Loyalty schmoyalty: Incompetent telcos


Having worked in financial sector for over a decade and also being a Marketing academic, we have heard so much about service providers wanting to minimise the customers’ chance of defection. Well, my experience in the last week has told me that these service providers give a zilch level factor to your loyalty and business.

Within the last six months or so, my phone line at home acted strangely – when somebody called, the call would be disconnected after the first ring. As I didn’t use my homephone all that often, I dismissed the issue and thought that either my cordless phone needed to be replaced, or that this was a cool way to deter telemarketers. Then, my quarterly phone bill came from Optus – it seems that I had forgotten to pay the previous phone bill so I’m whacked with six months’ worth of phone bill of $439.69. For this amount, I only used the phone twice in the period. This made me seriously think about switching to Naked DSL – or see whether Optus had a cheaper package.

I paid the bill six days before the due date and waited before I called Optus to enquire about a cheaper package.  During this period, another issue was thrown in the mix – my internet connection with TPG (an internet service provider) was getting more and more erratic. Disconnecting and reconnecting modems, disconnecting and reconnecting my connection to the wireless modem, and rebooting my computer were fast becoming my new rituals.

So at the end I contacted TPG, and TPG mentioned that there was something funny with my phone line and that I should contact my telco, so I did. The lady who got my call talked to me until he saw my record and then transferred me to the finance department. This is where the interesting bit happened. The new officer from the finance department said that my phone line had been disconnected due to my non-payment for six months (being a quarterly payment, this is so easy to do!). I was shocked and getting quite frustrated as I wanted to stay with Optus! Being their customers for years and years, I have no reason to switch!  She mentioned that the phone lines in my area are owned by Telstra and that had I kept my phone account current, they would have continued to service my number. However, now that I have been disconnected, I cannot be reinstated on a Telstra-owned line. This also explains the humongous quarterly bill (big for a PhD student!) that I have to pay as Optus has to also pay some kind of vassal payment to Telstra.

So to cut a long story short – I have no other options than to switch to Telstra. I was (and still am!) reluctant to return to Telstra, having experienced their terrible customer service in the early 2000’s (unhappy customers have long memory!). The officer from Optus said that as my last payment actually covered the service until February 2013, they would send me a cheque to reimburse my money, pro-rata. Very annoyed and unhappy, I called Telstra to reconnect – which they did quite smoothly. The chatty local who I talked to on the phone also lessened my stress level at the time. All service providers seem so pleasant when you establish a business with them … He mentioned that I could have my old phone number back and that it would be done by the following morning. Now I only have to pay around $25/month for my phone line (I took the cheapest option!). I only need to stay with Telstra for three months, otherwise I will be charged $100 disconnection fee.

The next day, sure enough, the phone line worked like a charm. So I called TPG and enquired about my internet connection – this is where things got doubly interesting. The officer who accepted my call said that my ADSL connection had been disconnected as well – as the internet status on my phone line was dropped. I would have to pay $99 to reconnect. I was pretty angry at this time. Two incompetent service providers in one week – it must be the highlight of my year!

She mentioned that my phone connection was still being processed, so I should call again later. She noted about my strong reservation for paying the $99 connection fee as it was not my fault at all. I called Telstra to enquire about my phone line and the officer who got my call said that my connection process was still ongoing and that by the evening, all processes would have been completed.

So this morning I spoke to TPG again – another officer told me the same information that I had to pay $99 connection fee as my account was disconnected when the internet status on my phone line was dropped. I had to wait for five to eight business days for my Internet connection to be re-established. That was it. I calmly yet forcefully explained about my frustration with her. I know that it was not pleasant getting a call from an angry customer, so I made sure that I didn’t attack the messenger and focus on the organisation and the service. I told her that whilst I appreciated the fact that TPG is at the mercy of the telcos for providing their internet service, at no point in time did TPG contact me or send me an email to warn me about my dropped internet status on my home phone. They could have emailed me, or called me to warn about the situation. I have been a paying, loyal customer who is even considering on moving my phone line to them once I serve the three-month phone service period with Telstra. Now I’m not so sure!

The same issue with Optus – at no point in time did they call or leave a message on my home phone or my mobile (heck, my mobile account is with Optus as well!). I received no text message nor email warning me about my home phone that was about to be disconnected. What is it with service providers? In my anger, reflecting my nerdiness, I sent a tweet to Optus “Optus, eat this: satisfaction, was: 7/10 now 1/10. Likelihood to recommend before: 8/10 now it’s 1/10. Go now and compute your NPS.” NPS (a useless metric to calculate Net Promoter Score) is often used by companies to measure their customer’s satisfaction and willingness to recommend. I’m probably considered an outlier and a strange case, but I hope I get my points clear to Optus, TPG, and other service providers who preach about customer loyalty and satisfied customers but fail to practise what they preach. Why collect our contact details if you don’t use them other than trying to flog your other products to us?

Hell hath no fury like a blogger scorned.


Published by fuzz

I've finally relented to the lures of blogging - and for those who care, well, I'm a self-confessed geek who's a wanderer at heart, who thinks and analyses too much, and who's trying hard to hold on to his 7-year old inner persona.

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