Building trust is best achieved through finding the right person, and always being honest, according to the Australian Communications and Media Authority's (ACMA) chief information officer, Carsten Larsen.
In talking about the role of the CIO in addressing internal customer problems, Larsen pointed to behavioural principles set out by author and CoveyLink Worldwide chief executive officer, Stephen Covey Jr, which Larsen said all boiled down to the importance of honesty.
"It's about listening and it's about empathy," Larsen told attendees at the CIO Summit 2010 this week. "Be honest about what you do, provide visible and easily accesible performance data.
"If you're not doing well, be honest about it and say you're going to do better."
However, that openness and honesty had to be backed up by action.
"Don't expect people to change just because you think they should," he said. "They're not going to trust to you if you lie to them or don't tell them the truth - it's just not going to happen."
Finding staff that are empathetic to customers and internal staff when addressing problems is half the solution, according to Larsen, who has held CIO roles at ActewAGL/TransACT as well as State Rail of NSW.
"Wherever I work, I work from the bottom up - I fix the staff first," he told the summit. "If you don't fix the staff you'll never get the job done."
Providing service level agreements (SLA) where 100% remained a target - if not an immediate possibility - was also important to gaining trust from customers, and achieving acceptable service.
While currently held under caretaker conventions as part of the lead-up to the Federal election on 21 August, the ACMA has in recent months ramped up actions against the telecommunications industry, launching a formal inquiry, and more recently asking for public submissions on customer service and complaints-handling in the industry.
"We want to understand what the problems are - the way the telecommunications industry is dealing with its customers and the root causes of those problems," ACMA chairman, Chris Chapman, said in a statement. "And critically, we want to identify enduring solutions that will improve customer service and complaints-handling, both now and into the foreseeable future.
“Many would share the ACMA’s concern about whether the current arrangements which underpin telecommunications consumer protection are really effective in dealing with the issues that concern consumers most,” he said.
"The trend-line growth and sheer quantum of complaints about complaint handling and customer service — up to 900 every working day — reflects poorly on the entire industry. Whether this is evidence of a failing regulatory system or just a perception of that failure, I now believe this issue has to be confronted directly and urgently otherwise we will be talking about these same issues for years to come.”
Telcos like Vodafone Hutchison Australia (VHA) have welcomed the inquiry.
However, in talking of regaining trust, Larsen told attendees at the CIO summit that trust could be hard to regain from customers.
"Trust is like a vase... once it's broken, though you can fix it, the vase will never be the same again," he said, quoting an unattributed source.
"When you do tell people you are going to do better, actually live up to what you say."
(See the CIO Summit 2010 in pictures)