Horsley's Comment

In the space of the past two weeks, several important reports have been released which offer revealing insight into how the Australian telecommunications industry is viewed by its customers. The first was the publication by the Australian Communications Authority of its performance monitoring bulletin for the June quarter. Second was the publication by the ACA of its customer satisfaction survey. Third was the annual report of the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman.

I call attention to these three publications in order to focus on service. The ACA quarterly report says that the provision of services and the restoration of faults are slowly improving, but that the rate of improvement has trailed off. The ACA's customer satisfaction survey on the other hand highlights reasonably high levels of dissatisfaction for new connections and for repairs. And if you examine the TIO report, it too highlights very serious dissatisfaction with connections.

All of these reports indicate that, while there have been small background improvements in infrastructure, the community at large still holds that service levels have a fair way to go before they will be satisfied.

Clearly, the telecommunications industry has not yet recognised the significance that the community places upon services. The industry is also yet to understand the vital nature of communication services as seen by most people -- that telecommunications is now viewed as an essential service and not just a utility. To most customers, particularly business customers, it's as important as gas, electricity and water.

And of course, one must also consider customer dissatisfaction issues rumoured to be contained in the soon-to-be-released Besley Report. Word has it that the Besley Report will also identify this high level of customer dissatisfaction and, more to the point, the high level of frustration people have with not receiving what they consider to be reasonable service. I also expect that the Besley Report will show that the service expectations customers have are very reasonable indeed.

The ramifications of this dissatisfaction with services are that people are not using communication services to the extent that they might -- particularly in the business world. It doesn't take a crystal ball to work out that people would use more services if services levels were improved.

What we've seen in the last two weeks with these reports -- and the impending Besley Report -- is an overall indication that this industry has to dramatically lift its game.

Take the experience of Sydney during the Olympic Games. All levels of industry set out to lift their services, and most did significantly, from hotel owners to State Rail. Why can't we transplant the service ethos and friendliness that we developed during the Olympic Games into a major growth industry like telecommunications, and more importantly, make it a major component of the Australian economy? The answer is simply that we must.

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