In the second half of last year there were almost 66,000 complaints to Australia’s telecommunications watchdog, and consumer advocates say it’s just the tip of the iceberg.
If you’re struggling to get good customer service, seeking to resolve billing issues or there’s just something wrong with your service — you’re clearly not alone.
These were the most complained about issues to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman in the second half of 2016, which saw a huge increase in complaints from the six months prior.
Internet providers saw the biggest growth in complaints, partly because of issues with the NBN, which increased by 7 per cent from six months earlier, and a massive 117 per cent from a year earlier.
|Service:||Jul-Dec 2015||Jan-Jun 2016||Jul-Dec 2016||Year on year change|
|Internet||16,047||22,715||24,641||53.6 per cent|
|Mobile phone||19,639||21,390||23,331||18.8 per cent|
|Landline phone||13,632||18,526||17,998||32.0 per cent|
|Total:||49,318||62,631||65,970||33.8 per cent|
CEO of the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network Teresa Corbin said the figures only represented the country’s most desperate customers.
“Our research shows only a few consumers actually do escalate to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman, it’s actually a very low percentage of people and usually people that are so desperate that they have to make the time to resolve it,” she said.
“The truth is this is only the tip of the iceberg… I think we can be sure that there’s a broader discontent out there.”
So if you’re out there, on hold waiting to speak to someone about your internet or mobile phone woes, here’s the consumer network’s advice on what to do about it.
Know exactly what you want
No doubt you have a clear idea in your head of how you’ve been wronged, but you also need to know what you’d like the company to do to put it right.
“Be really clear about what your complaint is and what you want your provider to do to resolve it,” Ms Corbin said.
“Get that clear in your mind and get the instances and evidence you’ve got clear, even write it down, and then approach your provider with the complaint.”
Take emotion out of it (if possible)
Try not to get mad, even if you’ve been waiting a while to speak to someone.
“Our advice is to remain calm and to try to be polite, but the truth is everybody gets frustrated and everybody’s emotions run high when they can’t get something resolved and it’s something they really depend on,” she said.
If you don’t think you can explain what’s happened without getting up in arms at the person in a call centre, try avoiding talking altogether.
“Sometimes if you can’t remain calm maybe it’s better to get another family member to do it — you can give permission for them to talk for you.
“Also you can use online services like complaining via email or use the chat service and sometimes that’s a better way to take the emotion out of it.”
Try to talk to a decision-maker
You’ve just spent 20 minutes on the phone to someone explaining your problem, only to find out that Johnny from accounts is the only one qualified to help with your particular case.
If you’ve ever spent an afternoon navigating a large corporation’s labyrinth of departments, you’ll know how this feels.
Try to avoid it from outset, again, by knowing what actions you need the company to take to fix your problem.
“The important thing is to make sure you’ve got to a decision-maker. They could be really low down or they could be quite high up, but you need to find out, ‘can you make this decision or can you resolve this — and if not can you just please escalate my complaint to another level’,” Ms Corbin said.
“Once you’ve expressed that, then you should be escalated, and if you’re not then that’s grounds to go to the telecommunications ombudsman.”
Social media rant: Worth a shot?
Taking to Facebook or Twitter to publicly let your provider know you’re not happy with them may not fix your problem. But you might get lucky.
“There are lots of examples of that being very effective, but there are also examples where it hasn’t been so effective — I think people have got to judge that for themselves,” she said.
“If you are planning to engage with social media, maybe engage directly with the company’s social media team, sometimes they might be a bit more responsive.”
Whether or not it’s successful, at the very least it could be cathartic.
Go to the ombudsman
Ms Corbin said the majority of cases referred to the ombudsman get resolved when you lodge the complaint, without an investigation taking place.
“When you go to the ombudsman, you do get referred to a higher point in the company, so you don’t necessarily have to wait for an investigation to be undertaken or for a conciliation to be undertaken, those things take a bit more time,” she said.
“Most of the cases that go to the TIO are not complicated cases and they do get resolved relatively quickly,” she said.
She said don’t wait until you’ve spoken to every second person at the company and simply can not take another moment of waiting to speak to another one.
“If you have tried more than once, and definitely more than twice, to resolve the situation with your provider, then escalate it to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman.”