Thodey calls for telco unity on customer service

Telstra chief executive, David Thodey, has issued a call to arms for the telecommunications industry to unite under a single voice, in an attempt to more effectively influence economic and policy influences on the industry.

While not advocating the creation of an industry or independent body, Thodey told attendees at the Commsday Summit in Sydney this week that telcos and ISPs were required to act more like the finance and mining sectors to try to “tackle some of the endemic issues that face our industry”.

“Other sectors - mining and banking - compete every day but speak with a common voice,” he said. “Ultimately it’s in all our interests for this to happen.

“If you go to Canberra, it is really left to a few to really address what is going in the telecommunications industry to apply it.”

A key objective of uniting differing views, Thodey said, was to encourage an improvement in customer service across the industry by the private sector rather than government or independent regulators.

Thodey’s comments came in contrast to communications minister, Senator Stephen Conroy, who earlier this month proposed providing greater powers to the telecommunications industry ombudsman (TIO) as an attempt to remedy customer service issues felt in the industry.

“While I acknowledge the hard work the TIO does to deliver consumers with quick and effective solutions, I want to ensure it has the appropriate tools to deal with complaints,” Conroy said at the time.

However, Thodey argued against intervention by regulators.

“It is difficult - when you’re dealing half a million Australians every day - it is difficult to try and give consistent service,” he said.

“What I’m worried about is regulators step in and force us to try and give customer service,” he said. “We’ve got to be very careful not to be driven by what regulators say.”

Nevertheless, Macquarie Telecom chief executive, David Tudehope, said the industry had already gone too far on the issue.

“It’s still possible to avert regulatory intervention but with hundreds of thousands of complaints a year, I think it’s across that line of they’re not in step with the community,” he said.

“My concern that will be a reality in three years - there will be an intervention because the community will say enough’s enough.”

He warned the lack of customer service was one of several major risks facing the telecommunications industry over coming years.

Follow James Hutchinson on Twitter: @j_hutch

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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