The Australian Communication and Media Authority (ACMA) has launched a formal investigation into the telco industry’s handling of customer complaints after a spike in customer dissatisfaction.
According to survey results released by the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) last year, the industry recorded a 54 per cent rise in complaints between 2007/2008 and 2008/2009.
“The trend-line growth and sheer quantum of complaints about complaint handling and customer service – up to 900 every working day – reflects poorly on the entire industry,” ACMA chairman, Chris Chapman, said in a statement. “This issue has to be confronted directly and urgently otherwise we will be talking about these same issues for years to come.”
The chairman added the investigation would effect customer satisfaction with telco companies after the National Broadband Network (NBN) was in place. Chapman said he would brief CEOs of Australia’s largest service providers and get collective agreements on enforceable strategies to cut down the number of complaints.
But the chairman also put the spotlight on Government departments, describing the current range of regulatory bodies such as the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and TIO as “alphabet soup”.
“I do not believe the current regulatory ‘alphabet soup’ of ACMAs, TIOs, ACCCs, DBCDEs, CAs and TISSCs (along with the state Offices of Fair Trading) is leading to the best solution for some of the bigger problems,” Chapman said.
A spokesperson for Telstra agreed complaint levels were too high and said it invested millions in training for a company-wide program currently underway.
“Telstra customer complaints to the TIO [have been] reduced by more than 20% in the nine months since July last year,” Telstra director of customer service and satisfaction, Jules Scarlett, said in a statement. “We have set aggressive targets to do this and take responsibility for resolving all customer complaints directly with our customers.”
The director went on to claim customer complaints would always be solved faster when going through telcos. Telstra will also work with ACMA on the inquiry.
Vodafone and 3 Mobile have also endorsed the decision by ACMA to commence an enquiry into customer service and complaints management in the telecommunications industry. "Following our merger last year, we have set ourselves a goal of delivering the best customer service in the industry", Vodafone Hutchison director of customer service and experience, Michael Young, said.
"We welcome the opportunity to liaise with ACMA to define and lift the benchmark for customer service for the entire industry. We also look forward to the proposed streamlining of regulation in the telecommunications industry."