Monday, 11 February 2019 11:58

Long wait times as Australian telcos get 88 million customer calls Featured


Australia’s five largest telecommunications companies received more than 88 million inquiries in the 2017-18 financial year and, in some cases, customers had to wait from four to six minutes for their calls to be answered, according to a new report from the Australian Communications and Media Authority.

According to the report, the average initial time that a caller had to wait when contacting a telco by phone varied by telco over the course of the year, from 44 seconds in the September 2017 quarter for Telcos A, B and C, to over six minutes in the March 2018 quarter for Telco E.

Telstra, Singtel Optus, Vodafone, TPG and Vocus are Australia's five largest telcos, but the identity of the individual telcos is not disclosed by the ACMA which gave statutory notices to the five selected telcos to obtain the performance data.

peter acma one

The ACMA is not permitted to publicly disclose the information collected under notice without permission from the company in question – so the information provided by the telcos is anonymous.

The information collected by the ACMA highlights that in 2017–18:

  • The five telcos received more than 88 million enquiries from customers;
  • The average amount of time consumers waited to speak to their telco ranged from 51 seconds to more than 4 minutes;
  • Depending on the telco, between 60% and 86% of enquiries were resolved on first contact;
  • Enquiries received by phone fell from quarter to quarter, while webchat enquiries increased. just over 70% of customer enquiries were resolved on first contact; and
  • Call abandonment rates ranged from 4.9% to 15.3%.

Under the Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code, telcos are required to ensure customer service enquiries are dealt with in a timely and effective manner, and this includes keeping average wait times to a minimum and aiming to resolve customer service inquiries at the first contact.

peter acma two

The ACMA says the selected telcos have different strategies to respond to customer service inquiries, which may have an impact on individual results and may not allow for direct comparisons.

“For example, a strategy focusing on resolving inquiries at the first contact may impact on wait time. The individual results assist in understanding the varied experiences of customers when making a customer service inquiry,” the ACMA notes.

The ACMA says picking up the phone was the most common way for consumers to make contact with the selected telcos, followed by web chat, which increased in use over the 12 months to the June 2018 quarter, while email and social media were the least utilised channels.

Graphics: courtesy ACMA

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham - retired in 2020. He is a veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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