Telcos' customer service improving, but work remains: Comms Alliance

It’s “no cake walk” for telcos to comply with the new Telecommunications Consumer Protection (TCP) code, according to Communications Alliance CEO John Stanton.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) began to phase in the industry-developed TCP code last year. A rule requiring critical information summaries for mobile plans came into effect last month.

Earlier in the morning, ACMA Chairman Chris Chapman gave a mostly positive review of telco compliance with the TCP code so far. However, the ACMA issued two formal warnings to companies that failed to comply with the critical information summary rule.

Stanton, representing the communications industry, said “an enormous amount of effort has gone into complying with the TCP code.”

Telstra had to write about 400 new critical information summaries detailing the features and excess penalties for each of its plans, Stanton said. The telco then had to get the summaries on the website and into every one of its stores, and train sales and marketing staff.

Telstra had to “redesign [its] sales process to ensure that this type of information was delivered every time to every customer in every instance,” he said.

More than 100 employees at Optus have been involved in TCP code compliance, he said. And mobile reseller Amaysim has hired a compliance officer and is spending more than $200,000 per year, he said.

“These are very real and material efforts that are going to lift performance.”

Yesterday, Cooper Mills attorney Peter Moon agreed that so far there has been a high level of TCP code compliance among Australia’s largest telcos, but added that “compliance of the big providers is not always generous.”

For example, critical information summaries “in a lot of situations are not on display” at stores, and customers must first engage with a salesperson before they can view them.

Telstra has placed links to critical information summaries on its website, but at the very bottom of a long Web page, he said. “It’s not in your face [and] upfront.”

A recent survey commissioned by the Communications Alliance showed the telecom industry has some work to do improving customer service. Ray Morgan Research conducted the online survey in March with a population-representative sample of 500 telecom users aged 18 and up.

The survey showed that more than half of telecom users had made a complaint related to their telecom service in the past six months. Of those, about one-third felt satisfied with the handling of the complaint by industry.

That “suggests that one in six telco consumers in Australia today has made a recent complaint and is not happy about it,” Stanton said.

“That’s a situation that clearly we have to change over time. I’m confident we will see marked improvements in these results.”

In addition, the survey found that more than one third of customers had received a higher-than-expected bill in the last six months. However, Stanton defended the number, saying they may not all be examples of bill shock.

“I’m in that category,” he said. After making calls during a recent overseas trip, Stanton said he came home to a bill that was $70 higher than normal.

“The bill was higher than expected, but it was not unjustified in my mind.”

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