Unsuitable plans and back-up, financial loss and communication breakdowns during fault repairs are some of the main pain points that small businesses grapple with, according to a new report.
This is according to a new investigation from the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO), Addressing the causes of small business complaints, which found that many issues were complex, difficult to resolve and had a significant impact on their operations.
“We carried out this investigation before the devastating bushfires and COVID-19 pandemic brought unprecedented challenges to so many small businesses. While the top complaint issues reported to us by small businesses are so far unchanged, the impact of these issues may very well be greater,” TIO ombudsman Judi Jones said.
“The relationship between small businesses and their providers is vital to the businesses’ ongoing success. Any issues between a small business and their provider in the delivery of a service can have significant consequences.”
Since July 2016, complaints from small businesses to the TIO increased and at the end of the last financial year, that proportion was 14.7 per cent with more than 19,000 complaints from small businesses about their phone and internet services.
During 2018-19, complaints from small businesses fell 6.2 per cent.
In investigating the causes of small business complaints, the TIO discovered small businesses may commit to products unsuitable for their needs; connecting new services can take longer than expected; providers and small businesses don’t always work well together when faults occur; and can suffer financial loss if they don’t have a back-up plan.
Jones highlighted that having a backup plan proved to be even more crucial during the pandemic, as government restrictions were imposed and many small businesses became solely reliant on phone and internet services to continue operating.
Between September 2019 and March 2020, small businesses made approximately 1100 complaints involving claims for business loss compensation.
The report involved nine phone and internet providers that offered their perspectives on the issues, and shared examples of good industry practice and insights into the challenges in resolving small business complaints.
These providers represented 90 per cent of complaints from small businesses in the last financial year, the TIO said.
Communications Alliance CEO John Stanton said the study provided useful insights into the ways in which small businesses and telco providers need to work collaboratively to continue to reduce service issues and complaint volumes.
“The report highlights what all parties can do to ensure small businesses get the best telco service possible, including a focus on ordering suitable communications services, providing accurate address details, managing faults and ensuring businesses have back-up plans in place,” Stanton said.
The TIO laid out four top recommendations for small businesses and telcos to work more effectively together including:
- Small businesses and telco providers should work together to identify business needs, consider suitable options, and focus on key relevant terms before an agreement is signed.
- Minimise the risks when connecting new services by checking the business address is correct, communicate expected connection timeframes or delays, and plan for enough connection time.
- Adopt a collaborative approach to fixing faults, and actively communicate with each other.
- Minimise financial loss by ensuring there is a back-up plan in place if phone or internet services are disrupted.