Monday, September 28, 2009

Telstra customers need to know this

ZERO is the hero which can give you back hours of your life by reducing time spent on hold by as much as 70 per cent.

Despite dwelling at the bottom of the keypad, it has been revealed that the humble 0 is at the top of the dial pile when it comes to fighting the dreaded automated phone "services".

It was in researching a cheat sheet to help readers beat interactive voice response (IVR) systems that The Daily Telegraph discovered the Power of None.

We found that when ringing Optus, pressing zero four times reduced the amount of time required to reach a real person to as little as 36 seconds.

By comparison, following the menu took more than two minutes. That's a time saving of 70 per cent.

The nought (dialled seven times) also stopped us getting caught on the line to St George, cutting the wait from over five minutes to 2 min 44 sec.

Whether it was AGL or the Commonwealth Bank, AAPT or Country Energy, "0" was the way to go if you simply wanted to speak to a human being.

The revelation is sure to anger big business and government, which have shelled out billions on systems seemingly designed to annoy the hell out of users.

But the real aim is to cut costs.

Minimising human contact keeps down customer service staff numbers, said Allan Asher, head of ACCAN, the telecommunications consumer organisation.

Cheat sheet

AGL: Press 0 three times

Centrelink: Press 0 at each prompt

Energy Australia: Press 0 then wait

Jetstar: Press 1 then 1

Telstra: Press 0 seven times


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

TO: CEO, Telstra

Dear Sir,

I have just spent about half an hour wending my way through the maze that is required for me to recharge my mobile prepaid A/c online. At the end this is the message I got:

Mobile Number: 044828xxxx

Thank you. Your Recharge has been successfully processed.

Date: 15-09-2009 12:07 PM
Telstra Pre-Paid Mobile Number: 044828xxxx
Receipt Number: 2582870354
Current Account Balance: $53.93
Credit Expiry Date: 26-11-2009

Why was I given only an extra two months to spend the money? The $30 option I selected should have given me a year. Please adjust it.

I have tried calling various Telstra help numbers but when I finally got through to an operator he said that there was nothing he could do.

I have in total wasted half of my morning on this

Yours disgustedly

Dr John Ray

Update 22 Sept.

I have just got a call from a PR person admitting that Telstra goofed but she had no idea why the fault occurred and seemed uninterested in finding out why until I threatened to raise the matter with the TIO. I extracted a promise for an investigation and follow-up letter.

Telstra will be forced to split by Government

Anything that cuts Telstra down to size sounds good to me -- JR

THE Rudd Government has introduced major changes to telecommunications laws, including the separation of Telstra. "Today we are delivering historic reforms in Australia's long term national interest," Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said this morning. "The Government will require the functional separation of Telstra, unless it decides to voluntarily structurally separate."

Telstra has been given the choice of voluntarily separating its infrastructure and retail arms in a manner approved by the competition watchdog.

If it chooses not to, the legislation will let the Government impose rules on the way it operates.

The rules include making sure Telstra charges other companies a fair price to access its network.

Telstra will also be prevented from moving into advanced wireless broadband unless it separates and divests its cable broadband and Foxtel assets. "These reforms will address Telstra's high level of integration to promote greater competition and consumer benefits," Senator Conroy said.

The changes, included in an update to the Telecommunications Act, will be tabled in Parliament today.

Senator Conroy said Telstra and the Government had already been in talks about the move. "Telstra are very constructively engaged in discussions with us already," Senator Conroy said. "They were very well prepared already when we had our first meeting."

The Government was flexible on how Telstra may choose to separate, he said. "The Government maintains an open mind on how structural separation may be achieved," he said. "It may include a new company Telstra that may transfer some of its fixed-line assets to."

Senator Conroy said previous governments of both persuasions had failed to address telecommunications reform. "The measures in this legislation will finally correct the mistakes of the past," he said.

Telstra has previously strongly resisted moves to separate its infrastructure and retail arms.

The new laws will also give more power to the competition watchdog and the communications minister to protect consumers and issue warnings to telcos. A new Universal Service Obligation will ensure "all people in Australia to have reasonable access on an equitable basis to standard telephone services".

It will also regulate the removal of payphones and include serious penalties – up to $10 million – for Telstra if it fails to comply.


Friday, September 4, 2009

Telstra technical bungle takes a life

A clear case of a system breakdown. Emergency calls are supposed to be allowed even on a phone that is otherwise limited in some way. In this case the emergency exemption was clearly not operational and she got the normal "piss off" message

Perth lawyer John Hammond has called for a coronal inquiry into the death of Karl Feifar after his partner was unable to get through to the emergency 000 service on her home phone.

Kathleen Clarke today told 6PR radio that her partner collapsed around 10.30pm on May 29, and when she tried to call emergency services three times on her Telstra home phone she got a recorded message saying "this number is not available from this service".

She then spent 10 minutes running to a neighbour's house for help, before remembering she had a work mobile phone in her car and eventually getting through to 000.

She performed CPR on her partner while she waited for a St John's ambulance officers, who took a further 20 minutes to arrive at their Orelia home. By this stage the 36-year-old "looked dead".

He died from a cardiac arrest in hospital later that evening. "I wholly believe that the first 10 minutes did take his life," Ms Clarke said.

In a written statement, Telstra spokesman Craig Middelton said: "Mrs Clarke has our deepest sympathies for the tragic loss of her husband and Telstra will endeavour to continue talking to Mrs Clarke about the circumstances.

"We have conducted a high-level investigation of the situation and have found no faults with the service to the Clarke home or the 000 service, which manages more than 10 million calls per year.

"We also did not find any calls from Mrs Clarke's home phone made directly to 000." [Of course you didn't: Your system was malfunctioning!!]

Ms Clarke's Telstra home phone is set up on a pre-paid style plan known as an InContact service, but it is meant to allow 000 calls. Mr Middleton confirmed the 000 service should be a free call from any fixed or mobile phone.

Her contract states that Telstra would accept liability for breaching their contract or committing negligence if it caused personal injury or death.

Ms Clarke is now looking to sue the communications company, but she is waiting for the telecommunications ombudsman to conclude its investigation, including getting a clear explanation from Telstra about their actions.

"We would fully cooperate with an independent investigation into the facts," Mr Middleton said. "It would be inappropriate for us to debate the facts in the media."

Mr Hammond today lashed out at Telstra's actions, saying Ms Clarke had a valid case to sue for negligence.

"Her husband had collapsed on the floor. It was an outrageous suggestion to put to someone like that, and it was treating Kathleen with contempt, in my view, to put it to her that she never actually called 000," Mr Hammond said.

Ms Clarke said her partner's eight-year-old daughter just wants her father back.

"She's very distressed, she doesn't understand, she leaves him notes around the home everyday asking for him to come back," she said.

Meanwhile, Opposition health spokesman Roger Cook has called for a full parliamentary inquiry into the matter, criticising the slow response times to the emergency by St John's Ambulance.

"It is clear that St John Ambulance is not meeting community expectations and does not have the resources to do the job," he said.

"When a vehicle finally arrived, the staff started to work on Mr Feifar but advised Kathleen that they were waiting for another ambulance crew to come."

A Parliamentary Committee hearing has confirmed that at least another 50 full-time paramedics are needed in WA.

"Kathleen and her daughter deserve answers and a full parliamentary inquiry is the only way to ensure that all cases are investigated thoroughly and that people are able to give evidence with the full protection of the Parliament," Mr Cook said.

Mr Feifar won a gold medal representing Australia at the 1992 Barcelona Paralympics in the 4X100m relay and he went on to be awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for services to sport.