certainly did everything to reinforce that impression. Please consider using an IQ test to weed out the incompetents.

Telstra have now told me that they will accede to my request

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Amazing Telstra again

At last it happened! I got to talk to someone at Telstra about my complaint! I have been trying to get my complaint attended to since 24 November, 2007! And I have written many letters about the matter since then.

It was pressure from the TIO that got them to respond. I received a call from a Matthew at Telstra Customer Relations. After a very brief conversation he agreed to my request that Telstra refund the money that they had originally confiscated from my Telstra prepaid mobile phone account. Why could that conversation not have happened months ago? Search me! Anyway, it will be interesting to see whether or not the refunded money DOES turn up in my account.

There is an annoying coda to the matter, however. Just after I had finished speaking to Matthew, it occurred to me that I would like written confirmation of what he had done in response to my complaint. So I tried to ring him back. "Oh Oh!" you will no doubt be saying if you know anything about Telstra. And you would be right.

Matthew had given me a number to call him back: 1800 814 242 plus a reference number for my matter: 1-131690332. So I was not being a total optimist in trying to call him back. But the number turned out to be a general Telstra enquiry number. "OK", you might say. "How does it matter what number you use as long as you get in touch?"

But you don't know Telstra enquiry numbers if you ask that. The message I got when I called was (approximately): "We are at present experiencing a higher volume of calls than usual so you may have to wait some time. If you wait you will be answered in turn. Otherwise please hang up and call back later". I have heard that message so often that I should be able to say it off by heart.

If they are CONSTANTLY experiencing a "too high" volume of calls, don't you think that they could put on more staff so that the delays don't happen? Not Telstra! Anyway, I wasn't prepared to waste part of my day waiting online for these arrogant ignoramuses so I did not manage to place my return call. I will just await developments.