Stop complaining!

As you may or may not be aware, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has recently conducted an inquiry into the dramatic surge in telco customer complaints in recent years.

Among other things, they have asked carriers for feedback on whether there were "systemic problems in the Australian telecommunications sector with respect to the way it deals with its customers." The carrier's answer was a decisive "no".

The telco's reasoning, if I read it right, is that the number of customer complaints has increased dramatically because customers are making too many complaints. It's hard to argue with the proposition that if customers complained less there would be less complaints. Anyway, the increase is apparently due to a range of factors, but the most notable are that telcos are now offering a vastly expanded array of services (giving people more to complain about); people are trying to fleece the poor telcos for new iPhones; and the TIO is unfairly counting complaints twice. AAPT and Vodafone complained that Telstra's dominance was the issue, as though providing superior customer service was not an effective way of differentiating your product. For its part, Telstra believes that customers have unrealistically high expectations, although it's hard to imagine how Telstra customers could possibly have those.

Whatever the reason, the upshot is that it's not the telco's fault. Furthermore, regulation is not the answer. Or, to put it another way, continued self-regulation is the answer. In this vein, Telstra is undertaking a massive internal review of customer service standards, part of which apparently involves shedding 6,000 jobs. According to Telstra CEO David Thodey, "What we will be focused on is changing the culture of this company, changing the way we interact with customers and giving a different experience."

"Frankly, the response from industry falls short of what we had expected," remarked Chris Chapman, the ACMA chairman. "I was surprised the telcos did not come up with more constructive solutions to issues they admit are major problems."