Firstly I will start by declaring I worked for Telstra back in the 90s for four years before being made redundant. I bear no ill will toward the company for this – in fact, it was the best thing that’s ever happened to me.
I was awake around 3am on Sunday morning. I refreshed my iPhone Twitter browser… just because I do that. It said there was no network available. Given the time, I thought “Ah, Telstra might be doing an upgrade or something similar”, but I couldn’t recall them sending me an outage notice.
Later, at 11am, I was at East Brunswick Project (awesome coffee place) checking in on Foursquare and I still wasn’t getting network access. I called the Telstra faults line and asked if there was a problem with the network. I was told: “I’ve had a few calls about this. Do you want me to put you through to the right area?” I responded, “Yes please.” I was then put through to mobiles, I assume, and I asked if there a was problem with the network and, if so, when was it likely to be fixed?
I then had to tell them my mobile number and date of birth. Why do I have to tell them this when I have asked a simple question that doesn’t relate specifically to my service, but to the network? Is the fact they have a fault a national secret that can’t be revealed to a non customer? The guy then told me, “Yes, there is a national outage for iPhones and it was reported an hour ago.” I responded: “Well, it’s been out for a number of hours, so what’s the ETA on having it fixed?” Answer: “One to three hours.”
Now I really wanted to rant at the guy, but really, what’s the point? He’s probably just a student working on the weekend to fund his education/drinking habit. I said something about letting customers know and he said, ‘Oh, it’s not a planned outage’. REALLY! I never would have guessed!
What I don’t understand is, Telstra can SMS me when it wants me to purchase something but can’t text me to tell me there is an issue with the network and let me know they’re working on it, and then follow-up with a text to tell me when it’s fixed. Seriously, it’s not like this would put a dent in their revenue – and it actually might win them some customer loyalty by telling us what’s going on.
In addition to this, it would stop customers calling up and asking if there is a fault, thus diminishing call queues and wait times, and giving service staff the ability to service calls for unknown customer faults.
Are their systems really that inflexible they are unable to isolate all iPhone customers on a data plan to send them a text message notifying them of an unplanned outage? Or are they too scared to let people know something is wrong? Have they not learnt honesty in customer service will ultimately lead to long-term loyalty?
So: increased loyalty and potentially decreased costs? Where is the downside for Telstra?
I will remain with Telstra because it has the best network coverage, which to me is the most important factor in picking a phone network, above price consideration. But as my service is a premium price product, I expect better minimum customer service.
I don’t imagine Telstra will be providing any compensation to me and other customers who were inconvenienced by this outage. I might have missed out on becoming Mayor of East Brunswick Project! But I was also trying to sort out some banking online and had to find free wifi to do this, which was very frustrating.
These small lapses in customer service are what will make customers of Telstra continue to see them as slow, inflexible and incapable of meeting customer expectations.
I know telcos don’t have the greatest reputation, but they need to realise admitting mistakes doesn’t lose customers – it builds trust.
There is also a small issue I had earlier in the year with a $7,000 overcharge, but I will save that for another day…