Australian telcos fail to appease customers: ACCAN

Australian Consumer Communications Action Network (ACCAN) says 2.3 million Australians unhappy with telco customer service

One in two telco customers have experienced problems with their phone in the past year, with customer service, complaint handling and technical glitches topping the list, according to research.

The research, commissioned by the Australian Consumer Communications Action Network (ACCAN), has found that while two-thirds of people said they tried to have their complaint resolved by calling their provider, one in three were dissatisfied with the outcome.

ACCAN director of policy and campaigns, Elissa Freeman, said the research indicates approximately 2.3 million Australians are unhappy with the way their provider has handled a problem they’d experienced with their phone or internet service in the past 12 months.

“The 230,000 or so complaints that make it to the TIO [Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman] each year represent just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the number of people with unresolved complaints,” Freeman said in a statement.

This figure represents just four per cent of customers took their complaints to the TIO, despite ACCAN’s claims the TIO has “has a good track record of working with consumers and industry to review and resolve complaints”.

“In broad terms, we already know that telco customer service and complaint handling across this industry has a very bad reputation,” Freeman said. “This data would suggest that internal complaints figures are very, very high, and that this is resulting in some very unhappy customers.”

According to Freeman, stories about dismal customer service or complaint handling problems with telcos and ISPs are “just too common.”

“What ACCAN is aiming to do is to explain the process you need to go through to get your complaint resolved with the minimum amount of time and hassle, and remind consumers that the TIO is there to help.”

The ACCAN is calling on the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to introduce a complaints-handling standard for the industry as a part of its current telco customer service investigation, Reconnecting the Customer. The organisation is also warning local ISPs and telcos to lift customer service standards and to overhaul consumer protection rules.

At the hearing, the TIO said the lack of clear information about the product being sold and price consumers will pay, is at the heart of the current crisis of confidence between telecommunications customers and providers.

ISP, iiNet (ASX:IIN) has also spoken up claiming customer service must be given a greater focus in the telecommunications industry or providers will risk high customer churn levels.