Telstra Shambles

I have been without the Internet for the last few days, which needless to say has not been good for business. The process of trying to get it back again has been so painful I fear that if don’t share my sorry story with you, I may be scarred for life. At the outset, I feel that I must offer some form of warning. This is a long and excruciating story that would try the patience of a saint and may result in nightmares, particularly if you are a Telstra customer or shareholder. Sad to say I am both!

The names of the various employees encountered in this saga are not included, in order to protect the innocent. This protection does not extend to their less than innocent employer, Telstra.

My Telstra bundled phone and cable Internet account is called ‘Together Homeline and Broadband’ for which I pay a monthly fee and receive a single bill that includes the phone and Internet charges. I paid my last bill on 15 June and it included my broadband rental to 21 August.

During the afternoon of Wednesday 22 July, my Internet access was suddenly cut. This was not the first time it had happened and from several previous lengthy telephone conversations with Telstra, I understood the problem was some sort of breakdown in communication between the billing section of Telstra and the Big Pond section. As a result, after each bill, the Big Pond section believes I have not paid it, when in fact I have.

This has been an extremely frustrating problem since it results in me being bounced from person to person, explaining the same thing over and over again. In the past, the difficulty is usually sorted out in couple of hours and I am back online. But not this time, as you will see!

At 4.00 pm on Wednesday, I rang Telstra, told them I had lost my broadband connection and explained what I thought had happened. The Telstra representative (Man #1) was sympathetic, but spent most of our telephone conversation of nearly 90 minutes trying to sell me a new and better plan. In the end, I managed to convince him that I didn’t want a new plan; that I just wanted them to make the plan that I currently have work. He said he would get someone to look into it and they would ring back within an hour.

8.00 pm and still no call from Telstra, so I rang again and explained the story once more to another person, Man #2, who said he would talk to the Credit Management people. After 40 minutes on hold I got disconnected.

I rang back and spoke to Man #3, who informed me that the Credit Management office closed at 6.30pm. Of course, this raises the question, why didn’t Man #2 tell me this earlier rather than leaving me on hold for 40 minutes before ‘cutting and running’?

Man #3 also said the Credit Management people had suspended my account, presumably for lack of payment. Here we have another question, if I pay a single bundled bill and the telephone people confirm that I have paid the account, why don’t the Credit Management people check with them before suspending it for non-payment? Man #3 gave me the Credit Management phone number to ring the next day.

Thursday 23 July at 9.00 am, I rang Telstra again and eventually got through to Woman #1 in Credit Management. After looking into it, she agreed the bill was paid but made mention of a different account number for the cable service. This was an account I had not previously heard of, or made payments to. The Credit Management woman clearly didn’t know what was going on. She told me the problem had to be sorted out by Big Pond and agreed to explain the situation one of their representatives before transferring my call. My heart started to sink, not Big Pond again!

At about 9.40 am, I started talking to Woman #2 from Big Pond. She told me I didn’t have a bundled account, even though she acknowledged this is what I was being billed for. In her words “someone has just put in the wrong code.” When I suggested Woman #2 ‘just’ enter the right code, she said she couldn’t do that. She told me she was going to talk to someone about the problem and put me on hold.

At about 10.00 am, I was suddenly transferred to somewhere called ‘Tier 1 Wireless Help Desk for Employees‘, where Woman #3 answered the phone. Woman #3, who by far and away is the most helpful person I have encountered thus far in this saga, heard my story and explained it was not her area of work but she would see what she could do. She offered to take my phone number and ring me back when she had some news.

At 10.20 am, Woman #3 rang and told me that my account had been reactivated and I should be able to get back on line in about 20 minutes. Feeling that 20 minutes might be a little optimistic, I nipped out to see someone about a job I am doing.

12.45 pm and still no Internet: Rang Telstra again and spoke to Woman #4 who said she could see what has happened and asked me to hold while she found out what to do. Fifteen minutes later, after she has discussed the matter with her supervisor, she said she would speak to someone about getting me reconnected. After this, she transferred me to, you’ve guessed it, Big Pond!

1.10 pm, told Woman #5 at Big Pond my story, she agreed the bill has been paid and can’t see why my account was suspended. To my absolute surprise she asked if I had opened a new account that day. As if? Woman #5 then goes and speaks to the Floor Support (supervisor) leaving me on hold to endure another lifetime of ‘music’.

1.50 pm, Woman #5 transferred me to Man #4 (I had no idea where he was from, but as he gave me his surname, I assumed he was a supervisor). Man #4 also said he understood and sympathised with my problem and they were going to get to the bottom of it. How long I asked, and he replied it could be anything between 1 and 24 hours. I expressed surprise at the delay and he assured me that it would take no longer than 24 hours. Back again to Woman #5 to collect some more details. The phone session ended at 2.05pm.

Friday morning, I received two phone calls from clients regarding emails they had either sent to me or were expecting from me: Time to see how things were progressing at Telstra.

Friday 24 July at 11.30 am, I told Woman #6 what has happened and she puts put me through to Woman #7 in Big Pond. After I ran through the story once again, Woman #7 told me it was a technical issue and said she would put me on hold while she made some notes before transferring me. A few moments of muzak, I got cut off.

I rang back immediately, ran the gauntlet of automated telephone menus and ended up with Man #5, who couldn’t see any of the notes from Woman #7 or Man #4 who had assured me it would be 24 hours at the maximum. I told Man #5 that I would like to speak to his boss.

Man #5 put me through to Man #6, who had a surname so I knew he must be important. I explained the problem again and was put on hold, again, while he went to look into it in the ‘back room’. Man #6 comes back and tells me everything is fine from his end and that it must be a technical issue.

12.23 am and I was put though to Man #7 in the technical area. Man #7 wanted to make sure it was not a problem at my end and so we went through the ritual of turning the modem and computer on and off, repeatedly. Needless to say, he discovered the problem was not at my end and so at 12.44 I am informed he will need to ‘escalate it and it could take up to 48 hours to fix’. I am stunned and demand to speak to his team leader.

1.05 pm, Team Leader, Man #8, came on the line. He heard the story, read the notes and then said he felt that it may not be a technical issue after all. I was put on hold while a conference call with someone from ‘Activation‘ was arranged. At this point the sorry saga was in danger of morphing into an epic tragedy: Woman #8 from Activation announced it was a complex problem that could take “weeks” to fix. With, what I feel is considerable self-restraint, I reminded them that they were the ones at fault and the idea that it could take several weeks for them to fix their problem was not acceptable. Woman #8 then told me they will provide me with a temporary dial-up connection, free-of-charge: Such generosity! Woman #8 then tried to transfer me to someone to do the deed, but I was disconnected in the process.

By now it was Friday 1.40 pm and I was not about to give up. I rang back and got through to Man #9 from Activation who established my temporary account. Cut off yet again! Rang back again, and finally with help from Woman #9 the dial-up connection is established.

At 2.15 pm I was finally able to collect my emails, but still no broadband.

Summary

It seems absolutely incredible to me that a telecommunications company that sends out a single bill for a bundled account is unable to manage the relatively simple task of ensuring that the two components of the bundle are notified when it is paid.

48 hours after loosing my broadband access without warning as a result of a system failure by Telstra, I have a temporary dial-up account. This means I have gone from phone and high speed internet to having phone or dial-up, but not both.

During the last two days I have spent nearly 7 hours on the phone to Telstra, most of it listening to either muzak or Telstra recorded messages. I have relayed my story to 18 different people; many have been sympathetic but none seemingly able to solve a problem of Telstra’s making.

Of course, no mention has been made of compensation for the failure to provide a service that I have paid for, or the time I have spent trying to sort out the problem, or the mental torture endured putting up with Telstra ‘music’ and cheery messages for 7 hours.

Now that is what I call service, NOT!

Over to you Telstra.

8 Comments

  1. What a sad story. I gave up on Telstra around 10 years ago when they turned up for a phone connection without any cable, that guy went away promising to come back. Didn’t. The next guy came with cable but no ladder. Refused to use my (expensive builder’s) ladder as it was a “workplace risk”.
    Last guy came with cable and a ladder but left the connected cable draped across tree branches. 4th guy came and fixed it all. Never again.

    The fact they gave you a dial-up connection is a joke in 2009. I’d be going off and buy a wireless broadband prepaid connection and charge them for that and lost time at your premium rate.

  2. I’m afraid I couldn’t bear to read all the detail (the pain was to familiar), but suffice it to say, I went through a ridiculous saga with Telstra at the beginning of the year when I moved offices. I was without phone, fax and internet at various points, and at one stage discovered (quite by accident) that Telstra had installed my phone in the building two doors up.

    One of the most frustrating issues was that I was unable to have my requests for each service processed simultaneously. I had to request the phone first (three times though, because of one stuff up or another), then the broadband, then the fax. Of course, when one thing went wrong, it meant delays to applying for any of the others.

    On the compensation issue, I believe you have to prove loss of business. Inconvenience and all the running around you had to do to look after your clients is not enough. You should get some discount on your bill for the time you did not have the service. And if you need help to do this, lodge a complaint with the Telecommunications Ombudsman.

  3. lol I just had the same kind of experience with NAB last night – told them my name and guy (Indian) who was following his script verbatum said that my name didn’t match their system name. His qn – “Are you sure you don’t have a different name” made me laugh, until I realised he was serious. I politely explained that I had just spoken to another area of NAB who accepted my name and details just fine and I said please change your records. He advised I would have to fill out a form at a branch. As a web devote I asked for the online form. There is none. And without the correct name they won’t help me …… I asked to speak to manager who assisted me and apologised, and then put me back to same consultant, who asked the next qn. I didn’t answer the correctly the first time, had a second go, and guy said sorry cause you got first guess wrong we don’t give you a second go and I’m going to have to end this call… WTF !!!!!!!!! customer service was pathetic…
    so after 3 + hours and a multitude of calls from my hip pocket later, and it’s still not resolved, I’ve lost my internet access to NAB until I can work this all out, and it’s made me really question if I wish to remain a customer.
    what are we paying for when get such poor service as loyal customers. Maybe if we churned and stayed non-committal we would get better service.

  4. My, that was painful to read! Roger, you do have more patience than a saint. I would not have been as forgiving or patient!!

    Really, why does anyone even bother with Telstra? Like James, I too dumped them YEARS ago. My reason was because they were too expensive and gave poor service.

    Here’s a recommendation. CHANGE TO EXETEL! Here are the bundled prices for phone and ADSL2 – http://www.exetel.com.au/a_plan_pricing_adsl2.php

    They use Telstra infrastructure, but give better service with cheaper and better plans, from my experience anyway.

    If you’re already locked into a plan with Telstra, with that kind of poor service, I would seriously make them compensate by allowing you to terminate your contract without penalty so that you can move elsewhere, or at worse, I would pay the fee to dump them. If this has happened before more than once, there’s a good chance it will happen again. And that’s not good for you or your business! So get out while you can or be prepared to endure another imminent saga.

  5. thank you so very much, I have been feeling a bit down today and reading your story and neens gave me a good laugh, only because I can relate to it, and you must be a very patient person. I left telstra years ago swearing I would never go back after being charged hundreds of dollars for downloads when I wasn’t online, they have now removed that part from there website, but came home one afternoon and was informed that we are now back with them with a 2 year contract it’s a real good deal. well as for telstra’s wonderful service and commitment to customer service nothing has changed, all the promises made when signing up never eventuated, half price internet first 12 months – been overcharged $10 normal price, free modem – charged, free local calls – charged. told me I could have second line for free, guess what. charged not to mention second email address – charged. I have emailed them but never get reply, as soon as contract up GOODBYE TELSTRA.

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