by Byron Connolly

Telstra reports 26 per cent drop in customer complaints

Oct 16, 20123 mins

Telstra experienced a 26 per cent reduction in customer complaints in fiscal 2012 and 30 per cent of its interactions with customers are now online, Telstra CEO David Thodey told shareholders this morning at the company’s AGM.

Around 50 per cent of customer interactions are expected to be completed online over the next 12 to 18 months as internet chat also becomes more popular, he said.

The organisation also now employs 60 full time staff who monitor and deal with customer questions and issues on social media sites. This follows its own research that suggests Australians are using social media six hours per week on average.

The rise of online and social media had “fundamentally changed the way” which the company communicated with its customers, Thodey said.

This was demonstrated by the fact that customer calls to Telstra were down by 20 per cent and online enquiries were up 26 per cent year-on-year.

“This is driving a significant change in our workforce as well,” Thodey said. “The bottom line is this – to succeed we need to be where our customers are and that is what our people are working diligently to do every day of the year.”

Telstra chairman Catherine Livingstone highlighted that the need for call centres “is not as great as it once was.” In August, the company said it would cut more than 650 jobs in its call centres as it prepared to close contact centres in Lismore and Townsville. The company also said it would combine testing positions in Melbourne and Sydney into other call centres.

Livingstone said that Telstra had opened state-of-the-art call centres such as the new facility in Bourke Street in Melbourne to “enable better training, and monitoring of service standards.”

“In addition to our own call centres, we do have industry partners who provide call centre services, including partners in the Philippines,” Livingstone said.

“These partners provide flexibility, in terms of managing the variability in call volumes –all of our call centres are held to the same standards of customer service, privacy and security of customer information.”

“We understand the need to continue to improve service through all of our call centres. Nevertheless, the need for call centre capability will continue to reduce, given improving service and digital communication technologies,” Livingstone said.

Telstra’s promise of better customer service may offer little consolation to one Telstra shareholder who complained at the AGM that it had taken the company six years to list her in the White Pages.

Last year, the shareholder said she went to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman before a Telstra representative finally phoned her, said the problem had been fixed and provided $100 as compensation. Her name was finally listed today.

Telstra’s Livingstone apologised to the shareholder for this “appalling service.”