Hold Telcos Financially Accountable for Poor Customer Service

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Financial penalties & consumer compensation from Telstra, Optus, Vodafone & other Telcos for every instance of exceptionally poor customer service.


Telecommunications companies are saving millions of dollars every year by outsourcing their support services to overseas call centers. These savings solely benefit shareholders. but delivers second rate customer service that ultimately comes at the expense of the consumer. 


Customers are forced to wait on hold, sometimes for hours, only to receive unsatisfactory service. Almost without exception, customers who have been forced to call companies like Telstra are forced to make multiple calls to deal with seemingly simple situations.

The very thought of needing to call Telstra causes distress for most people.

While in theory the telecommunications ombudsman has been put in place to ensure some kind of accountability for Telcos, the reality is that the small fees paid to the Ombudsman by Telcos when a complaint has been made offers very little incentive for Telcos to improve their service.

While the Telcos save millions by outsourcing, customers are left bearing the burden of a frustrating situation that leaves them often abandoning their grievances simply because of the difficulty involved in pursuing a resolution.

If the inconvenience placed upon the customer is put into dollar terms, the average Australian earns around $35 per hour.

That’s $3.5 million for every 100,000 hours spent on the phone.

Combined it is easy to imagine that between all of the Telcos in Australia that the number of hours wasted on the phone because of poor customer service would be in the millions. For every million hours wasted on hold that is $35 million dollars.

In 2016 Telstra reported a profit of $5.8 billion, an increase of 35.9%.

A quick look at the numerous complaints found on Telstra’s Facebook page makes it clear that these profits have not been earned by exemplary customer service. They have been earned simply by the fact that we are held hostage by lock in contracts and the knowledge that any alternative Telco will most likely offer the same appalling customer service.

Deciding between the different Telcos is akin to decide if you would like to be kicked in the left shin, or the right shin.

The only incentive that large organisations understand are financial ones. their actions are entirely based what will generate more profit or save them more money.

Therefore I propose the following.

  • Telcos be forced to pay their customers a fine of $50 for every 30 minutes that the customer is on hold.
  • $50 fine if the call goes over 45 mins
  • A $200 fine if the customer is promised a call back by a customer service representative, and no call back is received within the specified time.
  • If a customer is required to call back on multiple occasions to remedy their complaint Telcos should be charged $50 for every proceeding phone call, plus an extra $100 for every 30 minutes.
  • If a phone call lasts longer than 90 minutes in total, including hold time & time speaking to a customer service representative another $200 fine should be issued in addition to the other fines.


Fines are intended to be a reimbursement for time spent by the customer

The suggested fines are not unreasonable. The Telecommunications Ombudsman reported that 90% of complaints made to the TIO are easily resolved once the complainant was able to speak to the right person.

By decreasing the efficiency of their customer service in order to save money, they are creating a situation where the customer directly pays for that decreased efficiency in the form of time spent pursuing resolution to problems that would and should be easily dealt with, or completely avoided, if the level of customer service were sufficient to begin with.

The situation is truly one of pure greed. By cutting cost on their support services they clearly saying that the do not care about inconvenience to their customers. And as long as the inconvenience does not affect their bottom line this attitude will continue.

The token level of accountability that comes from the Ombudsman is no incentive for big organisations to truly address the customer service issues within their company.

As long as the end of year profits continue to increase, customer service can safely be neglected.

This industry wide practice is unethical self-interest that removes the financial burden from the company and places the burden squarely on the shoulders of the customer.

A greater level of accountability needs to be put in place there must be financial repercussions for incompetence and poor customer service.

Without financial repercussions there is no incentive to improve.  

While this is a legitimate method for businesses to cut costs, it should not be allowed for essential services that we are rely upon such phone and internet, electricity and water. For any other industry, if customers were faced with such appalling customer service they would have the option to take their business elsewhere, or to not use the service.

 

If any of the suggested fines are enacted, telcos must also be banned from passing on the costs to the consumer for any action taken against them.

When company profits are in the hundreds of millions or billions of dollars, to cry poor and claim that costs to improve service should be passed onto customers is a pure fabrication.

The complete disconnect between shareholders and the moral and ethical responsibility of the company in which that have chosen to invest in needs to come to an end. If all shareholders care about is money and financial gain, then they need to be held accountable for the actions of the company through the implementation of financial penalties that have a direct effect on shareholders. 

Customer satisfaction, reliability of service, being confident that any issues can be resolved by talking to someone with the training, knowledge and ability to help, none of this makes a difference to shareholders as long as the dividends keep coming in.

This is not a dispersion on the people working in the call centers, but the fact is, trying explain a difficult situation to someone for whom english is a second language can be difficult. For Telcos to deliberately force this upon the customer simply because it saves money is clearly unethical.

This petition does not imply that Telcos should be forced to cease using offshore call centers, only that customers should be reimbursed for all poor customer server delivered to them by Telcos and their agents, both from local and offshore sources.



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