ACCAN consumer report highlights frustration of Aussie telco customers.
ACCAN consumer report highlights frustration of Aussie telco customers.

The worst telcos for customer service

LET'S face it, telcos aren't exactly known for their efficient customer service.

Most of us have probably had the frustrating experience of trying to resolve an issue with our telecommunications provider, often spending hours on the phone being put on hold, waiting to be transferred or waiting for a call back.

A new consumer survey shows just how common that experience is and how the different telcos compare when it comes to customer service.

The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN), has released a report, called Can You Hear Me?, looking at the customer service provided by 10 telco providers.

It found that customers spend an average of 13 days trying to get a complaint resolved with their telco, with more complicated issues taking as long as two months to get resolved.

The survey found that on average customers have to contact their provider 2.6 times, and spend 13 days seeking a resolution.

Nearly one in five (19 per cent) said their issue was unresolved at the time of the survey. For people in that camp, the average number of days waiting for a resolution increased to 60 days to date.

"We've all got our own experience of telco customer service, but we wanted to quantify this and give consumers some idea of who is providing the best service across a number of metrics," said ACCAN CEO Teresa Corbin.

"Nearly half the complaints received by the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) last year identified customer service as an issue, so we know it's a source of considerable frustration."

Overall, the survey found that almost one in five (or 18 per cent) respondents were negative about their customer service experience, while 36 per cent were neutral.

The survey involved 1347 telco customers and was conducted between February and March this year. Of those surveyed 210 customers were with Telstra, 203 were with Optus and 205 with Vodafone.

Among the big three, Vodafone came out best in terms of dealing with service issues, with 61 per cent of customers describing their experience as positive.

Just over half of TPG, iiNet, Amaysim, Dodo/iPrimus customers said they'd had a positive experience.

Meanwhile Telstra and Optus were judged to be among the worst, earning a positive response of 43 per cent and 42 per cent respectively.

The lowest ranked were Belong (owned by Telstra) and regional provider Active8Me, both

getting positive scores of only 36 per cent.

Virgin Mobile which Optus has owned or co-owned for 18 years actually topped the survey results but is no longer in the market after Optus made the decision to phase out the brand earlier this year.

Virgin Mobile which Optus has owned or co-owned for 18 years topped the survey results but is no longer in the market after Optus made the decision to phase out the brand earlier this year.
Virgin Mobile which Optus has owned or co-owned for 18 years topped the survey results but is no longer in the market after Optus made the decision to phase out the brand earlier this year.

Many customers reported experiencing difficulty when trying to lodge a formal complaint with their provider.

According to the ACCAN report, of those who looked for information about how to lodge a complaint with their telco, more than half (55 per cent) said "the information was difficult to find. Of those who lodged a complaint with their provider, only 18 per cent found the process easy."

When it comes to getting an issue resolved, customers who went into their telco's store had the shortest waiting time - eight days - while those who complained via social media waited 15 days. Those relying on email waited an average of 30 days.

And while phoning their telco was the most preferred method for customers to get an issue sorted, those who did had to wait 23.3 days for a resolution. But before the issue was resolved, the customer had to phone their provider an average of 2.7 times, be transferred about three times and spend 1.2 hours on the phone before reaching the right person.

"It's time to shift the balance back to telcos so that customers are not carrying such heavy costs to maintain their essential telecommunications services," Ms Corbin said.

A breakdown of the average amount of time resolving different issues.
A breakdown of the average amount of time resolving different issues.

"We're recommending a fresh look at customer service by the industry and the regulator, the Australian Communications and Media Authority," she added.

"There's an opportunity to do this now with the current review of the industry Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code … We'd like to see more concrete obligations in the Code, and more active enforcement by the regulator."

The Communications Alliance, which represents telcos in Australia, said 58 per cent of customers had their issues resolved as a result of their first contact with their provider.

"Recent strengthening of the Telecommunications Consumer Protections (TCP) Code now in circulation for public comment - will further improve the situation for telecommunications consumers," chief executive John Standon said.

- With AAP



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