16 April 2008

The customer service of our telecommunications carriers, or lack thereof

The overall quality of our major telecommunications carriers' customer service is appalling. From a technical standpoint, their services are adequate, but what is the point in having a service without staff competent enough to deliver them? One would think that providing staff who are aware of and understand the available phone models, services, phone plans and management of accounts would not be that difficult, but unfortunately based on my experiences with our major carriers over the past decade the vast majority of the people I have dealt with do not even possess these basic skills, and this is no exaggeration. None more so than at Optus.

It has been over five months since I purchased my new mobile phone under a contract and Optus still cannot set up the billing on my plan correctly. At first, I had no Internet access, and after being made to do the rounds of their departments, the complaints department finally enabled my Internet access within minutes after fighting for over a week to get the company to take some proper action on this problem. Not only did the complaints department enable the Internet access on my plan, they apparently put me onto a second plan, so I was being billed under two plans simultaneously - one for the price of two.

To compound the problem, their staff can hardly be described as proactive, keen to use their initiative and take any responsibility when dealing with customers' problems. Clearly, there are issues in the management of their service to customers because all too often Customer Service and Technical Support have referred me to the other department even after it is explained that I am being sent back to the one that originally took my call. When asked why I am being sent back to the same department the answer is simply "I don't know". This is just downright silly. If one department has made a mistake, do you send the customer back not knowing if the same person is going to handle the call? Should you make them dial the number again? Absolutely not. The appropriate action is obvious if you use some common sense and courtesy: put the customer on hold, call the other department to find out what has happened, then decide on the right course of action. Otherwise, as has been my experience, nothing gets done.

I have taken my case to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman. The dispute is presently at Level 1 and if a resolution isn't found within two weeks, the dispute proceeds to Level 2.

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