Hang up on Telstra, but let them know why
Telstra likes to talk the talk on customer service but it struggles to walk the walk.
Despite what former Telstra PR boss Phil Burgess liked to tell anyone who would listen, Telstra doesn’t appear to top the list of Australia’s most-loved companies.
Scratch the surface and there is a simmering layer of anger at the country’s biggest telco provider over a range of problems, as evidenced by the sharp increase in complaints about customer service to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) – up 142% in 2008.
And there doesn’t appear to be any end in sight for Telstra. Now Telstra’s customers are furious about a new fee that commenced this week designed to penalise people for paying their bills in cash.
If you’re a Telstra customer, you’ll now be slugged $2.20 if you pay your bill in cash at a Telstra Shop, Australia Post outlet or by snail mail.
It’s not just Telstra who are charging those who still prefer legal tender as a way of doing business. Similarly, rivals Optus charge 55c, 3 Mobile, $1; and Vodafone, $1.50. Telstra top the list but they’re not alone in charging you a fee for the privilege of paying your bill.
It’s great that technology means that payment systems can be made cheaper and simpler for both business and consumers through the use of online banking and BPAY. It’s great that it costs businesses less to process bill payments for the majority of customers who have moved to the newer, cheaper payment methods.
Back when everyone paid cash, the costs of processing bill payments was presumably worked into what you paid in monthly charges. Now that it’s cheaper for business to process these payments, it’s a bit rich to start charging those who still prefer old-fashioned cash money.
This pay-for-paying fee has touched a raw nerve among Telstra customers. It seems that Telstra’s customers do hold the company to a higher standard than its peers. It’s just that the company doesn’t deliver against the standard that its customers expect.
At CHOICE we’ve received a barrage of complaints from angry Telstra customers who will be hit with this fee. On the back of all these complaints, Telstra chief David Thodey has offered further exemptions to Commonwealth Seniors Card holders and said that he had instructed his call centre staff to be ‘sympathetic’ to anyone who called with a reasonable objection to the fee, citing one possible objection as a customer who didn’t like using online banking.
So if you don’t want to pay the $2.20, call Telstra and tell them. If the person you speak to in the call centre isn’t sympathetic enough, email firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll pass it on to Thodey. He wants to hear from you.
But with the company now facing structural separation by an Act of Parliament, we wonder how much time David will have for frustrated customers.
Telstra has failed to meet customers’ needs on a matter as fundamental as bill payments systems.
It’s no wonder that this week Minister Conroy announced plans to break up Telstra. Why on earth should we trust them with essential network infrastructure, if they can’t even get a simple payment method right?
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