PATRICIA EDGAR. Going Round the Twist with Telstra and the NBN Co

NBN Co claims their ‘focus remains strongly on improving customer experience on the network including a smooth connection to the network.’ In fact the experience is a fiasco.  

Bill shorten says the dysfunctional NBN needs to lift its game, and under a Labor Government the company will have to pay compensation to businesses and families who have been seriously inconvenienced by their incompetence. Appropriate standards and financial penalties would be determined in consultation with the ACCC, NBN, and other stakeholders.

We are told NBN installers missed more than 80,000 appointments in 2017and a report by the ombudsman in April this year found that complaints about the NBN increased 200% in the second half of 2017 to 22,827, most of which concerned service quality and delayed connections.

The installation partnership between NBN with Telstra as service provider requires the talents of Shaun Micallef and Charlie Pickering to make sense. It is impossible to work out who is responsible for the mess. The frustrations caused – when appointments are cancelled, missed and the ongoing harassment from Telstra callers who can’t understand Australian English, who cannot deviate from the script in front of them, and it seems, can’t keep accurate records from one call to the next – are enough to send someone round the twist. And of course you can never speak to the same person twice, if you can reach anyone at all.

My nightmare began November, 2017.

We own a holiday house at Anglesea where we require the internet to do our work. We have had an ADSL connection with Telstra which has cost $29.00 monthly over some years. Two years ago we began to receive letters insisting we must sign up to the NBN. I investigated the costs of connection and found the best deal I could get was $80.00 a month. When I queried this price, the Telstra salesman said, ‘Life was tough.’ So I waited. Late last year I was sent two threatening letters. The wiring would be removed from the street to the house if I didn’t sign up. So I did.

The ‘case manager’, who spoke from a place unknown, said three appointments were required; dates were not negotiable. Two modems arrived separately in the mail. I made myself available on the set date for the first appointment which went smoothly. The technician, a local from Anglesea, took the second modem and told me he had seen up to five sent to a house. Further appointments were set and dates were cancelled with no reasons given. The second appointment didn’t require entry to the house but the third took some time. Eventually we got a date confirmed which was meant to conclude the task. But no; that technician, who installed a small device, advised we would need a fourth appointment as Telstra had not done the work required for the phone connection.

Over six months later and through innumerable calls, when a script was read, and I had to repeat myself interminably – giving my name, DOB, being notified the call would be recorded for training purposes, then the history of the case reviewed – a date would be announced when I couldn’t be in Anglesea. Such a deviation from the script – as saying there would be no one in the house on the stated date – would stymie the caller and they would have to play music while they went off- line, into the Telstra morass, to find someone who could deal with this intractable client.

After several such calls, I suggested the local technician from the first job could be given access to the house to complete the work. That was not acceptable. That technician, who works for Telstra, tried to get the job, but he had no success either. Technicians are sent far and wide, rarely doing jobs in their home territory, as those allocating the jobs live in Woop Woop and don’t know their geography.

Then I received another threat: the service would be cancelled if I did not present on the day specified. I demanded my recorded discussions, where I railed about Telstra’s extraordinary inefficiency, be forwarded to management. I then got a call from a manager who could speak English. He would sort out a convenient date. But two days after that call, when I thought all was resolved, I got another call. The previous manager was ‘no longer with Telstra’ so I was required to go through the story again. I lost my cool, so another manager got involved and a ‘mutually agreeable’ date was set for the fourth appointment. I waited at Anglesea that day and the technician didn’t show up.

Meanwhile, we have been billed for the last four months for a phone connection we do not have. After an hour on the phone, we thought Telstra understood the problem, but the next bill was the same. A further call to Telstra uncovered the fact that our case had been lodged as a complaint. A manager needed to review the complaint, a process that takes weeks apparently.

This saga is to be continued…

A consumer has no chance of apportioning blame between the wholesaler and the retail internet provider. Both Telstra and the NBN companies seem to be unmanageable and both need a monumental shake up.solution; where to now?

Now, it seems Telstra could clean up its act by purging 8000 staff. Mr Penn says it will lead the way with the 5G mobile rollout, offer unlimited data free and split its infrastructure and retail operations. Who then would want the NBN? The government will undoubtedly write off its $74 billion tax-payer-funded loss-making misfortune and Telstra will possibly pick it up at a bargain price. Those of us who have been coerced in acquiring the Turnbull hybrid will need, when the projected roll-out is complete in 2020-22, to have all the old copper wiring replaced to ensure reliable broadband access.

Welcome to Turnbull’s innovation nation. What is it I am missing?

Patricia Edgar is a media sociologist and the producer of the television series Round the Twist

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2 Responses to PATRICIA EDGAR. Going Round the Twist with Telstra and the NBN Co

  1. Peter Geyer says:

    Rosemary O’Grady’s observations and Patricia Edgar’s experience point to what I would call a general organisational malaise in that if you want to contact any significant body (I’m adding the Age here to the ABC, but there are more), they might want to claim customer care, but they really don’t want to hear from you. Outsourcings to other countries where any complex query (sorry, “request”) seems beyond the system. Of course if you hear from them it’ll be according to their system and not anything you might request. I had several calls from Telstra on my mobile, which I presume are from the same place as Patricia Edgar’s abortive correspondence, notwithstanding instructions to contact me by email only. I await the equivalent of “Life is tough” when I visit the local Telstra shop.

    Meanwhile, mostly unlabelled vans (one is from Tasmania, in outer west Melbourne!) keep attending Gatic covers in my street and surroundings apparently dabbling with whatever wires are there. A couple have parked over my driveway and, having chatted to them, I can vouch for their lack of English skills and knowledge about local driving rules. I don’t know what they’re doing there either because when I moved to this area 10 years ago, I was informed that Telstra had no interest in maintaining any copper wiring in the area. I went for mobile broadband which has its moments and doesn’t seem to come with a guarantee to provide the service.

    I spent a couple of decades as an organisational consultant, and am startled at the obvious incompetence and lack of just about any managerial skill from places like Telstra. Banks of course have their incompetence on public display at the moment, and Fairfax has been a managerial shambles for a while, at least from a subscriber’s point of view.

    In my 10 years here I’ve also been a client of Centrelink and the job network, this combination also displaying astounding levels of incompetence, poor direction, prejudice (for older people like me and also for the young, people of various cultures etc) and startlingly poor management, possibly driven by bad policy, inadequate research and the continual efficiency dividends.

    I don’t understand why it is so difficult to provide basic simple service. Patricia Edgar’s experience is appalling for such a mundane simple activity and obviously the organisations concerned are wasting a hell of a lot of money by adding complexity when there’s no need for it.

  2. Rosemary O'Grady says:

    You can always tell a corporation in trouble by the conduct (‘client interface’) of its front-of-house staff. Telstra’s excruciating decline has been on display this way for – well, excuse the idiot expression but: decades. The ABC is now showing regular, alarming, symptoms of the same condition – by which I mean that if you phone with some information for the News-desk/room/staff: your call is filtered at the switchboard – thus achieving the obvious aim: to reduce if not terminate the number of calls to News – which enables the ABC News staff to write the News as they think it is and not as it is happening on the streets. It also places a hugely unreasonable strain on Switchboard staff – which would be obviated if only executive staff could manage their offices to include some highly competent P/As whose tasks include the channelling and filtering of outside information into Castle Guthrie. One sees references, since the Hayne Royal Commission publicised its hearings – of bad behaviour by banks, but also funds managers: but AMP, for example, has been a corporation showing signs of civil ineptitude for: well, decades, really, as I deduced from personal experience of a too-close relationship between its executive staff and that of the NCSC in 1989.
    What is to be done?
    Patricia Edgar has had a pretty good time being an important communicator. She has a holiday house at Anglesea!… etc. Time for her and other retirees to start behaving badly enough to make a Big Fuss about the failure of Corporate Accountability, the Groupspeak and the failed Governance which is now endemic in our economy. Poor fella Our Country – time to lend it a hand. Of course, you take your life in your hands…

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