Customer service still dogs Telstra

Customer satisfaction has increased just 7 per cent in the last 18 months

Telstra chief executive, David Thodey, has conceded that progress remains slow on improving the telco's customer service record, despite making it a top priority in the last 18 months.

Speaking at an analyst briefing on the telco’s financial results for the six months to 31 December 2011, Thodey said internal surveys had indicated a 7 per cent increase in customer satisfaction over the last 18 months, falling well short of the 30 per cent year-on-year goal the chief executive set.

“In terms of customer satisfaction we are seeing improvements,” Thodey said. “We still have a long way to go… you don’t get it right every day and there are always examples where we don’t do it well.”

Complaints about Telstra registered with the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) declined by 24 per cent in the half year to 31 December 2011.

“I’ve said repeatedly that TIO complaints are right at the end of the process but they are an indicator about how we’re going,” he said. “We want to get to a point where customers are not just satisfied but want to recommend Telstra to others.”

The telco plans to begin implementation of a Net Promoter Score which will become a measure of advocacy.

“It really means every metric, every part of the company has got to change the way they measure so it’s about a customer outcome and not necessarily an internal metric,” he said. “We have a lot of work to do there and this will probably take a couple of years to drive out.”

The launch of a new bill format for consumer customers in the last half garnered a positive response, according to Thodey, while the move to 24/7 social media customer service with Facebook and Twitter have also contributed to customer service gains.

“We’ve moved on to social media where we have people monitoring 24/7 what’s on Twitter and Facebook and we engage in the conversation so we can get ahead of concerns of commentary that’s going on in the online world,” he said.

“But the real question is, are they making a difference, because you can do all these things and if it doesn’t make a difference then what’s the point.”

Sensis, PSTN decline

Telstra’s Sensis business, which now falls under the telco’s new digital division, has continued to decline in revenue, as has PSTN . However, Thodey remained optimistic about the future of both.

“We are still going through this transition at Sensis to become a digital media advertising business within the SMB market,” he said. “We’re very pleased to say we’re seeing stabilisation in the sales results, so our sales team are now more familiar with the products they’re selling and how to represent them to our customers.

“But there’s still a long way to go in this transformation as it’s a big shift to digital marketing. While we still expect high revenue decline this year we think we’ve got the parameters right as we look forward in this business.”

Telstra acting chief financial officer, Mark Hall, also noted the decline in Sensis revenue had been exaggerated by the timing of the distribution of the Perth Yellow Pages book. Revenue from the book will be recognised in the second half of the fiscal year, whereas last year it was recognised in the first half. Hall expects the change will boost the second half revenue by $53 million.

“PSTN line loss continues to be managed well,” Hall said. “We have not seen any acceleration in line loss in recent halves, which is an indication of our bundled strategy.”

According to Hall the bundled option has also meant customers have signed up for longer, assisting with churn rates.

Thodey would not disclose any revenues in relation to the National Broadband Network (NBN) until the Structural Separation Undertaking (SSU) is approved by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

“We’re working constructively with the ACCC and we’re making progress and we’re hoping we can bring these negotiations to a successful conclusion in the near future but we’ve just got to work through all the details and get this thing right,” Thodey said. “We’re working really diligently on the NBN side; we’ve got to be ready as we move into an NBN world and I’m very pleased with preparation work the company has done.”

Follow Chloe Herrick on Twitter: @chloe_CW

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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