Tuesday, 17 April 2018 13:16

Macquarie Telecom chief hits out over telco consumer complaints Featured

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Macquarie Telecom group executive Luke Clifton has launched a scathing attack on the telecommunications industry, demanding what specific actions individual telcos and businesses will take to lower consumer complaints, “and then hold them to it before the industry ends up facing its own Royal Commission”.

Clifton attacked the industry following the release of the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman’s latest report revealing that it had received 84,914 complaints about telcos and their services during the second half of 2017, up 28.7% on the year-ago period.

The TIO report showed complaints relating to services delivered over the NBN have increased disproportionately, with complaints concerning the NBN at 22,827, up 203.9% from the year-ago period.

But Clifton says he believes issues in the telcoms industry run much deeper than the NBN and there is a need for telcos to reveal what specific actions individual businesses will take to lower consumer complaints.

He says the TIO’s report has led to huge criticism of the NBN, but “shining a light on the data reveals that the practices being used within the telecoms industry to date are not working, and we can’t just blame the NBN for that”.

“The Ombudsman, Judi Jones, herself this morning on television said that she is more concerned with the three quarters of complaints not related to the NBN.

“Collective punishment through sweeping rule and regulation changes is not the answer now – it has never worked in other industries.

“The Financial Services Royal Commission has been exposing the lazy systems and sharp customer practices of an industry dominated by too few large companies. The system failed, despite tight regulation and pages and pages of industry-specific consumer protection rules.

“It’s time to put the responsibility back on individual businesses and demand to know what specific actions they will take to lower consumer complaints, and then hold them to those commitments. Like banking, it is the more competitive ‘challenger businesses’ in the telecoms industry which are bucking the trend and setting the bar with better customer service.

“These are the companies that make it their business to understand and care about their customers and organise themselves to deliver great service because that is how they grow. The heavyweights in telco aren’t trying to grow their already-dominant customer base because between them the top three have close to 90 per cent of the market.

“Instead, they are trying to extract every dollar from those they already have, which means taking the knife to in-house services like sending customer-facing roles off-shore. This is why generic, industry-wide rules don’t work and never will.

“Forcing those who are the worst offenders to fix their own problems, and then holding their feet to the fire, is the only short-term solution, and potentially the beginning of solving the deep issues of the industry before it faces its own Royal Commission.”

In other criticism about the level of complaints in the telecoms industry, the Telecommunications industry lobby group Communications Alliance says the number of complaints in the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman's six-monthly update are disappointing and indicate that the industry has to do more to improve the customer experience.

CA director programme management, Christiane Gillespie-Jones, said, “While our industry is dealing with disruption, in part caused by the significant increase in NBN connections and migration to the network, we are disappointed with the high level of complaints in the second half of 2017."


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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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